Saturday, December 27, 2008

Happy Christmas . . Belated!

Mini Break

Hi all. Today's post will be very short but I wanted to get something down. Last Friday I started to feel sick and by Saturday I was feeling pretty bad. Flash forward to Tuesday morning, with me sitting in my doctor's office. He said, sorry pal but you have came down with the flu and laryngitis.

Luckily my bosses understood and I was able to stay firmly planted on my couch at home for a few days. And yet, somehow my suitcase got packed (although the contents were a major disarray and nothing matched!) and I got on a plane to Tampa on Christmas Day. I'm here now with my family and even though it's been more than 7 days since the ickiness decended on me, I am still not 100 percent. My voice has started to come back gradually - I no longer sound like a squeaky chipmunk but still sound like a man!

This will proably be my last post for a few days as I'm still on the mend and with the crew here in FL. Hope your holiday was a blast and that you are with the ones you love the most.

A special note to our military members stationed around the world and far from home. We are so very thankful for you and your efforts.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sears and Soldiers - Why I Heart Them

I want to start off by saying, oh my word there are just three days until Christmas. Three days! I've always taken time off before the big day and this is the first year that I haven't. I saved my days for next week, so I'll be working right up until Christmas this year.

I have to tell you about something I came across last night, and then this morning. I was watching Extreme Home Makeover last night when I saw a commercial that discussed the Heroes at Home program that Sears has created. The commerical didn't tell me much but a peak on their site this morning did.

Sears states that "Heroes at Home is a program Sears Holdings has created in partnership with Rebuilding Together in response to an urgent need to assist military families facing hardship. By providing necessary repairs or adaptations to homes, Sears Holdings strives to improve the lives of military families across America."

I encourage you to visit the site and read the stories of the many military families they have helped. There's a spot for donations, a spot where you can spread the word, and even a spot to post a message of support.

As if that didn't warm your heart, here's another reason why military families should support Sears. I came across the following segment on the Today Show:

As Today reported, as Sears struggles for survival, it is still spending millions of dollars it doesn’t have supporting American troops. Sears employes more than 550 men and women that are deployed on active duty. While the employee is away defending our nation, the company not only continues to provide full benefits for the employee and their family but also helps make up the difference between the pay that the military provides, and the pay the employee receives when they are working for Sears.

I sat in awe when I heard this. It's an amazing thing that the retailer is doing. So to Sears, thank you from the bottom of this military girl's heart. While my family is not involved in any of these programs it truly means so much to me that you are willing to show such incredible support of the men and women that serve our nation. I know where I'll be shopping this holiday season.

Do you know of any other big companies supporting our troops that deserve a shout out? Post them here and let me know your thoughts!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Florida Bound Baby

As I type these very letters, the NJ sky has begun to drop fluffy and puffy snowflakes. A snow storm is slowly moving into the area and promises to drop anywhere between 8 to 12 inches of snow by my little casa. Ugh.

Despite the fact that the storm is sure to ruin the day, cause absolute chaos during rush hour and decrease attendance at the company's holiday party, I'm trying to be positive. In less than a week I will be in sunny FL. Where the temperature is currently 64 F degrees with a high of 78F.

Thank goodness I keep telling myself. My parents moved to Tampa more than a year ago and last Christmas was the first Christmas I spent in FL. My brother and sister tried to leave Oklahoma yesterday and never made it to my parents house. Winter weather caused them to wait in the airport for almost 10 hours only to be sent to Memphis. They are due out on a flight to Tampa today.

Last year, I spent Christmas morning by the pool with my mom and sister looking out onto the bay and staring happily at the abundance of palm trees. Dan and I fly to Tampa on Christmas Day this year (its really not that bad) and are staying in the warmth for just five days. We are crossing our fingers and hoping we don't encounter weather delays.

Even though I know that our five day FL vacay will feel like the shortest days of my life, I am so looking forward to seeing my family members and basking in the SUN. I plan on waking up early each day just to bank a few hours of solid sunshine. I need it - I think my skin is starting to become see-through.

So when I scrape the snow off of my car later today and shovel the many inches of snow out of my driveway, I will say to myself . . . relax Melissa. FL is just days away.

Here's a few shots from last year's Christmas holiday . . .

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Muppets Holiday Special Review

So last nite I raced home to curl up on the couch to watch the Muppets holiday special - A Muppets Christmas "Letters to Santa". Notable guest stars included Uma Thurman, Jane Krakowski, Nathan Lane, Jesse L. Martin, Michael Bloomberg, and Whoopi Goldberg.

As a HUGE Muppet fan I have to be honest. I thought it was good, but it wasn't their best. I have to say it felt a bit different. Some of the latest Muppet movies have a different feel. However, I did enjoy the singing and the adorable outfits. Um, Muppets in sweaters and winter apparel - a favorite of mine every time.

One character that stole the show was Pepe, the king prawn. I've like Pepe for quite some time and have always been a fan of his comedy. But last nite, as he stood in the security line at the airport and dumped out all of his electronic devices I roared in laughter. He unloads his pockets saying "Blackberry, Blueberry, Rasberry . . . Halle Berry." All were "electronics" except for the picture of Halle which he kissed before placing in his TSA security box.

