Happy New Year! 2018 Is Going To Be Our Best Year Yet!

Happy New Year! 2018 Is Going To Be Our Best Year Yet!
I suppose the same way my son is almost six and I feel like I delivered him only a couple of years ago. Oh, how time flys when you're trying to raise an awesome little human.  You know... 
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Ready to pack your bags and head somewhere warm, far, far, away from the stress of family and the holidays? Me, too! Need a little escape? Check out this article from Travel and Leisure about the 50 places you should visit in 2018, here.
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I'm hard at work finishing the edits for my Debut novel, The Devlyn Disguise. Read the Synopsis, here.
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If you do nothing else in 2018, please, do this... 
Read what it is, here.

Happy New Year!  This is going to be your best year yet. No. Doubt. 


Everything you need to know about the #NYE Song, Auld Lang Syne. Including The Words

Not gonna lie, if someone walked up to me and said the words, Auld Lang Syne, they would most likely get my confused look. The same look I give mid-way through the song. Ok, two bars in. 
If you're still rocking your confused face over the words, Auld Lang Syne, allow me to fill you in; it's the song you try to sing at the stroke of midnight on New Year's Eve. While the song's origin dates back to early seventeen hundreds Scotland, it wasn't until 1788 when the Scot poet and lyricist, Robert Burns, put his spin on the 'old song' and birthed the Auld Lang Syne we sing today. 
'For Auld Lang Syne', loosely translates to, 'For The Sake of Old Times'.  

(If you need to know more then my condensed version about the origin of Auld Lang Syne, go here.)

Auld Lang Syne, as it's sung today:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind?
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and old lang syne?
For auld lang syne, my dear,
for auld lang syne,
we'll take a cup of kindness yet,for auld lang syne.
And surely you'll buy your pint cup!
and surely I'll buy mine!
And we'll take a cup o' kindness yet,
for auld lang syne.
We two have run about the slopes,
and picked the daisies fine;
But we've wandered many a weary foot,
since auld lang syne.
We two have paddled in the stream,
from morning sun till dine;
But seas between us broad have roared
since auld lang syne.And there's a hand my trusty friend!
And give me a hand o' thine!
And we'll take a right good-will draught,
for auld lang syne.

Auld Lang Syne 
heard at most parties I've been to:
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and never brought to mind.
Should old acquaintance be forgot,
and have a great damn time
I need more champaign and someone to kiss...  

WAIT! There's a traditional Dance!

Everyone joins hands with the person next to them to form a circle. Sway back and forth while singing. At the beginning of the last verse, everyone crosses their arms across their breast, so that the right-hand reaches out to the neighbor on the left and vice versa. (See the happy dudes dancing to the above)
When the tune ends, everyone rushes to the middle, while still holding hands. When the circle is re-established, everyone turns under the arms to end up facing outwards with hands still joined. 

NOTE: In countries other than Scotland the hands are often crossed from the beginning of the song at variance with Scottish custom.
How will you sing it this year? Bookmark this page or pin the image below as a refrence.


The Life-Lesson Sue Grafton Shared With Me When She Passed Away

I was sixteen when I was first introduced to Sue Grafton and Kinsey Millhone.  My mother and I were going on a long road trip and rented the audiobooks, A is for Alibi and B is for Burglar, to keep us from going crazy on the road. I loved the storyline instantly. Mid-way throguh the book, Kinsey was my new favorite female heroine. 

When we got home from the road trip, I picked up the next three audiobooks, C-D-E, and walked the track by my house listening to the books. I like to listen to thrillers while walking to keep me going. I have a rule that I can only listen to the book when I'm walking.

When I caught up with the last published letter, I would reread favorites in anticipation of the next installment. I always preordered to get it ASAP. Christmas 2008, my sister gave me a signed copy of T is for Trespassing. I friggin' cried like a baby. Sue Grafton wrote my name! It was the greatest gift of all time. 

I eventually worked up the nerve to go to the signing for, W is for wasted. When my signing group was called to meet Sue, my heart jumped in my throat. I walked through the door of Carmichael's and lost it when I saw her. I was so fangirl-crazy, it was ridiculous. I cried the entire time. (In my defense I was dealing with some gnarly Postpartum Depression. In fact, the hubs was the driving force behind me going, all three of us went to meet Sue. (I wrote about Here.) 

