The Deeper Meaning of Mac and Cheese

By Yvette Manessis Corporon
Thumbnail image for authorphotofinal.jpeg I was 29 years old the first time I tried mac and cheese.
It happened in the cafeteria at CBS News headquarters in New York where I was a producer in the local newsroom. The salad bar was typically more my speed, but that day, as I gave a passing glanced at the breadcrumb crusted lunch special, I mentioned to a colleague that I had never tried the all American staple. She nearly dropped her tray. And you call yourself American? She shook her head and waved a forkful of the orange hued elbows towards me.
Yes, I am proudly American, and who, despite my colleague’s disbelief, was raised neither under a rock nor in a cave, but in the New York City suburbs. It was however a Greek immigrant suburban home, dominated by very Greek values on life, culture, heritage, morality and of course, food. Did I mention that I’m Greek?
Ours was not a home where you would find boxed mac and cheese or boxed anything for that matter. In my mother’s kitchen we feasted on her meticulously made Pastichio. Much like its American cousin, mac and cheese, Pastichio is considered the ultimate in Greek comfort food. It’s a trifecta of flavors; buttery noodles topped with savory tomato meat sauce infused with cinnamon topped by a crowning layer of cloudlike béchamel cheese sauce hidden beneath a crispy brown crust of baked cheesy goodness.
You can’t get that in a box.
Growing up in that My Big Fat Greek Wedding kind of way, my mother couldn’t pronounce fluffernutter, let alone make one, a bowl of soup never required a can opener and I was never treated to rice crispy treats. In our home we made baklava, buttering and layering each delicate sheet of filo one by one and getting down on our knees to smash the hand cracked walnuts in a dishtowel against the floor with our hands , the way my mother’s mother, and her mother had done back in their mountain top Greek village home.
As a kid, I never had any interest in these dishes, making them, learning about them and for the most part even eating them. But even so, I was made to sit and watch, and despite my protests, occasionally to help. I wanted to be anywhere but in that kitchen. I wanted my food to be as crust-less wonder bread white and homogenized as I so desperately wanted to be as I clipped a clothes pin to my nose night after willing it to transform to the enviable all American button nose of my best friend. But living under my parent’s roof that was impossibility, because after all – we, my nose, and our food, were Greek.
I was 21 when I first began to cook for myself.
I was saving money for a trip to Paris with my best girlfriends and cooking, instead of ordering take out seemed the perfect way to fund the trip. As I shopped for groceries and prepared my meals, I surprisingly gravitated not to the boxes and cans that I had coveted in my youth, but to the fresh ingredients and flavors that my own mother had favored.
When I wanted soup, I bypassed the Campbell’s and instead bought a fresh chicken which simmered for hours with onions, carrots, and celery and bay leaves, like my mother had done.
When I wanted roasted chicken, I bypassed the rotisserie birds. Instead I marinated and broiled the meat in oil, lemon, fresh garlic, salt and fragrant oregano, which I had picked and shredded myself at my grandmother’s home when I visited each summer, like my mother had done.
As much as I had tried to escape my mother’s kitchen, claiming I could care less about her cooking lessons, a culinary osmosis had been taking place all along.
I saved $500 that month, enough for a week’s worth of wine and baguettes in Paris. But I also saved something else that as I cooked every meal in that tiny kitchen of my first apartment; my cultural identity.
I finally realized then what my mother had done with her insistence of the ingredients, foods and recipes of her own childhood. Those flavors, those smells, dishes and yes, even technique (just try telling your friends to smash walnuts on the floor when a perfectly good Cuisinart sits on the counter) transported her, and eventually me, back to that beautiful mountain village and to her own mother’s kitchen. These foods and flavors were not meant to separate me from my American life, they were a simply conduit to my Greek life. They were a reminder of the selfless women, like my grandmother, who had encouraged my mother to leave their tiny village and seek a better life in America so that I, as an “Amerikanida” could have opportunities she could never even dream of. These meals were a reminder of the women, like my grandmother, who has no material possessions to speak of, but poured everything they had, every dream, every prayer, every ounce of love, into cooking for the ones they loved – no matter how meager the pantry.
Today, I’m 45 years old. I am my mother’s daughter.
At the first sniffle or cough from my children, I’ll make a steaming pot of soup from scratch. I season pretty much everything with the large jar of oregano that my children shredded one summer afternoon under the watchful eye of my grandmother right after she taught them how to smash walnuts on the floor of her Greek village home.
My own daughter, Christiana, is now 12. Her favorite food is mac and cheese, which she is constantly asking me to make. Sometimes I give in, usually I don’t. I prefer Pastichio.
When The Cypress Whispers.jpg
Yvette Manessis Corporon is a producer for EXTRA TV. She is the author of the novel “When the Cypress Whispers” (Harper/HarperCollins Publishers)
When the Cypress Whispers is the story of a young woman named Daphne and the deep and magical bond she shares with her Greek grandmother, her Yia-yia. It’s based on Yvette’s family and takes place on the magical Greek island that they still call home. She grew up listening to her own Yia-yia’s stories of life on the island and how as a young mother she befriended a Jewish Girl named Rosa whose family was hiding from the Nazis. Despite the risk to themselves and their families, not one person on their island gave up the secret of Rosa’s family – and they were saved. Even though the Nazis had said that anyone found hiding Jews would be killed, along with their entire families, night after night her grandmother would throw open the doors to our home to welcome Rosa inside. It is their stories which resonate in Yvette’s heart and on the pages of this book. You can purchase your own copy of the book from Amazon here and click here to watch the trailer.