In the end I'm always glad to see the crew anywhere. They are always awesome, and I can't help but feel like I'm four every time I see them. Dan will tell you, last night at 7:58pm I sprinted into the living room screaming "two minutes till the Muppets. M-U-P-P-E-T-S!!!" They always make me smile, and for that I am so grateful. Did you watch it? What did you think?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

I Heart Pose Prints

I always have a hard time picking out Christmas cards. I do, it's true. What do I want them to say? Do I want them to look grown up or do I go straight for the snowmen? So many options.

I was reading Celebrity Baby Blog, an oh so fav of mine, when I read a recommendation of theirs. Enter Pose Prints.

I've never been a huge fan of personalized holiday cards. I've only done the picture version once. I just never seem to find a photo that I like enough to send out to those I know. Maybe it will change when I get older and have kids.

But for now, I'd like to recommend Pose Prints. For the sassy and chic gal who's looking for something unique, these can be a great option. I love building my entire scene - myself, my boyfriend, whatever I decide to put on it. There's lots of options like bows, tiaras and what nots. This site is not just for the holidays. Engagement parties? Birthdays? You got it.

Check it out today and build your own character! Save it for your blog, Facebook page, and all other social media applications. Stay tuned for my holiday card. It will be making a special appearance on Christmas!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea - For the Military Brat in Your Life

Can you believe that Christmas is just 9 days away? 9. Whew. Wasn't it just Thanksgiving? I haven't even had the chance to mail my holiday cards out. Eish.

Still shopping for holiday presents? Um, I am. And you're amazing if you've finished. Hats off to you. So for those still trying to find the perfect gift for the military brat in your life, I'd like to recommend a personal favorite . . .The Military Brat Challenge Coin.

Until a few years ago, I didn't know it existed. Challenge coins - yes. I mean, my father has kindly given me many throughout the year and I collect them proudly. And I'm a big fan of them and how they are used. (The story behind the origination of the coin is amazing, but that is for another post.) I have many. And to this day, I can still pick up my father's wallet and see a circular imprint. Ever new wallet gets one.

A few years back, one of my best friends Amanda Stangl, was kind enough to give me one for Christmas. We lived in Japan together, and she's the friend I've had longest in my life. I feel like I grew up with her, even though we met when we were 13 and only had 3 short years together.

She found it on the famous military brats website we love the most. I cried when she gave it to me. Too sentimental?

The words that appear on the front of the coin are so important: bold, adaptable, tolerant, and responsible. I've said it before and I'll say it again, military brats don't choose to become brats. It happens to them. But the best thing about being a brat, is learning to embrace each part of your military life. The moves. The foreign countries. The new languages. The constant change. The words on the coin are the code we live by.

Receiving that coin made me feel like I was finally like my father. And when he went to Iraq, I bought a coin for both my younger siblings Matt and Nicole. I wanted to remind them that they too deserve such an honor. Their dedication, support and respect to our father and our military family should be recognized and celebrated.

Until my father returned from Iraq, I carried my coin and his coin in my wallet. It helped me feel connected. And now, when I'm with my friends who are military brats, I never hesitate to call a challenge at a bar. After all, I now have my own duds.

If you have a military brat in your life and are looking for a stocking stuffer, or a special gift, I encourage you to give your loved one a military brat challenge coin.

Hugs to all brats around the world.

Muppet Alert! Muppets Christmas to Air Wed on NBC

Listen Up Muppet Fans! The gang has come together again to produce yet another Christmas special . . . as if we could ever get tired of seeing our favorite characters celebrate the holiday season!

While I'm sure that you've seen tv ads for it, I'd like to remind you that it will be airing tomorrow, at 8pm on NBC. Special guests include Nathan Lane - who is a personal fav. It's called A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa.

To help generate hype around the new special, some of our Muppets will be making daytime appearances. Catch Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy on The Morning Show with Mike and Juliet. Pepe the King Prawn is also set to appear as a featured guest on "The Bonnie Hunt Show" the very same day.

So tomorrow will be a Muppet filled day!!! Get the popcorn ready folks. You know where I'll be on Wed at 8pm!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Oprah's Weight Gain - Why She Should Be Embarrassed

Last week you couldn't surf the Web or look at a paper without seeing the following headline (in one form or another) - Oprah Reveals Shocking Weight Gain.

As someone who is on her own personal weight loss journey, I am inclined to listen to what other people have done . . . what works and what doesn't.

The new issue of her magazine shows her "now" self standing next to her much thinner "then" self. Oprah revealed that she is now tipping the scales at 200lbs, and is embarrassed. She also said that she couldn't believe that after all these years that she is "still talking about her weight."

I wasn't appalled by Oprah's gain but what did make my jaw drop was that she was so outwardly negative about herself to her millions upon millions of readers. Her article reveals that she feels like a "fat cow," and details her struggles with an out-of-balance thyroid, explaining how the condition led to "a fear of working out."

Winfrey weighed 40lbs less just two years ago and in 2005 she went on an extreme liquid protein diet that resulted in a dramatic weight loss. She literally STARVED herself. She's done crazier things in the past. In 1988, she lost 67lbs and she chose to wheel a wagon loaded with fat on her talk show.

Today, I feel ashamed for her and embarrassed for her - not because of her weight gain - but for her lack of self respect. And her public display of it.