This past August, when I started writing what would become my first official novel, The Devlyn Disguise, I turned to the alphabet series for help, encouragement, scene set-up, character development and anything else I could tap for encouragement. I finished the first draft of the book in November for #NaNoWriMo, and have been editing my ass of since. Two weeks ago, while in edits, I got frustrated, shut off my computer and went to bed, grabbing my copy of, W is for Wasted, off my desk. 

That night, mid-December, I was mystified by Sue's prose. I was in awe of her work and desperate to be like her. I decided that night I had to express my gratitude to her for so many years of inspiration, escape, encouragement and her philanthropy in Louisville, because there's that, too. 

I spent the next week loosely thinking of my thank you, and how I would send it. I didn't want to publish it for the world, because it was personal, and I didn't want it to get muddied by people thinking it was an act to get help with my book or anything shitty.  I wanted, above all, for her to know just how thankful I was for her, her work, and the years of inspiration, on so many different levels, she's afforded me.

Today, December 29, 2017, I was hit with the devastating news, my hearo and idol, Sue Grafton had succumbed to Cancer and passed away. I felt sick. Complete denial. No way I read the News alert correctly. Sue wasn't dead. No. Fucking. Way. Not, yet. She's 77. Amazing. One book away from finishing the Alphabet. Nooooooo. Please. No. 

I immediately went to Sue Grafton's Facebook Page, and found this posted only moments earlier:

I left this comment in between tears and sobs.

While sitting at my desk, devastated, I was also thankful. Thankful, that on the evening of December 19th, when I was once again overwhelmed with the need to send my thank yous, I did. I reached out through Facebook messenger, where Sue and I had talked a few times over the years.

The following is the end of the message I sent Sue Grafton nine days before she passed away. 

One million, zillion, trillion times over, THANK YOU! You are my, Kenneth Millar. I don’t know if you ever got to thank him for his work and inspiration, but I’m so grateful that I’m able to thank you today. Thank you. I pray your holidays are filled with many, many blessings. Looking forward to ZERO! My deepest admiration, April

**Kenneth Millar was her idol and early inspiration**

I am so beyond thankful I ceased the moment and sent my letter of love and gratitude. Sue Grafton died knowing how much she meant to me. I will carry that with me forever. Had I not reached out, I can't imagine how angry I'd be at myself. (Even in her passing, she is profoundly affecting my life. I'm telling you, she was amazing. Read her books!)

Please, share your love, gratitude and compassion with the people important to you, today. Tomorrow is not promised. Make 2018 the year of love, compassion and hope. 

Life-Saving Tips To Keep Your Family, Pets + Home Safe In Cold Weather

To reach as many people with this article as possible, I'm going to avoid using all of the colorful four-letter words I prefer to use when describing cold temperatures, brutal wind chills, and deadly winter forecasts, but just know, I'm screaming, FU*K THIS SH!T, on the inside.

For many, including myself, the Polar Vortex Express is already barreling in. Deadly, brutally cold temperatures are about to ravish the USA. Unprecedented temps are hitting damn near all of us. Please, take every necessary precaution to keep your family, pets and home safe.

Below are a few essential Life-Saving Tips To Keep Your Family, Pets + Home Safe In Brutal Cold Temperatures:

1. Load up on layers. Wear layers of lightweight clothing while inside to stay warm. When you go outside, go all out! Cover all exposed skin and wear warm waterproof shoes. Parents, if you're not covered in sweat and feel like you've had one hell of a workout after bundling up the kids, then you're doing something wrong. Do not mess with this cold. Frostbite hits fast and hard. NEVER go out without gloves and a hat, they prevent the loss of essential body heat.