Learn How to Get Back to Basics with RETRO BABY

Written by Role Mommy contributor, Danielle Feigenbaum.

Retro_Baby_cover_v5_smallEST.jpg Cut back on all the gear and boost your baby’s development with more than 100 time-tested activities.

The new book, Retro Baby written by Anne H. Zachry, PHD, OTR/L, is released by the American Academy of Pediatrics. This book is intended to help parents and caregivers understand the importance of one-on-one play with children during the early stages of life. With over 20 years experience, Zachry understands that each family and baby have different needs and in her book, she offers many flexible strategies and suggestions for playtime that provide lots of opportunities to spend valuable time with baby, creating that special bond that will last a lifetime.
Packed with more than 100 wonderful activities based on modern day research, Retro Baby is a comprehensive guide that will help parents and caregivers:
-Learn how crucial connections are formed between a child’s brain and muscles during the first year of life.
-Discover how the over use of some products can hinder infant exploration.
-Observe how good old-fashioned play affects your baby’s development in a positive way.
-Try a variety of ideas that enhance baby’s ability to learn.
-See how to make traditional, handmade toys using common household items.
Retro Baby also includes chapters on keeping your sleeping baby safe, practicing tummy time and preventing positional skull deformities.
It’s only been six years since my little one was a baby and there are so many new “things” out there claiming to be good for child’s development. I love the idea that you don’t need all the bells and whistles, that just playing with and using things around your house are great for their development. The book even has words to some nursery rhymes you can sing to your baby, so sweet! I was just watching old videos of my kids and they were so smiley when I sang “If you’re happy and you know it” or “Open shut them” etc. There are also chapters on enhancing development with retro activities split up into 2-3 month intervals.
This book will make a fabulous baby shower gift, everyone with a baby should have one! Retro Baby is available now through Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, and bookstores nationwide.

Tips to Staying Calm, Focused and Productive at Work
 (no matter where work is!)