As someone who strives to lose weight, I know that one thing will always remain true - this is MY journey. And every time I gain anything back, I don't freak out. I just remind myself that I need to work harder. Freaking out gets me no where.

As for Oprah's comment about how she can't believe this is still part of her dialogue - - - clearly she hasn't learned everything about weight loss. It's a journey for her too. If you ask anyone, ANYONE, that has ever lost weight in the past they'd tell you the same thing. The weight can come back.

Her super stardom does not make her immune to the weight coming back. It does not give her a special pass out of the struggles that some of us face every day. A carrot or chocolate cake. A 30 min workout or another hour of sleep. Her money and everything that comes with it can never make her a size zero. But her self respect, discipline, and motivation can make her healthy again.

While I'm not happy to see Oprah slip, it does remind all of us that we are human - and that "they" are just like us. I do wish her the best of luck in her continued journey. And maybe when she reaches her new, adjusted goal, she can celebrate herself in a different way. No fat wagon. Maybe she can write an article on how loving yourself, no matter what size or shape you come in is the key to life's happiness- and how she FINALLY realized that.

My girlfriends and I often ask each other what we would do if we became millionaires - - - we all say the same thing. Quit work. Devote our time to philanthropic endeavors and get a personal trainer. "If I was rich, I'd always be thin." At times like this, I pause and remind my chickies that money is simply no excuse. Look at Oprah. Let's be thinner and happier and love our selves more now - the millions can come later.

Friday, December 12, 2008

We Can’t Let This Bank Fail!

During economic times like these, we all begin to stop and count our blessings. We remember to be thankful for what we do have, and our hearts go out to those who are in need. Earlier this week 4,000 people were let go from the company my boyfriend works for. 4,000 people. Luckily he wasn't one of them. But that doesn't mean that he'll escape the next round of lay-offs.

We all know that it's happening across the nation. We all know people who have been effected by the recession. For me, it always helps me feel better to do something charitable. So for all of you based in NJ here's a few stats for you and a fantastic opportunity to do something good for someone else. Even THE BOSS is pitching in.

More than 35 million Americans, including 12 million children, either live with or are on the verge of hunger. In New Jersey alone, an estimated 250,000 new clients will be seeking sustenance this year from the state's food banks. But recently, as requests for food assistance have risen, food donations are on the decline, leaving food bank shelves almost empty and hungry families waiting for something to eat.

The situation is dire, no more so than at the Community FoodBank of New Jersey (CFBNJ), the largest food bank in the state, where requests for food have gone up 30 percent, but donations are down by 25 percent. Warehouse shelves that are typically stocked with food are bare and supplies have gotten so low that, for the first time in its 25 year history, the food bank is developing a rationing mechanism.

As the state's key distributor of food to local banks – serving more than 500,000 people a year and providing assistance to nearly 1,700 non-profits in the state – the stability of replenishment of the CFBNJ is essential to ensuring that individuals in need have access to food.

If everyone could just do a little, it would help those in need a lot. To help, people can:

- Make a monetary contribution: Visit
- Donate food: Drop off a bag of food at your local food pantry. Click here to find a food pantry near you
- Organize a food drive: We can help explain the logistics of starting a food drive. Just call 908-355-FOOD.
- Help "Check Out Hunger:" Look for the "Check Out Hunger" coupons at your local supermarket and donate. No donation is too small!

It's really easy to donate and all of us know that there are things in our pantry that could go to a family in need. Donate today and you'll get a gift in return - - -the satisfaction of knowing that you're making a difference in your local community!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Low Cal Salad Dressing That Only Seems Sinful

So it's no mystery to all of you that I'm a weight loss journey. I begun to discuss it a few posts back. When I find something that seems like a miracle (I've been dieting strong for more than a year and a half now) I like to share. I was reading one of my favorite weight loss blogs the other day, Glamour's Margarita Shapes Up, and she talked about bad food habits and a revised solution.

My diet, like many other women I know, consists of a lot of salad. Margarita even reveals that it's something she depends on as well. It's the one thing that I can eat a good amount of that isn't laden with calories. The one thing that actually fills me up. And sadly now, I really crave a nice big bowl of greens.

So the bad food habit - the loophole - salad dressing; it's a dieters worse enemy. I finally found a line (that is not a low fat Italian vinaigrette) that causes me to do a little dance. Enter Bolthouse Dressings. It is my solution.

The line has a few dressings that can make a party out of any salad. Why do I love it? It's yogurt based. It has less than half the calories and half the fat than regular dressings. The real bonus - it ACTUALLY tastes good. Modern miracle if you ask me. I'm in love with the Ranch dressing. I also have the Thousand Island dressing in my fridge. It tastes fresh, homemade almost and I no longer have the urge to dump a quarter of the bottle into my bowl. The only downside - it expires much faster than the regular kind but in the end that means that it's only made of the real stuff.

Check it out and let me know what you think. Salad bowls will soon be celebrating.

Disney Parks Dedicates a Year to Me . . .

I'm a HUGE fan of Disney. I've gone to almost every park - with the exception of Euro Disney. Yep, even Tokyo Disney where my favorite character, Winnie the Pooh, speaks in Japanese. Yeah for the military who sent us to live in Japan!