2. Protect your pets: I don't care if Cujo is chained in your backyard, bring his ass in! Ok, fine, if Cujo must stay outside, provide shelter, blankets, fresh UNFROZEN water and extra love.
The ASPCA recommended during cold spells:
  • Massaging petroleum jelly or other paw protectants into paw pads before going outside can help protect from salt and chemical agents. Booties provide even more coverage and can also prevent sand and salt from getting lodged between bare toes and causing irritation. Use pet-friendly ice melts whenever possible.
  • Bring a towel on long walks to clean off stinging, irritated paws. After each walk, wash and dry your pet’s feet and stomach to remove ice, salt, and chemicals—and check for cracks in paw pads or redness between the toes.
  • Pets burn extra energy by trying to stay warm in the wintertime. Feeding your pet a little bit more during the cold weather months can provide much-needed calories, and making sure she has plenty of water to drink will help keep her well-hydrated and her skin less dry.
  • Remember, if it’s too cold for you, it’s probably too cold for your pet, so keep your animals inside. If left outdoors, pets can freeze, become disoriented, lost, stolen, injured or killed. Also, don’t leave pets alone in a car during cold weather, as cars can act as refrigerators that hold in the cold and cause animals to freeze to death.

3. Don't space out on space heaters. Space heaters are dangerous AF, take all necessary precautions when using one; Place it on a level, hard surface and keep anything flammable AT LEAST three feet away. ALWAYS turn off space heaters and unplug them before leaving the room or going to bed-- Children may turn them on without you knowing, unplug them for extra protection.
5. FIRE IN THE HOLE! If you are using a fireplace, use a glass or metal fire screen large enough to catch sparks and rolling logs. Make sure embers are completely out before going to sleep or leaving the house. Smokers, that nasty-ass can of butts by your backdoor? That can is a fire hazard, it causes many, many house and apartment complex fires when a lit ciggy is tossed in resulting in a ciggy-butt bonfire disaster. Move those butts at least three feet from your house.
6. Protect your pipes. I know running water, even at a trickle, looks like money slipping down the drain, but it's nothing compared to the plumber's bill. Remember, you are riding out a storm, not making life changes. Bite the bullet and open the taps. Another great way to protect the pipes is by opening the kitchen and bathroom cabinet doors to allow warm air to reach the plumbing hiding behind them. NOTE: Move harmful cleaners and chemicals out of the reach of children and pets.

7. Hardcore heat the house. Turn up the heat and keep it there day and night. It may cost a few more dollars on your bill, but, a broken pipe bill will make you throw up. NOTE: Creativity is not key. Never use a stove or oven to heat your home. DO NOT light a small fire in a safe space. DO Layer on the blankets and phone a friend.
8. Care for the car- Check tires, wipers, antifreeze and never go below a quarter of a tank.  Keep a winter safety kit in the trunk that includes a flashlight, battery-jump box, water and a blanket.
9. GENERATORS ARE NOT FOR GARAGES! Never operate a generator inside the home, including in the basement or garage. NOTE: Don’t hook a generator up to the home’s wiring. The safest thing to do is to connect the equipment you want to power directly to the outlets on the generator.
10. Love Thy Neighbor. Check on your neighbors and make sure they are at a minimum alive. This brutal cold can be hell on the elderly. Look out for those awesome people. You do realize, not only will you be elderly one day, you too will be a twenty-year-old at heart trapped in an old-ass body, be cool to them, because they are cool AF.

BONUS TIP: New Year's Eve Party-goers, getting wrecked-ass-wasted on New Year's Eve and frolicking outside in a drunken stupor is No Bueno. Booze and cold temps= Bad news. Stay layered up and don't think because you're boozed up you're warm and cozy. Not. Even. Close. Alcohol dilates warm blood vessels near the skin creating the impression of warmth, all the while it's lowering your core body temperature!

Please share this article with friends and family in the path of brutal temps, it could save their family, pet, neighbor, pipes, sanity...



How Dentistry Can Impact Your Children's Health – 5 FAQs

According to the CDC, 1 in 5 children have at least 1 decayed tooth that is untreated. And 1 in 7 adolescents has at least 1 untreated and decaying tooth. This is jarring news because tooth decay is entirely preventable. And as parents, it is our responsibility to make sure our children learn how to responsibly care for their teeth.

Ready to get serious about your child’s dental health? Here are some of the most common questions from parents along with answers from the experts.

FAQ 1: At what age should I take my child to see a dentist for the first time?

According to America's Pediatric Dentists, take your child to see an accommodating dentist for children as soon as their first tooth appears. Or before his or her first birthday. Whichever comes first.

FAQ 2: Why is my child's first dental appointment so important?

Getting your child comfortable at the dentist can set him or her up for either viewing the relationship with their dentist as a positive one. For example, one where the dentist is a partner in your child's oral health. Or a negative relationship, where the dentist becomes the source of pain and suffering.