Written by Maren Showkeir 
Co-author (with Jamie Showkeir)
Yoga Wisdom at Work: Finding Sanity Off the Mat and On the Job (Berrett-Koehler, May 2013, $15.95)
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Most people are familiar with the physical practice of yoga but know little about the philosophical foundation on which it is based. Yoga is thousands of years old, and is meant to help you discover and develop your infinite potential. Here are just a few practices from this ancient wisdom that can help you survive and thrive in today’s modern workplace:
CONNECT: Yoga is a practice that connects you to something greater than yourself and heightens awareness of our interdependence. It is the same at work. You contribute to something larger in order to serve others and make a difference in the marketplace. Get clear about what you contribute, how it makes a difference, and connect it to the larger purpose you serve. Thinking about your work in the context of service will create an attitude shift.
FOCUS: The yoga sage Swami Kriyananda says it is more powerful to think positively about one thing than avoid thinking about many things. When you have a lot to accomplish, decide what one task or project will get your full attention for a prescribed amount of time, then set a timer. Let go of the notion of multi-tasking. The most recent scientific research has shown that it is impossible, and trying to multi-task is actually counterproductive.
BREATHE: We do it without having to think about it. But developing practices that harness the breath gives you powerful tools to be more effective at work. Breathing techniques can help you rev your energy when it’s flagging, or calm you down when circumstances get heated or tense. When you’re feeling tired or disengaged, “take five.” Focusing on the sound of your breath, feel your chest rise and fall as you slowly inhale and exhale five times. If you still feel frazzled or scattered, consider taking a break. Feel better? Continue working.
Here’s a Q & A with author Maren Showkeir:
How can practicing yoga at work improve my experience on the job?

Integrating yoga practices into your workday can help you get clear about your intentions around work, and how you want to contribute. Yogic practices such as breathing techniques can help keep you calm in the face of confusion, chaos or contentiousness. Other practices can help you develop discipline, tap into creativity, get organized, work efficiently, enhance emotional intelligence — the list is long!
What are some good things to start with if I want to practice at work?

Breathing is one of the easiest places to begin. Yoga has practices and techniques, called pranayama, that help you harness the energy of the breath. It is powerful! These practices can calm you, ground you, or energize you. Taking a deep breath before responding to questions or comments also can create space to be mindful about what you’re saying.
What do you see as the benefits of practicing yoga at work?

Yoga is meant to help you realize your potential, and to recognize it in others, and it gives you a guide for developing that potential. Like yoga, work is about being connected to something larger than yourself, which means being accountable for the good of the whole, not just your job or your department. When you’re working on self-transformation, it definitely will have an influence in your work environment.
Has incorporating yoga practices made a difference in your work place? How?

For me, yoga has greatly influenced how I bring myself present. Rather than worrying about the past, which I can’t change, or fretting about the future, which I can’t control, the practices help me stay focused on right now. Other practices, such as sauca (purity) remind me to rid myself of negative thoughts, and develop healthy habits. I practice santosha (contentment) by reminding myself that I can choose to be content even in the face of difficult or disappointing circumstances at work. And by not getting attached to specific outcomes. I can only do my best — I can’t control how everything turns out!
One of the beautiful things about yoga is that it’s not dogmatic. There are myriad ways to practice, and you can decide what the practice looks like for you.
Can you recommend some ways to start practicing at work?

In the book, the end of each chapter has five suggestions for developing various practices, so I recommend checking that out. (And remember, they’re just suggestions. Decide whether they make sense for you — or come up with your own!)
But I would say that practicing ahimsa, which translates as non-violence or “do no harm” is foundational. Start by noticing the ways you do harm to yourself, such as negative self-talk, or by working yourself to the point of exhaustion. What can you do to alter that? Then begin to notice how you treat others. Do you gossip about them? Do you snap at others or speak harshly when the stakes are high? Are you forgiving? Honestly, it is hard to violate other yogic practices if you’re dedicated to ahimsa.
How can yoga help me be more successful in my work?

For starters, it can help you get clearer about what true success is — it’s about making a worthy contribution and serving people, not just earning a buck. But in more pragmatic ways, yoga practices such as meditation and focus can help you be more productive. When you learn to be calm and compassionate, it benefits your working relationships, including customer service. An on-the-mat yoga helps you focus, and you become physically flexible, strong, and stable. The other practices do the same thing for your mind, which will definitely help you be more successful.
In today’s competitive, fast-paced work world, how do we slow down and still survive in the marketplace?

