Sunday, May 29, 2011

You WIN and You WIN and Your Family Wins!

Thanks so much for those of you that spread the word about Applegate and the contest!  I have been eating a bunch of their products this long holiday weekend and feeling good about it :)

Since I only got a few actual comments ( a lot of you lurk but don't comment which is ok by me!) like Oprah said "You Win the coupons, and You Win the coupons" You all win! (Not a car but coupons....don't get too excited!)

So Lynn, Alane, Cheercfa07, wcgator, Meredith and Robin....send me your physical mailing addresses and I'll snail mail you five $1 off coupons! Just email me at

Happy BBQing this weekend!

Edited to include STEPHANIE WINS too!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Whispers in your Life

Today was the final Oprah Winfrey show. 

In 1986 I remember the first time I heard of Oprah.  I was sitting in my parent's house on Cherry Ave. watching afternoon t.v. and I saw the commercials announcing over and over again that "Oprah's coming". I thought..what is an Oprah. Of course my mom and sister and I watched.  We were afternoon t.v. junkies already watching the Young and the Restless, The Bold and the Beautiful, Guiding Light and then at 4pm- The Phil Donahue show 
(I secretly always missed Merv Griffen when he went off the air).  So this new Oprah thing...we were all over it.  And so from that day on we were hooked along with the rest of the country..."Did you see Oprah today?" was a common question for years we'd ask each other!

In 2003 when Hope completed her chemo treatments from breast cancer, she wanted to celebrate big. I told her anything she wanted to do I was there! I told her pack up Jake and Nathan and let's head to Fiji!  Or go on a cruise!  A trip to NYC!  But my dear Hope picked Oprah.  A girls only trip to Chicago in the winter. The trip had to be made within weeks of the final treatments ending. So there we were, in the coldest place I thought we could ever be in February! Hope called ahead for hours and days to get tickets, and because "All guests of the Oprah Winfrey show stay at the fabulous Omni Hotel in downtown Chicago" she booked that hotel and she planned the entire trip. 

When I look back at that trip now, I only remember a few things really.  
1) The cold.  
2) Worrying that Hope was out in frigid weather with barely any hair and I thought a tropical local was more appropriate for this celebration!
3) The fact that our morning Oprah taping was about Skid Boot the Dog and amazing animal tricks not the afternoon show that day with John Travolta!
4) Dropping a ton of Jake's money in Nordstrom's for Hope's new wardrobe
5) Talking with Hope for hours and hours and hours about things I never really ever said out loud before.

The talking never stopped. And I am not talking "does this new shirt show my new scars" in the dressing room kind of talk.  We talked about clothes, and cancer, and new scars and the new breast prosthetic of course. But we dug deeper at night for hours, at meals, walking the streets of Chicago, while she got a makeover at the makeup counter.  We talked about our lives, our dreams, our past, the universe, destiny, fate and what is the meaning of it all? We didn't call it the "whispers of our soul" but we'd talk about what was stirring in us and how we got to be who we were then and where we wanted to go.

In 2009 Hope and I watched Oprah everyday in her hospice room. At 4pm I would shut the door, put the "Do Not Disturb" sign up, turn on the TV and help her eat a chocolate shake with a little plastic spoon so she could taste chocolate. I don't remember a single episode. I don't remember any details of those days really but I remember looking forward to that time and being alone with our ice cream and each other. Hope couldn't talk, but we could communicate. I could "hear" her....I always talk about those days like it I was on another planet because without words, our energy could communicate. I didn't need her voice, I didn't need to say anything to her...somehow in quiet still moments, while the Oprah show was on in the background,  those whispers in our lives where guiding us through. I couldn't function without the whispers.  They told me when to go home to Cooper.  They told me when to stay longer at the hospital. In the end those whispers told me to say my final goodbye and stay away to let her go until the day she died when God whispered back in my ear to head to the hospital just so I could make it there minutes after she passed so I could be with my friends who also showed up when I did because they heard the whispers too.

So now in May 2011, in the final show I hear: "What are the whispers in your life right now? And will you hear it? Your life is speaking to you. What does it say?" 

That quote is one that Hope would have loved and that hit me like a brick tonight! The whispers of my life are still here but I think I stopped hearing them. I know that compounded grief, stress and just plain life drowned out the whispers so I started needing the walls to come crumbling down to get my attention.  

Just like in 1986 when I didn't know what "an Oprah" was, I don't know what "an Ann-Marie" is right now either....I hope I don't take 25 years to find her but I know that today I was reminded I really need to listen more to the whispers that I know are there.