So it's not surprising that I have a huge affinity for the Disney brand. I came across this today and was thrilled. Disney Parks decided to dedicate a year to ME! ;)

And why, I'm sure you are asking. Um, I'm spectacular. And they love grown ups who love the fact that Disney celebrates the child in all of us. Okay, so maybe it isn't so believable. But watch the video and at the end enter your name and see what happens. Disney will dedicate a year to you as well! Pass it along to all the Disney fans in your life - - - and all the youngsters that this will bring happiness to.

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Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Home for B-52s

New Home for B-52s

Stars and Stripes reported today that the Air Combat Command has selected Minot Air Force Base (N.D) for its fourth B-52 squadron. The squadron should be up and running by 2010.

No overseas bases were considered in the decision process and the new location will have to undergo a environmental impact analysis prior to getting the full nod.

I'm a huge fan of B-52s. When my family left Japan we were shipped to Barksdale AFB in Shreveport, LA which is home of the B-52 bombers. We saw them every day and heard the roar of the engines every night. They are giant beauties. They are phenomenal.

Military jet engines - ahh, they are one of my favorite sounds to hear as I fall asleep and is something that I miss each night. There's something soothing about the hum that is created as military aircraft fire up for flight. Hmm, maybe other military brats feel the same. Did I just stumble onto an idea? A specialized alarm clock with military related sounds - jet engines firing, the morning reveille . . . ???

Congrats Minot - - - get ready for them!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Calling all military moms across the globe. Stars and Stripes needs your voices! :)

Yes, it is true. Our favorite military newspaper is launching a new website geared towards military moms in early 2009. The paper is currently looking for moms to sign up to be moderators. Moderators will be compensated for their time with AAFES or DeCA gift cards.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this new site pans out!

Sesame Street Experience for Military Families

I'm always a fan of any company that the USO recruits to takes time out to thank the troops and their families. This year the Sesame Street Experience for Military Families traveled to more than 40 bases to put on an incredible show. I'm glad to hear the USO plans to continue the show next year and expand it to travel to more bases in the U.S., Europe and Asia.

The show is live - complete with many muppets- and is similar to the Broadway version, only smaller. A special tweak has been made for military families though . . . when Elmo sings "You Make Elmo Proud" he praises military kids for helping their parents and being strong when one parent is away.

The Sesame Workshop has paid special attention to military children lately. They have a special section on their website titled, "Talk, Listen, Connect." This section offers information, videos, posters, music and support for military families as they face challenging transitions such as deployments, homecomings, moves, and TDYs. By the way, the program is also bilingual.

As a military brat, I can personally say that this is amazing. I wish they had had this around when I was growing up. This program isn't new (it was launched in 2006) but I wanted to mention it because it is an incredible resource. So to the Sesame Workshop I must say - - - thank you, thank you, thank you.

Thanksgiving - What I'm Thankful For

Happy Belated Thanksgiving Everyone! I hope all of you had a fantabulous holiday. Thanksgiving is awesome. You eat a giant bird. You eat pie. And, well, you just eat. And you get to reflect on the things you are thankful for.

Because of work my Thanksgiving is always an un-Thanskgivingy but it's something I'm willing to accept. Here are the things I'm thankful for this year, in random order . . .

1. That my family was together again - even if I wasn't with them. This year, my parents and brother and sister met up in the Ozark Mountains for some quality family time. My parents drove all the way from FL and my brother and sister (and her boyfriend) drove up from Oklahoma on their break from college. I was happy that this happened - last year my everyone spent the holiday alone. My folks went to Miami and hated it. Very un-Thanskgivingy said Dad.

2. My job. I'm so glad to have my job. Seriously. I'm also glad that my job provides me exciting opportunities like experiencing Black Friday in an amazing way. And today I am thankful that Black Friday is far away!

3. Dan. Like I need to say more. I thankful for his love of the holiday, the way his family celebrates it and how they miss me so very much when I'm not there with them. And I love him and am thankful that he loves me.

4. My friends. Especially the ones who love me enough to call me on Thanksgiving and cheer me on as I count down to Black Friday

5. Our military members across the world. I'm very thankful for all of the military members (and their families) that are stationed throughout the globe as they are far, far away from those who love them. A special shout out to the young and single - here's to hoping that another military family opened their homes to you on the special day. My warmest thoughts go to our men and women in the land of sand. I know that you stood in line for hours to call home on this week. Thank you for doing that. Thank you for emailing. And thank you for your positive attitude that reminds us to stay just as positive even though we miss you oceans.

What were you thankful for?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Holiday Gift Idea - Personalized Cookbook

The holidays are just around the corner and I, like everyone else on the planet, have started to make my shopping list. We all have people in our lives who are impossible to shop for - or for some the average gift just won't do. So when I came across this website and wanted to share this cool idea.

I haven't tried it yet but Taste Book seems pretty cool. I'm always looking to put a personal touch on a gift and the concept of creating a cookbook full of your loved ones favorite recipes - from professional chefs or from someone they personally know and love and has got me hooked.

I actually won't be giving this as a Christmas gift. I've decided to use it towards an anniversary gift for my grandparents this summer. My thought is - would my grandparents enjoy recipes from each one of their children's families? Each family can have a chapter - or better yet we can weave them all together into sections - Apps, main courses, deserts. I think that would make them smile. I can just see myself saying, this one's from me Grandma.