Setting the right tone for your child's first dentist appointment can help establish how he or she views oral care for the next several years. You want your child to have firmly established good oral habits that will last through to adulthood. But an essential part of that is scheduling and keeping dental appointments as part of one’s oral health care routine.

FAQ 3: How can I portray a positive attitude to my child about going to the dentist?
As a parent, the feelings and perspective you have on going to the dentist can often be transmitted to your children. Certain comments, although well-intentioned, can have the opposite effect. For example, comments like, "It will be over before you know it," can inspire anxiety instead of calm.

So what should a parent say to their child leading up to the appointment?

Keep an air of open curiosity about the appointment and excitement about spending some one on one time with your child. Pose outward questions about the things you see and observe around you. Bring some play material for your child to keep boredom away in the waiting room.
FAQ 4: Why is it important to take care of baby teeth if they will fall out anyway?

Your child's baby teeth are a placeholder for the adult teeth that will come around the age of six. If they fall out too soon due to decay, the placement of the adult teeth can become skewed. Teeth placement often will shift forward as a result, and the front teeth can become crowded. Your child might need braces eventually when the adult teeth come in.
This is often the reason that dentists will recommend fillings for baby teeth that have cavities. As simply pulling the decaying tooth and leaving it at that can lead to other problems.

Another reason goes a bit deeper into teaching children overall self-care. When a child is taught to take care of his or her appearance by using good oral health habits. And through other aspects of taking care of oneself, he or she will take those habits with them into teen and adulthood.

FAQ 5: What foods can I feed my child for healthier teeth and gums?

Cheese has been shown to raise pH levels in one's mouth after consumption. Which lowers a person's risk of tooth decay. Cheese also contains high amounts of calcium and protein, both essentials for strong teeth. Also, while most sweet foods are a no-no for teeth health, apples are an exception. Apples require vigorous chewing, which results in more saliva in one's mouth. Saliva helps to wash away food particles as well as bacteria.

Other foods your child might enjoy that can help with oral health include almonds, carrots cut up as veggie sticks, and yogurt.


Do This ONE Thing To Change Everything In 2018

We all have that one dream. The BIG Dream. The dream of all dreams. The dream that makes your heart smile and flutter when you think about it. I'm not talking about winning the lottery. I'm talking about the dream that gives your life purpose. The dream that gives you a life so fulfilling, you jump out of bed every morning stoked to cease the day. 

My ultimate dream is to author bestselling novels that weave messages of hope, encouragement and life lessons into brilliant storylines--sort of like a subliminal self-help book. Last August, I started chasing that ultimate dream when I wrote the first words of, The Devlyn Disguise.

With each word I laid down, my heart would leap for joy. The feeling was crazy. I was following and living my dream, and it felt amazing. I am now so fully addicted to that feeling of having a purpose and following my dreams, what feels like all four hundred and twelve rewrites and edits to the book since finishing the first draft in November for #NaNoWriMo, have been exhilarating, too! 

Quite possibly, the true meaning of life is following your dreams.

What about you? What’s your ultimate dream?

Not sure? Figure it out. 

Whatever you do, in 2018, please, follow your ultimate dream to the ends of the earth and back. It's so worth it and feels AMAZING. You only get this one life, live it according to your dreams and aspirations. Not, your, 'someday I will...'

Below are a few great tips for following your one big dream in 2018.

1. Figure out what your one dream is, and visualize it. See what it looks like, how it will change your life. Allow yourself to dream and believe, don't hold back. Let yourself get a taste of what your life WILL be like when your dream becomes a reality.  It's magical. Do it. Your heart will get hooked on that feeling and help drive you to the finish line. 

TIP: Read the book or watch the movie, The Secret. The Secret has personally helped me, my family members and many of my friends- and millions and millions of people around the world-- Take what you can from it. It’s often free on Netflix or Amazon. Definitely worth the watch if nothing else.

2. Make a game plan. What is the first step to realizing your one big dream? Do you have to go back to school? Move? Change jobs? Figure out the first step, and how you can take it. Write down the plan for step one. Focus on accomplishing it. Do that with each step. Don't get overwhelmed, just follow the dream. 

3. Set an alarm that goes off every day at a time you know you’ll be free that says, Follow your dreams, and spend an hour doing it.