I don't miss Merv anymore because we have Ellen, I don't watch soaps because I have blogs, but replacing Oprah at 4pm....I won't ever do.  When I think of Oprah I always think of Hope. And now when I think of Hope and Oprah, I will stop to listen to my whispers.  

I'll let you know where they take me!  Let me know where they are taking you too. 

Monday, May 23, 2011

Full Circle

This little girl showed up to a little private school in April 1979.

This little boy showed up to the same place in May 2011.

It makes my heart leap with joy :)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Applegate Coupons Giveaway

As you know I have been making an effort to eat better in our home. Truth be told I am not perfect, old habits die hard but what I LOVE about Applegate Farms is that they have food I already eat and I can relax about the nitrates, antibiotics and other scary things I fear is in our food. You remember this post and the ramblings of my brain. Thanks you to all of you who reached out to me that you think similarly and are wondering about all these things too. There are plenty of blogs about healthy eating and I am blown away about how much I still have to learn. And let's remember...I am not one of those blogs. I am just a single mom, trying to make the right choices for my son and myself. I still eat too much ice-cream, have a hard time giving up Diet Cherry Coke and still believe chocolate should be a food group.  But, I am learning, I am trying, and I am excited that the Applegate products are soooo good!!  Seriously!  The Sunday Bacon is my current favorite :) I am eager to dig into my kitchen (by the way, demolition on the ceiling starts Wednesday!) and start whipping up new and old recipes using my new favorite brands.

What I love about Applegate Farms more than the Sunday bacon: their Mission:

To change the way America eats meat

We always embrace three important principles:
Taste. Strive to make the best tasting products with no shortcuts and only natural ingredients.
Truth. Conduct our farming practices with integrity and treat our animals and land with respect.
Trust. Tell all of our story. Provide transparency into our industry and to our consumers.

What struck me the most in the above was the "provide transparency to our industry and our consumers".  That's a biggy for me and I know for you all also.  I also want to remind you of #2.  When comparing a cheaper chicken nugget you may think the ingredients seem the same so it must really be the same... right????  It's the "truth" of their mission statement that is the different.  Farming practices are critical and to trust that the animals and the land are treated with respect speak volumes as to final products that this company provides.

 Oh and one more thing...I was thrilled to see on Applegate's website,  a link to the Healthy School Campaign. If you click HERE you can send an invitation to your State representatives to support healthy school food.  As they state they want congressional leaders to join them for Lunch.  "Samples of healthy, great-tasting school lunches designed by high school students will be served at a May 24 briefing on the role of funding for school kitchen equipment and food service training in creating healthy school meals, presented by Healthy Schools Campaign (HSC) and The PEW Charitable Trusts." It only takes a second to fill out your information and the system auto sends it to the correct state representatives on your behalf...I hope you'll consider doing it as I did.

So...without further ado...let's have a giveaway!

I'm a simple girl ...with a simple small

First 20 people who comment on this blog post (so I know you whole 5 people are really out there...and mom you and Kimmy don't count!) AND go to Facebook and  "LIKE" Applegate Farms, YOU WIN one $1 off coupon. Once we pass the first're not out of the running yet!

TWO more winners will be selected at random of ALL the comments to win 5 $1 off coupons if you do all of the above as well!

 I also invite you just to be kind when you "like" Applegate Farms facebook page. If you are a customer, just drop them a note on their wall and tell them what products you love most...I am sure they would love the feedback as they are so connected to their customers.  Mention "Cooper's Corner Blog sent you" in your comment and you get 2 entries in the random drawing :)

Thanks everyone and I appreciate you passing on my blog and the giveaway to your friends and family!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

My first giveaway

Applegate Farms has sent me a bunch of coupons to giveaway!
So help me spread the word about my little blog and and soon we'll have a giveaway!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Dear 16 year old me

Dear 16 year old me,

The fact that May is Melanoma Awareness Month will impact you greatly in May 2011. 

Your friend Jennifer (you know the one you sit next to in class everyday and laugh with and make fun of people with) well you will stay friends with her and in 2011 she will be in ICU after undergoing a series of experimental treatments because of Stage 4 Melanoma. 

You will get your yearly mole check at the dermatologist and you will be fine.  You will buy your son extra sunscreen to put on everyday before summer camp and vow to make him wear a swim shirt and a hat at the pool or beach at all times.  

You will pray when you feel helpless when you hear the news that Jennifer is sedated to keep her comfortable while her body is fighting an infection in ICU.  

You will have a blog (yes that world wide web thing really takes off!) and share information on melanoma.  Oh and 16 year old me....I know you love ice cream but the habit really gets out of control when you are an adult and the weight is REALLY hard to get off!  Just sayin'...also....90210 will still be a good show to watch in reruns in your 30's.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011


Cooper, wanna go in the boat while we go tubing?