For those of you who have people in your lives who are all about food, and the power it has in bringing families and friends together, I encourage you to check this out. They have a wide selection of recipes online from some of the most popular sites - Better Homes and Gardens, Food Network, Southern Living, Cooking Light and even The price point seems very reasonable to - starting at just $20.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Man Drops 140 Pounds In 11 Months To Join Marines

I came across this article yesterday. Title read, "Man Drops 140lbs in 11 Months to Join Marines." My first thought was . . . now that's a Marine!

This man, named Ulysses Milana, did an extraordinary thing. After deciding to serve his nation, he took on the challenge of losing 140lbs. As if deciding to join wasn't a big enough decision he now faced a weight loss mountain. The Associated Press reports that Marine recruiters could see potential in Milana and worked with him till the finish line.

Now Milana is a Marine and ships off to SC for boot camp on Monday. The difference between this new Marine and all the others - he's had recruiters in his face punishing him for the past 11 months. His body is well trained at this point and the upside is it can only get stronger and leaner. And when he's in formation, he'll be the Marine at the front, ready to lead. And he won't be hazed for not being able to do something.

Military weight restrictions are rough, this is something that I understand personally. Some branches have taken it to the next level and are now trying measurement restrictions - ie if you're a female at this height your waist can not exceed X inches and your hips must remain under X inches. All on top of your regular weight restrictions. Truth is, we are not all the same. We are all built differently.

When I decided to join the AFROTC at LSU I knew I had to drop weight. As a cadet, you can't even wear your uniform until you meet the regulation standard. It is a honor to wear it - not a privilege. So I worked hard and I made weight. But back then, I was very young. Just out of high school and much leaner than I am today. And today, I'm still on a weight loss journey but am miles away from AF regulation.

I can't even begin to imagine the physical pain Milana endured to drop that much weight. How he stood, day after day, in front of those Marine recruiters - - - I wonder, did he ever feel embarrassed? Did he ever want to quit? What motivated him? How did he find the internal strength to push on? The work ethic and dedication Milana showed during his 11 month journey proves to every Marine out there that he deserves to be a Marine, and that he has a phenomenal character. The Corps is very lucky to have him.

Best Wishes on your journey Milana. Don't ever look back. You're going to be one fabulous Marine.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Economic Woes - Troubled Times

Part of my job is to know the news. Due to this simple fact I tend to comb through national newspapers every morning to figure out to get the lay of the land. Specifically the business section. I know it's not just me, who'd like to hear something positive . . . especially now.

The economy is sinking. Thousands of Americans are losing their jobs on a daily basis. Huge industry giants are folding. GM may shut down - do we fully comprehend what that will do to America? How the state of MI will simply fall off the map?

The govt is bailing out everyone and their mom. Okay, not yet, but it seems like that's all I hear about. This constant talk track of doom and gloom is weighing heavily on our nation. It's hard to read, in so many papers each morning, in multiple formats.

It is during these times when I often think of what my parents tried so hard to warn me about . . . being a civilian is not easy. One of the appeals of being military is that you always have a job . . . or it used to be. Over the past few years the military has even begun to off load its members, though it's more often in the Air Force than it is in any other branch. And the truth is so many blue (AF) went green (Army) because they wanted to stay in. It's back to normal now though - iron clad safe.

My parents used to drill that point of security into our head's as we grew up. I know that my father won't lose his job because of the economy. It won't happen to my Army contracted brother either. But my sister and I - we are another story.

My first job out of college wasn't a first job at all. I'd put myself through school and was used to the 40 (sometimes 40+) hours and working towards a degree. I rejoiced when I graduated - I could finally just work, without the added burden of school. But it was an important job, and I put my all into it. I was good at it - I had potential and the company recognized that.

And then the day came out of the blue. One after another we were pulled into the owner's office and were given the speal. The controller said, we must let you go to survive. We are sorry. I was 23 years old.

I remember not being able to breathe. Telling myself this could not be possible. Didn't this only happen to older people? Why me - how could they cut me? I worked for next to nothing and devoted an insane amount of time to my job. Coming in weekends, staying till 9pm. All on a measly salary.

It took me quite some time to realize that it wasn't about me. It was about them. Their financial status. Their future. And there I was, left on the other side of the fence . . . without a job. Not knowing what my future held.
This moment in my life changed me forever. It rocked me to my core. What my parents had warned me about . . . actually happened. REALLY happened. At 23. First job. I was a civilian and I would never be safe. It was a slap in the face and made me understand that nothing is for sure. Only the military, but that wasn't what I wanted. But this experience, almost made me change my mind.
They say that things always happen for a reason and my lay off led me down a path of success. A sweet freelancing gig helped me further build my resume, which helped me land a spot at the firm I'm at now. I guess it did happen for a reason.

But during times like this, when I see friends and loved ones narrowly escape rounds of lay offs and some who don't - I worry about my safety as well. I somehow transport back to years ago. In that room. In front of those men, who took my job away from me.

My best wishes and best thoughts go out to all of those who are affected and left standing breathless. Those who have to worry about paying their heating bill or feeding their children. May your situation lead you to a much better and brighter one.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Muppet Update! Whoot! Whoot!

As you know, I'm the ultimate Muppet fan and promise you updates as soon as I get them. It is my DREAM job to work for the Henson company, as Jim is one of my idols. So today, for Muppet news, I have quite a lot to report. The team has been hard at work, and their popping up everywhere!

