Support the Stop Suicide Auction -You and Cristi Motto Comes Can Make a Difference

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I hate April 12th. That’s not true. I USED to hate this day because it brought up feelings of hurt, guilt, emotional depletion, confusion, grief and anger. I used to dread it coming around because no matter what I did, it was always the day of the end, or the day of the beginning, depending on how you look at it. It was the day my dad committed suicide.

Now, decades (decades?!? how did that happen?!?) have passed since my dad died. I don’t dread the day as much as I used to and usually the day gets filled up pretty quickly. I have times in the day when my dad’s death isn’t at the front of my mind (thank you LOML, the three Ms, my two jobs, a household to run, and Guilder to blame for it -all you Princess Bride fans know what I’m talking about). I’m grateful for a full life and what the passing of time has given me: acceptance and understanding.

But April 12th still is a day I don’t look forward to when it comes around each year.

For those of you who don’t know the story of my Dad, you can read about it here, here, and here. To sum him up for you, he was charismatic, funny, a great dancer, the life of the party, and loved a good joke. He was my biggest fan. Always was. Always will be. And he worked in marketing. He would have been thrilled with what social media is capable of doing. My dad was an amazing connector. Yep. I’m the apple that fell from his tree. He was a redhead, too.

He was also angry, sad, confused, unhealthy, and ill-equipped to deal with life thanks to a cocktail of abuse as a child, difficult family circumstances, and mental illness. His devoted mother couldn’t undo the damage from his abusive father, and my dad suffered the consequences of his upbringing despite help from caring, loving, generous people along the way.

Every year on this date I try to celebrate his life by finding a way to make a difference. I work to spread some positive energy around on April 12th. It helps me turn his suicide into a way to help others and make lemonade out of a load of lemons.

I also write a post about my dad here on my blog every year. When I write about him, people hear his story and reach out to me with their own stories of loss. I get emails, phone calls, text messages and comments from people who want to talk about the grief of losing someone to suicide. It’s not something people share easily or often, but my blog posts get people talking. Usually, we suffer quietly and it hurts.

Well, some people suffer quietly. Other people, like Cristi Motto Comes, go out and kick some *ss. Cristi is launching her Stop Suicide online auction TODAY to make a difference and help prevent suicide. (How could she know how much this date means to me and my dad?!? She couldn’t know, but I love this coincidence. And I love what she’s doing.)

Cristi is participating in the Out of Darkness overnight walk in Washington DC on June first and has raised over $2,300 on her way to achieving her goal of raising $3,000. With your help, her auction will help her meet -and probably exceed -her goal. Go Cristi!

Of course, the incredible Ellie Shoenberger of Two Little Birds Studio has donated an item of her hand-made jewelry to the auction. Because Ellie’s amazing like Cristi and she’s a giver and I heart her so much. (Excuse my gushing. She knows I love her -it’s not a weird, stalker thing…we’re cool…I gave her a hammer…long story.)

In honor of my dad and anyone else you may have known who lost their battle with mental illness to suicide (yes -it is a lost battle -like cancer) -please go bid.

Buy something.

Make a donation.

Make a difference.

Or if you can’t make a difference that way, please just go out today and do something kind for someone else. I’m not naive. I know that people dealing with mental health issues need a lot more than kind words or a thoughtful gesture, but what if everyone gave a little more effort today in honor of someone they lost to suicide? April 12th could turn into a day that has smiles and kindness associated with it.

And that would be exactly what my dad would have wanted.


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African Chicken Peanut Soup -for the Momchat-ters

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Okay -so hats off to everyone who can photograph food really well….

Every week I host a rockin’ chat on twitter called the “momchat” using my professional, “business” twitter handle. Each Tuesday, from 12-1ET, a group of funny, generous, loyal tweeps gather to chat about whatever topic I pick for the week. (I know! How cool is my job, right?!?) I end up laughing at my computer screen multiple times during this hour and have made some fabulous friends in these chats. Yes, they are virtual friends, but I’ve had the chance to meet several of them at conferences through the years and they are as wonderful in person as they are on twitter.

What makes this momchat so incredible is there are no prizes or incentives for joining the chat. We say it’s “just for you, just for fun.” The momchat-ters show up on twitter each week -it’s an open invitation to everyone -and just start talking and answering the questions I put out there. Like a group of folks you always meet up with at the local coffee shop…you all just show up to chat. Gotta love that!