That’s a great question. It sounds counter-intuitive, but going slow to go fast is actually more efficient in the long run.
For example, you hear a lot in today’s workplace about the importance of being a good “multi-tasker.” Scientific research is showing that multi-tasking is nothing but mythology, and in fact, is a harmful practice. Our brains are so speedy, they trick us into thinking we can do several things at once, but in truth, our intellectual capacity is diminished and quality suffers. And it takes a toll on our health and peace of mind as well.
Again, yoga’s physical practice provides a good metaphor for surviving in today’s crazy marketplace. It’s common to fall out of a pose, or to do it great one day and struggle the next. Work is like that, too. We all struggle. We all fall down – the important thing is to get back up try again. That’s why the practice is so important.
To purchase the book, click here.

Enjoy an Excerpt from Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir

Now that the weather is finally getting warmer, we are shedding our winter coats and heavy sweaters and some of us are trying to shed a few pounds. I am always doing whatever I can to lose some weight and I love to hear that I’m not alone. The following is an excerpt from Tracy Beckerman’s new book, Lost in Suburbia: A Memoir, and as you will see, she has also tried her share of diets. Go ahead and laugh, it burns calories, right?
LostInSuburbia_final.jpeg Lost in Suburbia: A Momoir
Having been down this diet road a couple hundred times before, I was familiar with just about every weight-loss gimmick out there. Although my sensible husband suggested I make changes that I could stick with for life, I instead preferred to try one of the Hollywood diets that the celebs do after they have a baby so they can drop the baby weight a week after giving birth. While it occurred to me that living on a concoction of maple syrup and lemon juice for two weeks might not be the healthiest way to lose a few pounds, I was pretty much willing to do anything that would allow me to get thin quick in the hope that I would lose too much weight and be able to eat my way back up. Unfortunately this diet worked about as well for me as the condom my husband wore when I got pregnant. I would only be on the diet for a day or two before I got massive cravings from the smell of the maple syrup and gorged myself on pancakes and waffles.
After failing the maple syrup diet, I decided to give one of the high-protein diets a try. A lot of my friends had done these and the weight seemed to melt right off. Having existed on large quantities of sloppy joes and cheeseburgers when I was pregnant and in the throes of massive meat cravings, I thought this might be the perfect diet for me. I did actually manage to lose six pounds the first month and was prepared to ride the bacon wave all the way to the skinny beach until I checked back in with my doctor and found out that my cholesterol had skyrocketed one hundred points in four weeks.
“You need to do a different diet,” he told me over the phone when the results came back.
“But this one is working for me,” I protested. “I just bought new skinny jeans!”
“That’s great,” he responded. “But no one will see you in them if you have a stroke.”
“I could wear them in rehab,” I murmured. “Go do Weight Watchers,” he suggested. “Ugh. I hate that,” I said. “It’s like AA for fat people. Everyone sits around and talks about their dysfunctional food relationships. Then they all join hands, sing ‘Kumbaya,’ and count how many points they have left to eat that day. No, thanks. I’d rather have a stroke.”
“I think you need some support.” “That’s why I wear Spanx,” I commented. “No, I mean people support. Like a group or a friend.” Although his plan was good in theory, I was pretty sure I wouldn’t be welcomed to any group. The one time I did do a group diet class and they asked us to picture ourselves thin, I nearly started a riot when I said that the only thing I could picture right then was digging into a warm chocolate lava cake.
“I don’t really need the support. What I need is someone just to tell me what to eat so I don’t have to think about it,” I said to my doctor. “Left to my own devices, I will eat a pepperoni pizza and justify it by saying it was a healthy choice because it featured the four major food groups.”
“It is a good choice . . . if you eat one slice,” he responded. “Not if you eat the whole pie.”
Having been my physician since we got to the burbs, my doctor knew my MO. He had seen me at my thinnest and my heaviest, from mom jeans to skinny jeans and back again. He didn’t care if I looked cool or frumpy, as long as I was healthy. And twenty-five pounds overweight with a cholesterol level of 315 was definitely not healthy.
“Okay, fine,” I conceded. “I’ll call Jenny Craig.”
“Good. Give her my regards.”
Tracy began writing after she moved with two young children from New York City to the New Jersey suburbs as a way to find herself and share a few laughs about the endless sea of “mom bob” haircuts, minivans, and coordinated tennis outfits. What started out as a single column for a local NJ paper a few years ago turned into a hit and is now nationally syndicated to over 400 newspapers, 250 websites and reaches nearly 10 million readers in 25 states. Check out more here.