- The Muppets took over the Today show this morning for 30 minutes. Seriously! They promoted the Muppet WhatNot Shop that I had mentioned a few posts back. They built custom Muppets for Meredith, Matt, Al, Ann and EVEN Willard Scott. Check this out. You MUST watch their work. They hang out with everyone. See them interact with Harry Connick Jr., build their own Muppet WhatNots and watch Miss Piggy tie up Christopher Meloni. Piggy also takes on Hoda and Kathy Lee. I'm a huge fan of Hoda, and not a fan of Kathy. I loved watching Piggy stick it to her.

- Pepe, the stellar king prawn, appeared on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on Oct 28th to promote his new book AND himself, of course

- Kermit the Frog, the balloon version, will be appearing again in this year's Macy's Thanksgiving Parade.

- For the first time ever, Jim Henson's 1977 television special Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas is available online.

- The Muppets have wrapped production of "Letters to Santa: A Muppets Christmas", one-hour television project is set to air this holiday season! It's scheduled to air on Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 8:00PM on NBC

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veteran's Day

Today is a special day for America. Today is Veterans Day.

As a military brat this day calls for special reflection. My father still serves today. My grandfather served. And in about a year, my brother will graduate from the University of Oklahoma and become an Army officer. It's what my family does, we serve.

My father has been to Iraq and Afghanistan. It's only a matter of time before he goes again. My brother will also go. My grandfather was drafted during World War II.

I have many friends who are in the service, and even friends whose parents still serve. I have friends who are deployed. While I never fully made it to "signing on the dotted line" I spent my life (and still am) as a military brat. I've seen first hand, year after year, the sacrifices that men and women make around the world.

It seems at times, to me, that we can never fully comprehended what our nation's forces do for us on a daily basis. Regardless of what your opinion is, you should always support the troops. They are where they are because they are fighting to protect us. In the Land of Sand. In a country that ends with "stan." In places you've never heard of and never will hear of.

So on today, I ask you to pause. Reflect on what you have. You have peace on your shore lines. Think of the men and women that are deployed throughout the world, and their families who are left waiting at home for them to return. And remember all of those who came before them, some of whom never made it home. For without them, we would not have the freedoms that we have today.

My love and admiration to my father, brother, grandfather and friends who have stood for us. My love and continued support to their family members. We owe you more than we could ever give you back. You mean the world to me.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Pixar's New Film

Pixar recently released a teaser for it's new film Up. I just found it today and was sad to hear that it's been out in cyberworld since Wall-E's release this past summer. Word on the street is that the film focuses on an elderly man who lives in a house and takes on (and defeats) villains throughout the world. Details are sketchy, as most Pixar teasers are, but I'm confident that it will be a good one.

Up will be Pixar's 10th animated film and is scheduled for release on May 29, 2009. The film is directed by the usual suspects at Pixar, including Pete Docter, who directed Monsters Inc. Also investing time and brain power is Bob Peterson, who is the film's screenwriter. Peterson also wrote Finding Nemo, or as I like to call it the BEST film Pixar has made to date.

I can't wait to see this film. Okay, well, I traditionally can't wait to see any Pixar film. I can't help it. The company facinates me and I hope very much to be a part of it one day. Stay tuned for additional details on Up, and don't forget that Toy Story 3 is just on the horizon.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Ne-Yo's Miss Independent

So I have to tell you that I'm in LOVE with Ne-Yo's new song. If you haven't heard it, you need to listen to it. Especially if you're a female. This man is speaking my language. Great words. And great respect for women. If you don't already have his new record go out and get it and visit his website!

Here are the lyrics from his song . . .

Birthday to Remember

So last weekend I celebrated my 27th birthday in style. Halloween is one of my favorite holidays - naturally- my birthday is just days before it. When I was growing up it was very easy to use it as a great theme for my birthday parties!

This year was extra special. I've lived in NJ for three years now. Next year will mark the longest I've ever lived anywhere since I left Ireland. Moving, as I've mentioned before, is never easy. For military brats it's always about rebuilding and moving to NJ was exactly the same as moving when I was younger.When you're a military brat with other military brats, you can make friends much easier. Being a military brat surrounded by civilians is another challenge. It's harder to break into friendship circles - despite my age.

The first year I lived here I flew back to Michigan to celebrate my birthday. I wanted to be with my friends and at the time I had yet to make one in NJ. The second year was different. By that time, I had switched jobs, had a very close friend and a group of solid friends. I took a leap and stayed in NJ and celebrated in a local town. It was a great night and I remember going home and thinking that I my rebuilding process was starting to work! I could have faith.

Today I am happy to tell you that my friendships here have grown leaps and bounds. I'm happy with them and feel confident that they will last. The past year has helped me realize who I really want as a friend and luckily those friends have felt the same way about me.

So this year for my birthday, I chose again to stay here. . . and throw myself a birthday party. Big step for me. The deal was sweetened when my two BFFs from high school promised to roll in to celebrate - Heather traveling from MI and Amanda from PA. They are pictured below.

Heather made my birthday cake. The front said "Happy Birthday to Melissa."
The back said "Happy Halloween Everyone Else!"

Amanda and I posing in costume! Don't we look great! Yes, I went as a birthday girl!

