Archive of ‘Ultimate Blog Challenge’ category

For Charlie

I’ve never met Charlie, but he is one of my heroes.
A childhood cancer hero.

Right before he turned 3 years old, Charlie was diagnosed with a rare brain tumor. He was given less than a 5% chance of survival. He underwent multiple surgeries, endured 2 years of chemotherapy and 6 weeks of radiation. He spent more time in the hospital than on the playground. Because of the tumor, he lost vision in his left eye.

But Charlie is a survivor and he was no evidence of disease (NED) for 8 years. Now 13, he is in the battle of his life again. Doctors found another brain tumor and he had major surgery yesterday. His family posted a photo a few days before showing Charlie with his braces off–not because his teeth were perfectly straight–but because of his pending surgery. Getting your braces off is supposed to be a happy day for kids, but not this time.

Did you know childhood cancer is the number 1 cause of death by disease in the U.S. for children under the age of 19? As the Communications Manager at Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation for Childhood Cancer, I know this statistic all too well. I use it constantly to inspire people to support much-needed childhood cancer research. But, I don’t just write about it. I have the honor of knowing some of the faces behind the statistics.

Yesterday, I marked my 3 year anniversary working for the Foundation. I’ve written plenty of stories about these kids and their families and what they have been through. I’ve spoken to researchers about their progress in the labs and the great potential to find less toxic treatments and more cures. But, I don’t just work for the Foundation, I donate part of my paycheck to the cause as well. And when you see me, I’m probably wearing a Foundation t-shirt to raise awareness because kids fighting cancer are my heroes.

As part of my writing process, I typically keep one of them at the front of my mind. Today, I think of Charlie.

At the Flea Market

Did you know today is National Eight-Track Tape Day?

It doesn’t get nearly the social media attention it deserves, especially when it competes with National Pet Day. But, you could say this plastic covered, music technology means a lot to me.

Before I was a mall rat with my ’80s big hair and off-the-shoulder, neon tops, I was a flea market chick. The Berlin Farmers Market in South Jersey was my hangout on Saturdays and Sundays. For a good part of my childhood, I’d accompany my dad on weekend trips to the flea market which was complete with colorful characters and lots of “collectibles.”

When I was there, I learned to keep an eye on the merchandise, talk to customers and make change as I helped my dad with his record business. Known as “Bob the Record Man,” he carried pretty much every rock album produced in the ‘60s, ‘70’s, and ‘80s genre, plus ’45s for the random jukebox owner that stopped by. It was an impressive collection and my dad was incredibly knowledgeable about his inventory, even though he never listened to it on the radio and preferred Oldies ’98 and‘50’s rock and roll music.

He also sold eight-track tapes which came in everything from the Beach Boys to the Bee Gees. If you are too young to remember albums, you certainly won’t know what these things are but just know that they came before the modern age of cassettes, CDs, the iPod shuffle and on-line streaming. Eight track tapes were cumbersome, but revolutionary at the time. After all, you couldn’t plug in your turntable and take it with on a 6 hour car ride to Boston or Williamsburg while listening to your favorite bands (I’m just saying…). So, the eight-track was the way to go.

To keep me busy and out of trouble, I had a few important jobs at my dad’s outdoor record stand and most of them were related to the eight-tracks. I alphabetized them. I applied the price stickers. I re-alphabetized them after a customer carelessly took them out and then replaced them anywhere they could fit in the box. And most importantly, when someone wanted to purchase them, I was at the ready to test them out in my dad’s tan Malibu station wagon. This was my favorite part of the job. At the age of 7, I was so excited to climb behind the steering wheel and turn the car key towards the windshield and then insert the tape in the proper way so it would play. I was careful not to jam it into the player which could cause the outer plastic casing to crack and certainly affect a $5 sale.

When the crowds faded, Dad & I would sit on the car bumper with the trunk door wide open to provide shade on hot sunny days. We played the Beatles eight track tape almost every weekend and ate funnel cake while talking about random things. A nice treat for a hard day’s work.

And now, whenever I hear Baby You Can Drive My Car, I’m immediately taken back to those days at the flea market—even if I’m listening to the song on the XM radio Beatles Channel.

Happy National Eight-Track Tape Day!