Planning a New England Vacation? Then Bring Along These Summer Reads

There is nothing that quite compares to a New England summer vacation and over the next month, my family is going to be cruising through Connecticut, Rhode Island, Cape Cod and Nantucket. While I can’t wait to relax at the beach, shop at a few farmer’s markets and enjoy a blueberry mojito while watching the sunset, what I love most about vacations is getting the chance to dive into a great summer read.
If you’re going away for a quick weekend getaway or hopping on a plane for a week long adventure, make sure you download these books or go old school and pick up a hard copy! Thanks to Amazon for all the incredible descriptions below that caused me to order all these books in time for our vacation!

1. Jennifer Weiner’s The Next Best Thing – Can’t wait to dive into this delicious new novel by New York Times bestselling author, Jennifer Weiner. At twenty-three, Ruth Saunders left her childhood home in Massachusetts and headed west with her seventy-year-old grandma in tow, hoping to make it as a screenwriter. Six years later, she hits the jackpot when she gets The Call: the sitcom she wrote, The Next Best Thing, has gotten the green light, and Ruthie’s going to be the showrunner. But her dreams of Hollywood happiness are threatened by demanding actors, number-crunching executives, an unrequited crush on her boss, and her grandmother’s impending nuptials.
2. Seating Arrangements by Maggie Shipstead. Winn Van Meter is heading for his family’s retreat on the pristine New England island of Waskeke. Normally a haven of calm, for the next three days this sanctuary will be overrun by tipsy revelers as Winn prepares for the marriage of his daughter Daphne to the affable young scion Greyson Duff. Winn’s wife, Biddy, has planned the wedding with military precision, but arrangements are sideswept by a storm of salacious misbehavior and intractable lust: Daphne’s sister, Livia, who has recently had her heart broken by Teddy Fenn, the son of her father’s oldest rival, is an eager target for the seductive wiles of Greyson’s best man; Winn, instead of reveling in his patriarchal duties, is tormented by his long-standing crush on Daphne’s beguiling bridesmaid Agatha; and the bride and groom find themselves presiding over a spectacle of misplaced desire, marital infidelity, and monumental loss of faith in the rituals of American life.
Hilarious, keenly intelligent, and commandingly well written, Shipstead’s deceptively frothy first novel is a piercing rumination on desire, on love and its obligations, and on the dangers of leading an inauthentic life, heralding the debut of an exciting new literary voice.
3. Summerland: A Novel – A warm June evening, a local tradition: the students of Nantucket High have gathered for a bonfire on the beach. But what begins as a graduation night celebration ends in tragedy after a horrible car crash leaves the driver of the car, Penny Alistair, dead, and her twin brother in a coma. The other passengers, Penny’s boyfriend Jake and her friend Demeter, are physically unhurt – but the emotional damage is overwhelming, and questions linger about what happened before Penny took the wheel.
As summer unfolds, startling truths are revealed about the survivors and their parents – secrets kept, promises broken, hearts betrayed. Elin Hilderbrand explores the power of community, family, and honesty, and proves that even from the ashes of sorrow, new love can still take flight.
4. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn With her razor-sharp writing and trademark psychological insight, Gillian Flynn delivers a fast-paced, devilishly dark, and ingeniously plotted thriller that confirms her status as one of the hottest writers around. On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne’s fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick’s clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn’t doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife’s head, but passages from Amy’s diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media–as well as Amy’s fiercely doting parents–the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he’s definitely bitter–but is he really a killer?
5. Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter. Nothing like a story set in Italy to give you the ultimate summer reading escape. The story begins in 1962. On a rocky patch of the sun-drenched Italian coastline, a young innkeeper, chest-deep in daydreams, looks out over the incandescent waters of the Ligurian Sea and spies an apparition: a tall, thin woman, a vision in white, approaching him on a boat. She is an actress, he soon learns, an American starlet, and she is dying.
The story begins again in present time, half a world away, when an elderly Italian man shows up on a movie studio’s back lot–searching for the mysterious woman he last saw at his hotel decades earlier. What unfolds is a dazzling, yet deeply human, roller coaster of a novel, spanning fifty years and nearly as many lives.
Got a must read book you’d like to recommend? We’d love to hear about it!