These girls mean the world to me because they carry my world in them. Sound odd . . . to you probably. These girls lived with me in Japan. Out of my friends, Amanda is the person I've know the longest. These girls are the girls I grew up with. They know what I was like in a world I can never return to. This is why I say that they carry my world in them. When I'm with them, I'm home. Having them join me for my birthday and meet all of my NJ based friends was incredible. And I'll be forever grateful for them flying and driving in from many miles away to be with me. Like old times. Except now it's legal to drink. And we have cooler clothes. And no one speaks Japanese. And we are in NJ. Love you babes and miss you every minute of every day.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

VT Fall Colors Road Trip Baby!

Last year Dan and I visited VT for the first time. We took a road trip at the beginning of October. It was one of the best vacations we had ever taken. We headed back around the same time this year and it was just as great.

There's something about Stowe and Smuggler's Notch. The fact that everything is quiet and there's limited cell signal. The fact that there's wine tasting right next to the local cider mill. The fact that there's no noise. . .

This year we did so much! Wine tasting, horseback riding, hiking, a lantern tour of Stowe, trips to Montplier, Burlington, and so much more.

Here are a few shots I'd like to share . . . for the record, I miss Vermont already.

Taken while we were on Mt. Mansfield

The view from on top of Mt. Mansfield. So beautiful.

A shot I took right after we went horseback riding.
The green pastures really do remind me of Ireland.

The GIANT Stowe pumpkin. Much bigger than us.
PS - I'm kneeling down, Dan's not THAT tall!

Local farm, ah, it's like my Grandpa's!

Dan and I in Smuggler's Notch

My First 5 K

Fitness is a personal thing. Its battle between yourself and your body. You can be as fit as you want or as unfit as you want. It's the one thing that is in your complete control. Coming from a military family it's something that should be part of every fiber of your being - and my parents have been very disappointed that it hasn't played a larger role in my life.

Since I've graduated I haven't spent nearly enough time working on it. Last year I made a pact with myself to turn over a new leaf. For me.

Steady diet and exercise, coupled with encouragement from my doctor, allowed me to drop 25 pounds. While it's an accomplishment that I am very proud of, I still have a long way to go. I still try to stick with my diet (1400 calorie diet that I learned while working with a dietitian - same as weight watchers but without the weekly meetings) and incorporate exercise into my weekly routine at least twice. (I'm hoping to bump that up to 3 to 4 times soon)

My Saturday morning routine consists of an hour and a half workout. I wake up early (8am - early for me!), drop Dan off at his masters class and head to the gym for some me time.
This morning was a bit different. I woke up, got dressed in my usual work out wear but this time I headed to Fairield to compete in my first 5 K. After a 30 minute ride I pulled into the parking lot and found my friends waiting for me.

Up until two days before the race I had no fears competing. Let's be honest - - - I was under no impressions that I'd smoke anyone out there. But I wanted to do it for me, and even though a few of my coworkers would be participating as well, I felt like I could hold my own and not be embarrassed. My goal was to finish in 45 minutes. At most less than an hour. I know, that's not very fast but it was my goal. Last night I started to worry. Worried that I would suck. Worried that I'd be last. But I went.

After chatting, stretching, eating a banana, pinning on my racing number and taking a few photos with coworkers we were ready to go. Here I am below before the race, posing with an apple, ready to take the road on.

We all lined up and then heard, "ready, set, go!" and the race was on! I ran for a bit, but started to hurt early and ended up speed walking for almost the remainder of the race. Oddly enough, I can walk much faster than I can run - isn't that sad!? When we met the first mile marker the counter shouted, "15 minutes and 30 seconds." I turned to my friend and race partner in crime Shana and exclaimed, "We're doing good! Let's keep it up." Second mile marker and I knew that I wasn't going to make my goal. The counter shouted "33 minutes ladies." Ugh. There was no way I could push it any harder and do a 12 minute mile and a bit. But we didn't give up. I don't know my exact finish time. I think it was 53:15, or was it 55:13?

At the finish line our coworkers were waiting for us. They had finished in half the time we did. Ugh - I instantly thought. Try and stay positive Mack! You didn't finish last in the entire race, just last out of your group! We grabbed a few bottles of water and posed by a firetruck for a photo that will make it into our company newsletter.

When I left the race I felt disappointed. I didn't understand why I hadn't done better. At the gym I can clock 3.5 or 4 miles in an hour (on the elliptical and treadmill), where had I gone wrong? In the last month and a half I've lost 6.5 pounds. Why did I suck? I should have trained outside I thought. I should have pushed myself more. Or the ground outside should move like it does in the gym!

I realize that even though I didn't do spectacular, the main point is I did it. There's no way I would have done this a year ago. No way I would have put myself out there. In front of people I know and in front of REAL runners. It's okay that I did how I did. I think I need to learn to not put so much pressure on myself. Fitness is a journey and I'm just on the second lap.

I hope this is another new beginning that can continue in my life. Maybe I'll find more 5Ks to participate in. And maybe, with training, I can improve on my time for the next one.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Proud Wii Owner

My 27th birthday is on Tuesday. When Dan, my boyfriend, asked what I'd like for a gift I gave him my usual response . . . I don't know! I never seem to.