Top 10 Random Thoughts

  1. Happy National Siblings Day to my sister who amazes me with her quick wit, her resilience and her ability to pull the perfect movie quote out of thin air that relates specifically to whatever we are discussing at that particular moment. INCONCEIVABLE!
  2. Happy National Siblings Day to my son and daughter. I am incredibly grateful for both of you and love the fact that you get along with each other more often than you fight and you always have each other’s back.
  3. Don’t panic about the college admissions process. I’ve read so many articles about it over the last few years and the overwhelming amount of advice and information out there will make your head spin. But know this: Yes, it is stressful. Yes, you will doubt yourself (why did I let her stop taking piano lessons?). Yes, it is not fun. But, they will go to the university where they were meant to go. You got this. Trust your kid and trust the process.
  4. After a rather large kitchen renovation last summer, everyone in this house seems to still have trouble locating the dishwasher which is less than a foot away from the sink they are dumping their dishes in.
  5. Thank God for Randy Rainbow (pictured right). He is the only thing that is getting me through the Trump administration these days. If you need a good laugh, stop reading and go check out his YouTube Channel. This is one of my favorites. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
  6. Passover is coming and just like every year, I wish someone would consider re-branding Passover candy packaging. It looks so unappetizing especially compared to the brightly-colored Easter candy it sits next to at the supermarket. Also, did I mention I’m hosting a Passover Seder for 23 people next weekend? I should stock up on egg matzah.
  7. I love baseball for lots of reasons (Go Phillies!), but mostly because I think there is an element of kindness to it. Don’t know what I mean? Watch this.
  8. Spring break is next week for the kids. Soon after that will be the senior class trip, senior prom, Memorial Day and then high school graduation. And soon enough, I’ll be packing my daughter up to go to college. I wish time would slow the hell down and let me catch my breath.
  9. I had a dream about my grandmother the other day which was odd because I rarely dream about that particular grandmother. All of a sudden, she was there smoking a joint. What do you think that means?
  10. It took me over an hour to come up with 10 random thoughts. 🙂

The end!

Writing – All Day Long

I know some people feel that writing is not their cup of tea.

But, for me I could write all day long. In fact, that’s exactly what I do. Take today at work for example: Today I:

  • Assigned stories to the writers who work for me;
  • Edited 2 email blasts on completely different topics (one of which requires a large amount of reworking which I will have to read all over again tomorrow);
  • Proofread 2 emails on a monthly giving program for different audiences;
  • Led an bi-weekly editorial meeting of writers and communications specialists where discussed writing on different topics to a variety of audiences on several platforms (print, email, social, blog, etc);
  • Wrote many inter-office emails and Slack messages about 3 other writing projects in progress including an Annual Report;
  • Discussed the status of several communications pieces with directors;
  • Left early to pick up my son at the dentist and go to my Tuesday night writing workshop.

But, before I go to writing class, I am committed to composing a blog post every day for 30 days for the Ultimate Blog Challenge. i came up with this idea to write about writing on my way home – because that is pretty much what is on my mind all day long.

And, if that weren’t enough, there is still more writing and editing to do in class. This workshop is part writing and part critiquing other people’s work in a constructive manner. I already read the pieces once, but now I will provide helpful commentary to my fellow writers. Also, I’m supposed to submit a manuscript to this class for their reading pleasure and review sometime in the next 10 days or so–which I haven’t started yet.

That’s a lot of writing and I love it. And i know it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. As a writer, I prefer coffee instead.
Seriously, how else will I get all this writing done? 🙂

My Disney Fix

Some people go online for their Game of Thrones update. Others have FOMO if the don’t check CNN on an hourly basis. Me? I get my Disney fix online through the WDW News Today Facebook page. I mean where else can I find out about the breaking news about the spitting camel being removed from Aladdin’s Magic Carpet ride. It is a divisive issue in the Magic Kingdom these days and guests have both strong opinions and concerns. Is the camel out for repairs or did enough people complain about getting squirted with water by surprise?

The site is also the best place to stay up to date on all of the Disney merch. And seriously how else are you going to find these adorable Minnie Lollipop Ears?!

But the highlight of the WDW News that I live for every week are the cupcakes. They are AMAZING! They are beautifully designed like a work of art. The photos are cupcake porn. You just want to taste one off your computer screen. I mean look at these cupcakes!