Bubbe’s Book Reviews

Summer is here and that can only mean one thing. It’s time to start diving into some great books. Thanks to my mom, I’ve got a treasure trove to choose from and trust me when I tell you, my mother knows her books – she’s even in two book clubs – one in Florida and one in Southampton so she singlehandedly has her finger on the pulse of what’s hot among women this summer (in addition to Fifty Shades of Grey of course).
Check out some of my moms favorite picks:

The House of Tyneford by Natasha Solomons is both a love story and an historical account of the time period preceding World War II. The story begins in the spring of 1938 in Vienna, where it is no longer safe to be a Jew. Elise Landau is a 19 year old Jewish young lady living a life filled with elegant parties, champagne, and affluence. However, she is forced to leave her family and become a parlour maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay and life changes for her when Kit, the son of the master of Tyneford house comes home. It is a love story that is beautifully written filled with incredible descriptions of Tyneford that at times, have you feeling that you are actually at the house with Elise.
The DoveKeepers by Alice Hoffman is another book that I strongly recommend. Once again this novel is historical fiction. Based on the historical setting of Masada when in 70 CE(common era) 900 Jews held out for months against the Roman armies. According to the historian Josephus – two women and five children survived. The story is told by four women who have you mesmerized by their stories and their ability to survive in a setting filled with terror famine and unbelieveable conditions. The author did an incredible amount of research and the story is just outstanding.
Molokai by Alan Brennert is historical fiction that is an outstanding read. The story is set in Hawaii more than a century ago and it is a deeply moving novel. Rachel Kalama is diagnosed with leprosy at the age of 7. Her parents take her to a local hospital and from there she is sent to Kalaupapa – which was an actual colony for lepers on Molokai. The novel follows her life from age 7 to old age. Her resilience and will to live under incredibly difficult conditions is unbelievable. This novel will have you crying and smiling, but what will really tear at your heart is the fact that this was an actual place where individuals diagnosed with leprosy lived their lives without their families.

Tory Johnson Turns Business Dreams into Reality

I don’t know about you, but I am the ultimate dreamer. In fact, throughout my life, I’ve set several lofty goals for myself.
Land a leading role in a high school musical: Check.
Make the high school tennis team: Check.
Land a job as an advertising representative at the Massachusetts Daily Collegian: Check
Graduate Phi Beta Kappa: Check.
Receive a Masters Degree in Journalism from NYU: Check
Land a network TV PR job: Check
Find my soulmate and get married: Check
Give birth to two beautiful and fun loving children: Check
Publish two pretty funny books about motherhood: Check
Host inspring events for moms and launch an online parent blogger network: Check
Create an online magazine for parents: Check
Experience professional success beyond my wildest dreams…Still a work in progress.
While I’ve got the drive to succeed, I have to admit that I sometimes lack the direction. And that’s where Small Business Champion Tory Johnson comes in. Tory is a New York Times bestselling author whose new book Spark & Hustle: Launch and Grow Your Small Business Now is set to debut nationwide on June 5. Having worked closely with Tory over the past year, I have to say she is a force to be reckoned with. She’s driven, she’s a perfectionist and she’s the ultimate customer service cheerleader. I’ve never seen anyone more committed to small business owners and I’ve proudly watched as she has literally helped catapult many of them to overnight success.
Having attended Tory’s latest Spark & Hustle conference, I have to admit, I was totally in awe of her keynote speaker – Barbara Bradley — creator of my all time favorite summer handbags…Vera Bradley! Bradley shared the story of how she launched her multi-million dollar business without having a clue as to how to do it. She discovered the name of the fabric wholesaler that sold to the top department stores, walked right up to the owner and while he could have ignored her, he instead took her under his wing and helped her get Vera Bradley off the ground. What I love about Barbara Bradley is that she had guts and a bit of moxie. And that fearless attitude propelled her company to where it is today.
Check out an excerpt from Tory’s new book and then make sure you order a copy today.