4. Tell people about your dream and your plan to make it a reality in 2018. Get people to help hold you accountable.

5. Beleive in yourself, the dream and it coming true with all your heart and soul. The power of the human mind is insane. If you can dream it, you can do it. 

What are you waiting for? 

Happy New Year. Make 2018 your best year yet. 


Winter Break Family Crafts, Activities and Ideas To Fight The Boredom

Here we go! Two glorious weeks home as a family. If, like me, you are expecting a fair amount of downtime,  do yourself a favor and plan for it. Below are some of my favorite family crafts, activities and ideas to fight boredom during those cold winter months stuck in the cave that is your home. 

Feed the birds! 

 A Bird Feeder made of crap already laying around the house is a fun, easy project.  Get creative. 

Salt Stepping Stone. Make one every year to create a footpath. Oh so cute! 

Salt dough recipe:

1 cup salt

1 cup plain flour

Half a cup of warm water
Mix together in a large bowl and knead it until smooth and stretchy. This last part is important otherwise the dough remains sticky and quite granular from the salt. If it is still too sticky add a bit more flour, if too dry and crumbly then add a tiny touch more water.

DIY Candy Ornaments!

Build a DIY Stick Christmas tree with things found at the park or in your backyard. All you need is twine.

Salt Stepping Stone. Make one every year to create a footpath. Oh so cute! 

Salt dough recipe:

1 cup salt

1 cup plain flour
Half a cup of warm water
Mix together in a large bowl and knead it until smooth and stretchy. This last part is important otherwise the dough remains sticky and quite granular from the salt. If it is still too sticky add a bit more flour, if too dry and crumbly then add a tiny touch more water.

Deck the halls in coffee filter snowflakes!


5 Sanity Saving Tips For Family Holiday Travel

After dragging my son around the world and back, I feel pretty solid about sharing a few tips for meltdown free family travel. So, if you're dreading heading to Grandmas for the Holidays, or even trading bitter temperatures for warm sands, I can help make the trip not suck, because regardless of the mode of transportation or destination, one thing remains the same, the kids are coming and you need to prepare. 

1. Pack as light as possible. Between the gadgets, toys, clothes, blankets, bedtime bears and favorite pillows, it's easy to over pack. Very easy. Combat this by making a list of essentials for each family member, and stick to it. It's not like you're leaving for good, it's a week! 

Road Trip Tip: Check to make sure the headlights and taillights are working. Give em' a wipe while you're at it. Double check tires' air pressure and tread and look for nails or debris that could be potentially dangerous. You may want to invest in an air freshener too!

2. Snack Attack. Whether it's a hungry kid or a chatty kid, snacks will come in very handy.  Skip the traditional sandwiches for bento box lunches to keep kids busy.  Also, have a bribe treat. The go-to to your kid won't turn down. Like a scooby-snack. This is your miracle worker. Don't leave home without it.

Road trip snack TIPFreeze small bottles of water and use them in the cooler instead of ice. The frozen bottles will keep things cold and the cooler from filling with melted ice that sloshes back and forth with every turn, begging to pour out all over the floor of the car.

3. Floors Are For Feet Only. Let's face it, the floors can be valuable real estate when traveling, but not so great for the person losing the foot space. Free up the foot space by hanging bags on the back seat. Backpacks fit nicely over the 'shoulders' of the seat or secured by the headrest. When in flight, slip things over the back of the tray table to free floor space.

4. Check Your Tech. Before embarking on any trip, check your tech; replace the batteries in your camera, charge everything, and bring a car charger. Pack all tech stuff in the same bag. When it comes to a crying kid over a dying tablet, the last thing you'll want to do is search four bags to find it. 

5. Set expectations very low. With all the planning, comes high expectations. Kill them. Now. Expect everything to go wrong. Make sure the children think they are on their way to hell and it will take hours to get there. The lower the expectations and understanding that shit happens, the happier everyone will be. 

Road trip tip: Whether you're traveling with a child or not, invest in a box of baby wipes. The pre-moistened wipes clean messy faces and surfaces in a pinch, and without stinky harsh chemicals! Not to mention, those little wipes will be a lifesaver at those grimy roadside and airport bathrooms that haven't seen an attendant in at least a decade.

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