Anyhooooo -several weeks ago, we were talking about food (most of the momchats end up talking about food…and we end up talking about George Clooney, too…I love him) and I mentioned one of my favorite recipes is African Chicken Peanut Soup. (I have no idea if the origin is truly African, all I know is that it tastes amazing and I can’t wait for it to get cold enough every year to make it several times each winter.) Sure, now winter is over and we’re into spring, but that doesn’t change the fact that I promised the recipe to this terrific group of tweeps.

So, for all my beloved momchat-ters (and all you faithful eight readers of this blog) this recipe is for you:

African Chicken Peanut Soup

  • 1 1/2 C peeled, cubed sweet potato
  • 1/2 C chopped onion
  • 1/2 C diced red pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 C cut up, cooked chicken breast (1lb. raw)
  • 1 C bottle your favorite salsa
  • 1/2 t. ground cumin
  • 2 -15oz. cans fat free, low sodium chicken/rice soup
  • 2 – 16oz. cans fat free, low sodium chicken stock
  • 1 – 15oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1/3 C creamy peanut butter
  • (optional) 1-2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced (I don’t use these in my recipe)

Saute: potato, onion, bell pepper, garlic, and jalapeno at least 5 min.

Stir in chicken and next 5 ingredients

Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer at least 10 minutes

Add peanut butter and whisk to dissolve

Cook another 2 minutes

And if you ever want to participate in a momchat on Tuesdays, just follow my business twitter handle (@MomCentralChat) and use the hashtag #momchat to join in the fun. Thanks to all the witty, supportive momchat-ters, if you take the time to connect with us during this hour, you’re sure to *meet* some folks you’ll be happy to call your virtual friends. I know I’m grateful for every single one of them. They make the weekly momchats one of the favorite parts of my job.

See you in the twitterverse!

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It’s fun to give to the Y-M-C-A

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Sing it people!

Hello, oh 6 faithful readers of this blog, it’s John (aka LOML). As a middle school principal, my life revolves around not only teaching my own kids to use their powers for good, but to teach other people’s kids as well.

Anybody who has ever tried to work with middle school students knows it’s not always easy but, luckily for me, my outstanding staff of teachers, librarians, aides, secretaries, and support staff are there to make our students exceptional during the school day.

The secret weapon of our school is the afterschool program run by the YMCA. One third of all our students willingly spend three extra hours at school every day to attend this program. We work on homework, teach them technology skills, teach how to create animation and movies, do improv drama, take them into the community to teach others how to create music and movies of their own, and have a great time doing it. Does it have an impact? See for yourself…

See? I work with awesome kids. Kids who, frankly, are way more insightful and amazing than most people would believe middle school kids could be.

So please use YOUR powers for good and donate to the YMCA of San Luis Obispo County. Click here to donate. Let them know you’re donating to the Academic Cause.

The kids thank you and I thank you.

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Getting into the Holiday Spirit -Disneyland Style

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Here’s the castle in all her Holiday Glory.

It’s no secret the Calandro Clan loves Disneyland (or the big D as we call it). Every six months or so we get cravings to see the Mouse and experience the magic. The holidays at Disneyland are spectacular and we love seeing the park at this time of year. We traveled to Disneyland recently and as we wandered around, we realized the last time we experienced Disneyland at the holidays was back in 2005 when I won tickets for us on a radio show. Wow -it’s been a while!

M-I-C-K-E-Y M-O-U-S-E (sing it with me!)

Well, it was as magical as we remembered. The Christmas trees were HUGE and they were everywhere; California Adventure looks amazing with their newly-themed entrance and Buena Vista Street all decked out for the holidays; and Cars Land -oh my heck -Cars Land for the holidays is spectacular! Of course, Sleeping Beauty’s Castle in Disneyland is always gorgeous at the holidays with the snow on the peaks, the decorations, and icicles on every inch of the roof-line.

We exhausted ourselves seeing as much as we possibly could in the two days we played at the parks.

The Haunted Mansion

The park is packed with things happening at this time of year that don’t happen any other time. One of the hottest attractions at Disneyland is The Haunted Mansion all decked out thanks to Jack Skellington and his crew from the Nightmare Before Christmas.