Tory is currently touring the country as part of her nationwide Spark & Hustle conference tour. Bringing together successful entrepreneurs in each city, the conferences offer attendees a healthy dose of inspiration, motivation and real advice you can act upon right now so that you can turn your dream into reality. So what are you waiting for? Put a little Spark & Hustle in your step and there’s no telling what you can accomplish.

The Role Mommy Book Club – The God Box

image001.jpegWe are so excited to announce the launch of “The God Box,” an inspiring and bittersweet memoir by author and marketing guru Mary Lou Quinlan. I have always been a fan of Mary Lou’s – she’s fearless, inspiring and a go getter who likes to dream — just like me. So when she first told me about the book she was writing, I knew I wanted to be a part of sharing her story with the world.
If you and your mom are best friends like I am with mine, then The God Box will resonate with you on so many levels and will move you to tears. Whether you still have your mom in your life, or if she’s since passed on, the book will inspire you to not only cherish the time you’ve had with your mom but also to create a legacy for your family so that they never forget how special she really is.
About the Book…
When Mary Lou Quinlan’s beloved mother, Mary Finlayson, dies, her family is left bereft–until Quinlan finds her mother’s “God Box,” or rather, boxes. These simple containers are stuffed with tiny notes written by Mary, asking and praying for everything from the right flooring for her daughter’s new home to a cure for her own blood cancer. Mary’s petitions are presented with love and without expectation. Note by note, Quinlan unearths insights into her mother’s compassion, faith, and perseverance, and revelations of her innermost thoughts–nostalgic, surprising, and even a bit shocking. And through the journey, the author discovers her own more empathetic, more engaged self–the woman her mother had believed in all along.
The Book Trailer…

Visit Amazon to order The God Box: Sharing My Mother’s Gift of Faith, Love and Letting Go. Visit to find out more or chat with Mary Lou Quinlan on Twitter at @GodBoxProject.
Coming soon…an interview with Mary Lou Quinlan.

If it Was Easy They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon

jenna_mccarthy_if_it_was_easy.jpgThe hilarious author, Jenna McCarthy, has a new book coming out on October 4th called, If it Was Easy They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married (Berkley Books). Jenna is an internationally published writer who’s past books include The Parent Trip: From High Heels and Parties to Highchairs and Potties and Cheers to the New Mom/Cheers to the New Dad , as well as the upcoming companion books Big Rigs for Moms and Tea Parties for Dads. Over the past twenty years her work has appeared in more than fifty magazines, on dozens of websites and in several anthologies including the popular Chicken Soup series. Make sure to watch her appearance on The Today Show, Monday, October 3rd!
Here is just a sampling of her hysterically funny writing and make sure to watch the video of the book trailer, you will laugh out loud.