There’s the Tinkerbell cupcake dotted with crispy pearls and topped with a dollop of yellow frosting and white chocolate wings. And don’t forget the pixie dust (a.k.a. edible glitter)

How about the peanut butter and chocolate Dumbo cupcake with the cute peanut at the very top?

And how adorable is this Mouseketeer cupcake?!

And there are plenty more where that came from! You can check out the website and search for all the cupcake reviews. There are literally about 20 pages of them.

Personally, I think I’ve stumbled upon my dream job here: live at Disney World and review cupcakes inspired by your favorite Disney characters. If you are looking for me, I’ll be in Orlando enjoying this gorgeous Belle cupcake.

 

Hugging It Out

Flattery won’t get you far with me, but my kids know a big hug will every time. Lately, I seem to be getting a lot of hugs and you won’t hear me complaining.

My oldest is counting down the days until the end of her high school career. She has a bright future ahead of her and she is excited about it. I’m sure leaving the nest gives her some trepidation. We’ve all been there. It isn’t easy. We have been her safety net for the last 18 years and soon she will fend for herself at college. Of course, we will always be there for whatever she needs and offer our words of wisdom and support. We just won’t be right by her side or waiting in her dorm room for her to return from class. Actually, I think she would be mortified if we did the latter.

So, I’m getting a few extra hugs from her lately. It is extra nice because I admit I’m having a hard time with this big change too. This isn’t like going away to overnight camp and I’ll pick her up in 3 weeks. This is quite a reality check and it is happening sooner than I’m willing to admit.

When she hugs me, my only rule is that she must let go first because I’d hold on forever.

My son is getting in some hugs of his own these days. He was always one to cuddle up next to me and snuggle when he was little. He’s too big for that now, but I’ll take a great big bear hug from him anytime. After all these years, boys are still a mystery to me. I’m never quite sure when he needs one and when he just wants to be left alone. I think it’s his way of checking in with me before he goes off with his friends. Or maybe he just wants to give me a hug just for the hell of it. Either one works for me. I don’t need a reason to get one of his hugs.

Mainly, I think it is his way of showing me that even though I nag at him to clean his room and use a bath towel more than once before throwing it in the hamper, he loves me as much as I love him.

Hugs are the best, especially from my teenagers, and I’ll take every single one of them in for as long as they let me—without question.

 

Roomies

I met my college roommate the day we moved into our freshman dorm. Months earlier, I filled out a survey and ta-da; there she was with her entire life in tow. She seemed nice enough and although we weren’t the best of friends, we got along fine. One night, she didn’t come home from a party and since this was before cell phones were a thing, a few of my friends and I went to find her. We found her alright – completely wasted and unsure how to get back to the dorm. We helped her find her way back, got past the security guard and R.A. before we practically carried her up two flights of stairs to our room where she promptly passed out on my bed.

It was then that I knew I was officially in college.

Unfortunately, she turned rather mean as the semester went on and I decided to move to another room which turned out to be a much better fit.

I’m reminded of this story because today we met my daughter’s roommate at Admitted Students Day. They have been Face Timing each other for the past month and a half and when they saw each other they embraced as if they had known each other for years. They were adorable and inseparable–taking selfies and walking shoulder to shoulder through the student activities fair remarking on how cute college boys are and how awesome it was to be there. We parted ways with her family after lunch and they were texting each other on the way home.

I can only hope that they stay friends and avoid the girl drama that high school tends to bring on. I hope they help each other navigate their way around campus and inevitably back from college parties. It’s an exciting time for her and for all of us. It is the beginning of a new era and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

 

Are Cover Letters Extinct?

What happened to the art of writing a cover letter?

A few weeks ago, I posted a job for a staff writer and it was amazing how many resumes came in without a cover letter? Did I mention this is a writing position?!

If the best writer in the tri-state area didn’t send a cover letter, it immediately went into the “no” pile. Why? In my opinion, cover letters help candidates stand out among a sea of writers with all too similar qualifications. Bachelor’s degree in writing, check. Editor of your school paper, check. Proficient in Microsoft Office and WordPress, (zzz….) check.

Cover letters are literally a different story. They prove to me that you can write and show how you organize your thoughts and tell your story. And here’s a piece of advice, if you are applying for a staff writer position and I specifically state that I want a cover letter, not writing one is just plain lazy.