Yeah, sure!

Cooper, wanna go on the tube?

Yeah, sure!

 Ashleigh, don't you think you should hold on to the tube
with both hands while with my precious cargo?


Cooper, ignore that Ashleigh just flew off the tube and
 you are bouncing around in choppy waves.  

Ignore that your momma is on the dock holding her
 breathe the whole long 1.4 minutes it took 
  Ashleigh to swim to you and get back on.


 Unlike the momma here...who stayed on the dock not because she was afraid of the water or tubing, but because she was afraid to let her little baby go and end up placing her 
anxiety on said "little baby"....  Who is now called:


Sunday, May 15, 2011

Uhhhh Mommy- There's anober weak

 As you now know, I have been feeling that some days I am not ok.  But those others days I failed to mention, on those days,  I  sometimes feel overwhelmed. Not all the time of course, but on days when all the patches I had the roofer put up start to crumble down, I feel like it's the universes way of saying to me "ha...think you got it all together?  Think again sister!" and then the rain starts coming in. And I put in my time. I patch it up and I think I move on.
But I really don't move on, I just patch it up. I didn't FIX anything. an effort to really "FIX" things, I bit the bullet and agreed to a new roof.  And this week when the roofers came, ripped off the singles, informed me that the wood underneath was rotten almost to the trusses in some decided to rain.  And not just rain....pour.  We haven't had rain in days of course.....and now we do. And then it rained, in my house. In the heart of my house, in the family room over the fireplace.  The old leaks started to give way, new ones started to form and I could no longer pretend that any of my patch jobs worked.
That old familiar feeling of "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" creeped back in. I grabbed what I could, moved what I worried about getting wet and started sopping it up. My heart was weeping and I had to sop it up before it got too messy and before anyone would see.
As we all know, any good heart ache  needs wine.  So seconds before I cracked a bottle of sangria open, in a moment when I couldn't get the damn thing open fast enough....I felt like I couldn't sop up anymore.  I can't absorb anymore. I wanted to wave my white flag and tell the Universe "fine Biatch, you win".

Of course with a struggle I got the bottle open, I took a minute (and a swig or two) and I started checking the rest of the house for leaks (or as Cooper kept announcing "weaks"). Everything else was in its place.  All the other rooms were fine, dry and were completely unaware of what was going on in the family room.

 So I kept moved aside the things I wanted to keep safe, things I treasured, pieces I was going to renovate and refurbish, family portraits, hand me downs and hand made treasures. And while I moved the pieces of my heart to safety, I felt the pangs of loss.  Loss of a marriage, loss of security, loss of the dream of what my life would be like. But like I said, I lately felt a shift.  And in my shift I realized I could feel those things in one moment, accept it, feel it and then let IT move away so I could feel all those another things my heart longs for.

By then the roofer showed up, the workers helped patch the patches until the real roof is put up this week.  I attempted to sleep through the drips and drops in the buckets all night and today by the light of day....things are drying out.  

Or so I thought......this morning I heard...."uhhh...mommy...there's anober weak!!"  And sure enough another spot in the family room is leaking through the AC vent.

But like I said, the sun is out now and I already had the buckets and towels ready to go. This chinese fire drill reminded me I have what I need, my foundation is good, I just need to use my head and resources when my heart feels too weak. 

That feeling of being overwhelmed with patches has been replaced with the knowledge that I am armed with everything I need to heal my heart AND my home...I just think I need a good bottle of OPENED wine!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Sometimes I am not ok

Most days I feel what I think is "fine".  I feel ok.  I actually think I am happy again. It's just that some moments, on some days...I don't really think I am ok.  Usually, I think of loved ones I have lost recently and smile and move on. I think that their deaths are a part of the circle of life and I thank God for the beauty and strength I was able to take with me from participating in the death process for each of them.  

Watching my dad die of leukemia after only battling it 6 months, I learned about Faith.  My dad NEVER faltered in his walk of faith, if "the Big Man Upstairs" was calling him home "he wasn't going to disagree". I learned from that experience to relinquish control, to stop acting like I knew what I was doing and to "let go and let God'. Being 8 month pregnant at the time, I found comfort in my dad's steadfast faith, his acceptance of his place in the universe and I was proud to be the daughter of a man that knew who he was, what he wanted and who made no excuses for either of those things.  I was proud to have a son that I could also teach those life lessons to.