Since the Wii broke onto the scene it's been on fire. I've seen it fly of shelves in person. I've seen people fight over it in stores. And as much as it seemed to be the latest and greatest thing, I asked myself one question. Would I like it?

I'm not a gamer. My brother is the only person in my family who is. When we were growing up he'd ask for systems and games for birthdays, holidays . . . any time that he'd qualify for a gift! I can recall many holidays were Matt would jump out of bed, unwrap his gifts and spend the rest of the day in his room playing. I never got it. I tried to play - for the record, I suck at Halo. And it wasn't that fun for me. I thought, why spend so much money on a gaming system? Would I like it? Would I get bored with it? Would it be a waste of money? Should I buy something smaller and put the other money in savings? All boring questions I admit. But for someone who's not that into video games, it would be a big leap of faith to buy a Wii.

My boyfriend got word that I was interested in one (for the record, it was only so that I could play Mario Kart) and surprised me with one yesterday. Yes, an early birthday present. My reaction - I actually jumped up and down like a kid. So ridiculous, right! We set it up and played last night and I have to say . . . I get why this is the system for non-gamers. The system to make non-gamers into gamers.

In just one hour we played every game in the Wii Sports package. I rock at bowling and tennis. Totally suck at baseball and golf. This morning, before work, I caught Dan playing baseball. I laughed to myself. I then turned and said to him, hey, do you think they have Wii Volleyball. I think I could rock at that. He just laughed.

The addiction has begun!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Old School

I logged onto the web and went straight to YouTube tonight to watch Beyonce's new video, If I Was a Boy. For the record it's fantastic. But before I even got to it something caught my eye in the Promoted Video's section.

First I saw the title. . . Sesame Street: Kermit and News With Rumplestiltskin . . . and then I saw him. Kermit. In his little trench. Had to watch it. So should you. This is old school Sesame Street!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Muppet News Update

I am a fan of toys. I don't apologize for always wanting to feel like I'm four. Okay, not always, but in the true sense I don't necessarily want to grow up. Toys bring happiness to a person - regardless of age.

The Muppets are some of my favorite characters (Jim Henson is actually one of my heroes) and I'm always trying to stay up to date with their latest and greatest news. Here's some new information for all you Muppet fans.

Check out their new web video

Get your OWN Muppet for the very first time in your life! FAO Schwartz will be opening a Muppet Whatnot Workshop in their flagship store in NYC. The specialty section is due to open on October 22nd and will run you upwards of $130.

The Muppets 2009 calendar is on the market. You can only buy it on, who claims that it is already not in stock.

Stay tuned for more updates.

A Little Slice of Japan

As a military brat I have been fortunate to live and travel to many countries. My family moved to Tokyo, Japan when I was 13 years old. The move was rough for me. I had moved from Colorado Springs, CO.

Being 13, in a foreign country and not speaking the language was a challenge. But it quickly became a challenge my family and I took by storm. I lived in Japan for three years and loved every single second that I was there. It is one of my most favorite countries in the entire world.

Moving is never easy - you could move from Seattle to Kansas City or from Finland to Guam and you would still feel the effects. The same core principles apply. Your favorite places and people disappear. The culture of your town and city, the culture of the people and the familiar foods you've grown to love slip away.

When we left the land of the rising sun our boots hit the ground in Shreveport, LA. I left Tokyo ten years ago and have yet to go back. I've found a few Japanese markets here and there but have rarely found something that could jog the memories of happiness that are tucked away for safe keeping.

Enter Mitsuwa Marketplace ( located in Edgewater, NJ. Or as I now call it, my favorite Japanese hot spot outside of Tokyo. Aside from being an amazing market that has the good stuff from my days long ago, it also has a traditonal Japanes food court that makes me feel like I'm transported back. It is an incredible feeling, and despite the 1hr long drive it takes to get there, I'll be spending several Saturdays there!

Here are a few shots of the food court, along with some of my most missed dishes.

The coolest thing about the food court is the authentic Japanese food displays. As you can see from the photos above, the food is on display in a case. It's a totally standard thing and was uber helpful when we first moved to Japan. It's rare to see to see this in the US. The court is loud, everyone speaks Japanese and there's a buzz of chatter in the air. Ahh, I so miss Asia! PS - the marketplace has wonderful varities of sushi for bargin prices!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Distance of Family

If you asked a military brat what question they have been asked most in life there would be one resounding answer: where are you from? Our answer is never simple. Tthe majority of the world can provide an answer in one sentence. For a military brat, we'd need a few paragraphs.

It took me a while to determine my talk track . . . it came to me as I got older. I gave up trying to explain. Now it's a simple answer: I am a military brat. I'm from no where. I'm from everywhere.

I live in NJ. My mom and Dad live in FL. My brother and sister attend college in Oklahoma. The rest of my family (with a few exceptions) lives in Ireland. When it comes to my family there is so much distance, location wise that is.

Dan's family is located in NJ and NYC. He was born and raised in the same house. Every holiday his relatives all trek down to his parents house for some quality family time. For the past three years (that I've lived in NJ) I've been a part of that.

We all gathered again for Labor Day this past weekend. Hanging out, grilling, catching up. It's times like these that make me miss my family but at the same time feel grateful to have another family to hang out with.

I miss my family every day. Not just on holidays. On weekends, on Tuesday nites. Every day.