I did a little googling on this subject and one article said that only 15% of hiring managers read the cover letter. If this is true, count me as a proud member of the minority. I read all cover letters. They give me insight into who you are as a person and a professional.

Upon further research, I found that most career advice articles tell job candidates to write a cover letter because it’s an opportunity to stand out in a pile of applicants and show that you would be a great hire. Even if the hiring manager doesn’t ask for one, sending a cover letter shows you are a motivated candidate who will go the extra mile.

And that’s what I’m looking for. A little motivation. A little creativity. A little extra effort. Is that too much to ask?

The Name Game

I have a first name that you will never find on a key chain or a coffee mug.

Once though, I found it on a nail polish label. I hated the color, but I bought it anyway. Just so I could have something with my name printed on it.

As a child, my sister always found her name on everything. Karen is an easy name to locate. I was a little jealous. I always had to settle for Lisa and then draw a big E in front of it to spell it right.

It took my rabbi three times to spell my name correctly in the prayer book I was given at my bat mitzvah. Somewhere out there are two prayer books that have the inscriptions Mazel tov Alisa and Mazel tov Elissa.

Collectors items, right?  I’m sure of it.

I also have the kind of first name that is hard to pronounce. One person will say Alyssa, with a short i. Another says Elisha with an h. Still others say Eliza. That one is where I draw the line. There is no z in my name and when I’ve been going to the same doctor for 20 years, you would think he would get it right.

I’m extremely appreciative of the people who ask me how to pronounce it or if they got it right. I think it is a kindness to do this. Sometimes, I get so tired of correcting people and, let’s face it, there are worse things in the world so I just let it go. Call me whatever you want, I think. But then, someone called me on that too. A friend pointed out the right way to another friend and that person was mortified that she was saying it wrong all this time. And she was upset that I never corrected her.

I can’t win. Honestly, I never could figure out the proper etiquette for this kind of thing.

For all of high school, I went by Lisa and I didn’t mind. It helped me fit in with my fellow classmates. But after college, I gained a lot more self-confidence and realized my name was pretty and different and I embraced it whole-heartedly. From day 1 of my career, I introduced myself as Elisa and never went back. Now, I no longer care if I ever find it on a key chain or a coffee mug again (although I’m happy when I do 🙂 ).
So thanks Mom & Dad for giving me a beautiful name.

And for the record, it’s pronounced Eh-Lisa or Uh-Lisa. But, its okay. I still love you if you get it wrong.

Awesome Swim Moms

I am at the age when making new friend groups doesn’t happen all that often anymore.

Between my husband and I, we already have high school friends, college friends, work friends, synagogue friends, and neighborhood friends.

I think the last time we made a set of new friends was after my daughter was born. Every weekend, we took her to endless birthday parties and preschool events which paved the way for what continues to be years of wonderful friendships. When she started kindergarten, we made even more friends. Let’s face it. First children are friend magnets.

By the time, our son was born though, we already had a well-established social circle. Sure, we met other parents who shared the same classrooms and weekend activities as we did and we laughed and talked and schmoozed, but for some reason the friendships never really stuck. This always made me sad because they are the nicest people and had we met them the first time around, things might be different.

But this year, we miraculously found a new friend group. After Andrew joined the high school swim team, we were invited to a party at the beginning of the season. I admit I was a little reluctant to go because I didn’t know many people. But that one party changed my mind instantly. As soon as we introduced ourselves as the parents of a freshman swimmer, we were literally embraced by the other parents as if we had been there for years. And by the end of the night, I’m happy to say that we made some amazing new friends.

Friends to work the snack bar with at swim meets. Friends who saved seats for us when the stands above the pool deck were crowded with parents. Friends that I could text in my newly-minted “Awesome Swim Moms” group chat and within 3 text messages learned what brand of purple shampoo was best to use on my son’s bleach blond hair- a tradition among the swim team members.

And even though swim season is over, our friendships are secure as ever as we sit at water polo games and carpool for lifeguard training. Each family belongs to a different swim club so there is already talk of spending our summers together.

I didn’t think it would be possible to find a new friend group. But my fellow swim moms are a rare find and we are all becoming fast friends and this fish out of water is forever grateful for all of them.

 

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