One year later I was with Hope.  Sitting on her sofa, telling her that God's time isn't our time and trying to convince myself that dying at the age of 36, leaving 2 small children behind was not ours to question but what was to be. We didn't understand why 6 years of cancer battles was her lot in life but it was and from Hope I learned grace. I learned to try to be still and let others around me come to their own conclusions . I learned to try to stop rambling my opinions loudly to create noise in uncomfortable silence. I learned to sit in the silence and try to enjoy the "small things".  Sitting by her bedside, watching each breath be a small victory, I vowed to never taking life for granted..... ever. I learned that life was about experiences, the good, the bad the ugly. That we are here on earth to experience them...hopefully we learn..... if not...and if we are lucky.....we get the chance at those life lessons again.

My grandfather's passing 5 months after Hope's and then my grandmother's 6 months after my grandfather' then...I was numb.  My grandparents were in their 90's. They wanted to die.  It was time, they were ready, they were waiting. I was lucky to have them for as long as I did and knew I had had plenty of time to prepare. 

 But this week I had to go help my mom with their house.  The site of the details of their lives, still there untouched as if the items where just expecting them to return from a vacation, hit hard.  I have been thinking....we have this ONE life, we get a set amount of days to do whatever we want to in those days. We love, we laugh, we move, we collect stuff. We think all kinds of things are really important when in hind sight they probably really aren't.  What do I want to do with my ONE life and how to I want to spend all those days and minutes that string together to make that life.  What will my legacy be?

This week my dear friend Jennifer is really struggling for her life as she at 38 years old battles melanoma.  This week I saw an episode of Oprah and the commercial for the countdown of the last show....and wanted to watch it with Hope and re-live our trip to Chicago to see Skid Boot the dog instead of John Travolta ( I know I have such luck). This week Cooper put a picture of Pop Pop holding him just after he was born in his room next to the Woody Disney picture...then he added a framed picture he stole of "Grandpa" to add next to the others now proudly displayed on his dresser. And in all those moments...I cried.  Maybe not at the exact moments, but I cried and now I feel like something in my universe shifted.

So I guess what I am saying is some moments in some days I am not ok.  Or maybe I am....I am sure this is normal, I think this is healthy.  I know that grief never leaves us and I know that grief pops up when you least expect it.

As I define my personal legacy, as I un-apologetically become the woman I was made to be, as I raise a boy to become a man at his full potential, along the way I will take the faith, the grace and the family legacy in my heart and hope that these days when I really wasn't ok..... I really was making great strides. 

(PS- The pics are some cell phone snapshots from my grandparent's house)

Monday, May 9, 2011

A Magical Mother's Day

What a great day we had yesterday at the Magic Kingdom!  It was a beautiful Florida day highs in the high 80's the sun was hot but there was a nice breeze. We met with Jake and his mom and the boys and I can't tell how much comfort it brought me to spend a mother's day with the boys.  It's been over 2 years that Hope has been gone and it still stings some days so badly to know that she is missing all these things with her boys.  Her life and death is totally shaping the way I parent and I can't help but have her always in the back of my mind.

The parades, the music, the flowers, the MAGIC that Disney creates really can't be matched anywhere else. It's easy to see why the parks are always packed with people. 
It was so fun to get lost in the magic, let hours pass by like minutes and just plain old "play" mindlessly for the day.

 We rode the traditional Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, It's a Small World but we loved the Buzz Lightyear Space Ranger ride (surprising right? ha). I shot my laser at those Zurge symbols like it was my job and I rocked a 22,700 score thank you very much!  More than my whole group...I take defeating the Emperor Zurge very seriously apparently. Cooper as my co-pilot with the joystick spinning our car around really helped!

We adults relaxed in the Country Bear Jamboree and the Philharmonic 3D show.  You forget how much the parks can take out of you when running on a 3 1/2 year olds whim (ohhhh, Carousel, ohhhh, Mickey, ohhhh ohhhh ohhhhhh).

 It was such a wonderful way to celebrate Mother's Day.  To spend quality time together, having fun, doing nothing but just being together.  

 To be able to work all week watching Cooper, then work on Saturday at the port and THEN to walk the Magic Kingdom with me all day Sunday, this woman is Wonder Woman...and yeah...Wonder Woman...she's my mom.

And this little guy, he couldn't get enough!

 We stayed until around 10pm because the Electrical Light parade was last night and we know what a treat that is! You never know when they will bring out the iconic floats for the night and we were so happy they did last night.  I was too relaxed to bother picking up my camera for pictures but we at ice cream sundaes in the cool night breeze while the lights twinkled and the Disney melodies danced in the air.

 And then we drifted off..... tired, sticky, happy :)

 A magical Mother's day indeed.