7 Steps to a Happy Marriage

by Jenna McCarthy
I have a remarkably happy marriage, and people ask me all the time how I got so lucky. (Not as often as they ask me about autism, vaccines and Jim Carrey, so let’s get something straight before we go any further: Not. Her.) I used to wonder if it had something to do with pheromones or having relatively low expectations, but after eleven years of wedded bliss I am pretty sure the key is some combination of kindness, respect and my ability to read a road map upside down divided by my husband’s skill at tuning out my nagging.
Okay, fine. We got lucky.
Busloads of studies have attempted to figure out why roughly every other marriage fails miserably. Turns out, the success stories share a few similarities beyond the obvious stuff like “they don’t have sex with other people”. Here, then, are seven scientifically proven* steps to marital ecstasy.
1. Be thinner and better looking than your husband. I have no idea why this works to create nuptial delight but I’m guessing it’s because if you’re fat and ugly you probably never want to have sex, which makes him grumpy and mean because sex was the one and only reason he got married in the first place. (Well, that and pie. Think about it: Most guys will never bake a pie in their lifetimes and from what I’ve seen, they really like pie.) Of course, I don’t know many women who are dying to have sex with fat, ugly men, so this one remains a bit of a mystery.
2. Make sure he does more chores than you do (well, duh) and try to talk less than he does. I have to admit, if you asked my husband the top three things I could do to make him happier, “shut the hell up for five lousy minutes” would probably be on the list. (But not at the tippy-top. Ahem.)
3. Don’t watch a lot of chick flicks. Seems that after sitting through Gnomio and Juliet (or any other rom-com) relationship dissatisfaction tends to skyrocket. Apparently this is because maybe it could happen to you but you realize that it hasn’t and it probably won’t and that fat bastard never sprinkled rose petals on your bed, dammit. At least you’re thinner and better looking than he is.
4. Don’t win a best-actress Oscar. I included this one because unlike getting hotter or having your jaw wired shut, it’s actually pretty painless and doable. Personally, I am going to make this a priority in my marriage.
5. Limit your booze consumption (both of you). No comment.
6. Become or urge your partner to become a farmer, nuclear engineer or optometrist. Evidently every career choice has its own unique divorce-risk profile, with these three being on the lowest end. Dancers and choreographers are pretty much screwed. You can’t make this stuff up.
7. Prefer having the car windows down. I haven’t technically seen a study on this, but do you not fight about this every single time you ride in a vehicle together? And doesn’t he get all pissed when you want them up and accuse you of being more concerned about your hair than his precious need for non-recirculated air? If anyone bothered to study this, I’m confident the results would back me up.
So there you have it. I do not suggest trying to master all seven steps at once. For instance, if you stop doing housework altogether (to try to tilt his portion of the ratio toward more), you’ll have a lot of extra time on your hands which you may want to spend drinking alcohol. Remember, there’s no rush here. Till death do us part is a really long time**.
*I may have bastardized the language a bit in some cases but the facts are mostly accurate.
**I stole that line from If It Was Easy They’d Call the Whole Damn Thing a Honeymoon: Living with and Loving the TV-Addicted, Sex-Obsessed, Not-So-Handy Man You Married, which I wrote (and please note that it says the blah-blah-blah man you married, not the one I married. My husband likes it when I point that out). You can find out more about me, my books and how I survived tanorexia on my website.

Book Review: A Stolen Life

imgres-36.jpegI recently picked up A Stolen Life: A Memoir
by Jaycee Dugard and have to say, this well written account of Dugard’s 18 year ordeal after being kidnapped on her way to school is gut wrenching, shocking and disturbing.
In the book, Dugard is incredibly candid about everything that took place the day she was abducted at age 11 until her rescue nearly two decades later. From being held against her will in filthy conditions, to being sexually abused and raped repeatedly by her captor, to birthing two daughters as a teen, Dugard’s childhood was erased by a sick man and his wife who managed to convince her that the only place where she would be safe was by staying with them.
It only took me three days to read A Stolen Life and I have to say that I was amazed by Dugard’s resilience and perseverance in light of all the horrors she experienced. She is now committed to ensuring her teen daughters live a safe and happy life and with the help of her family and friends they will be able to do just that. Dugard also talks about her love of writing and apologizes to the reader if it seems her thoughts are scattered as she shares her story. However, I found that the book was incredibly well written, thought provoking and had me hooked throughout.
If you are the parent of a tween, I urge you to read A Stolen Life: A Memoir
. While the content is quite disturbing, its gripping account of a childhood stolen away in an instant, is one that should be shared and never forgotten.