The always-outstanding entrance and grounds are even more ornate as Jack took a try at decorating for the holidays. The tour through the mansion is themed all around Jack and his friends, making the ride less-scary than usual. M3 was just fine and all the other times we’ve gone we won’t take him in. When it’s the regular Haunted Mansion he’d just be too scared.

Jack’s list is a little different than Santa’s

I’m not sure if Jack and Sally come out into the park at any other time of year (I don’t think they do), but if you’re lucky you can see them and get your photo taken with them. I saw them, but didn’t get a photo. Keep your eye on the area in front of the Haunted Mansion down by the Rivers of America -that’s where they create the photo opps and the crowd gets pretty thick pretty quick.

Jingle Jangle Jamboree

We’ve been fans of this area of the park for years. It’s always a quiet pathway to get from Frontierland to Fantasyland and it’s a little secret spot snuggled away for some holiday fun.

Jingle Jangle Jamboree is themed for the holidays with games, food, crafts and photos opps. Our boys stacked a tower of presents while we tried to knock it down, M3 played a ”plinko” style game, and we all pet a sweet donkey.

Playing the Reindeer Games

If you’re hungry or looking for a special treat, this area has some delicious items on the menu. Kids of all ages can decorate a cookie all for themselves and even take their creation home in a special box. One of our favorite meals at the park is the monte cristo at the Blue Bayou -and you can get monte cristo BITES in the Jamboree area. Nice! We’ll take two orders, thanks. (They’re bites, so that makes sense, right?)

While you decorate your cookie, eat your delicious monte cristo bites, and get your photo taken with Santa (of course he’s there -and Mrs. Claus, too), you can listen to the fun sounds of Billy Hill and the Holiday Hillbillies. This area is so fun, we had a hard time getting the boys to leave so we could go have fun in all the other places in the park.

Cars Land

You all know I’m a huge car nut, right? Well, you can easily figure out how much I ADORE Cars Land. And Cars Land at Christmas time? Forget about it! There are trees made of license plates and hubcaps, garlands made of radiators, and the holiday lighting is even more spectacular with the neon that usually lights up the night.

At the far end of the Main Street in Radiator Springs the statue of Stanley gets into the Christmas spirit with a Santa hat and bag of toys on his back (or in his truck bed). Be sure to grab a photo there -the wreath made of radiators is so cool!

Could this one be the Calandro Clan Christmas Card?

If you’re lucky enough to snag a fast pass for the Radiator Springs Racers (get one early in the day -they go quick!) you’re in for a treat. This ride is beyond incredible with details and story from the movie inside and out. Riders sit in cars and meander around the track as McQueen and Sally do on their drive together. Suddenly the mood changes and you’re in a race with the car next to you! You never know if you’re going to win or not -but if you do, and tweet to @DCAToday you’ll get a photo with your name on a Piston Cup. (How cool is that?!?)

If you don’t get a fast pass, the ride is amazing, but you’ll have to wait for it. Folks who didn’t have a fast pass waited for about two hours to ride. The single rider who joined us in our car told us that was the secret to getting through the line a bit faster. She rode with us (poor thing -you know how yelly I can get) but she got to cut her wait time for the ride considerably.

“Life Could Be a Dream Sweetheart”

Fireworks and Parade

It just wouldn’t be a trip to Disneyland if we didn’t experience the fireworks and a parade or two. The “Believe…In Holiday Magic” fireworks show that takes place around Sleeping Beauty’s Castle is so gorgeous and impeccably timed with wonderful music.

Want to add to the magic of the show? Buy the special mouse ears that light up in time with the music. Yep. They do. How do it know? I have no clue. It’s Mickey Magic or something, but they light up and blink in time with the show -it’s so cool!

The fireworks show is massive, of course, with a climax of lights and fireworks -plus a little something unexpected: snow! If you’re standing in certain areas of Main Street, you’ll get a light dusting of snow as the fireworks show ends. Sadly, this and the snow we get on our front lawn is the only snow M2 and M3 have ever seen!


One of the best moments of the day: “I BELIEVE!”

Watching the “Christmas Fantasy Parade” with M3 is something I won’t ever forget. He enthusiastically waved to all of his favorite characters “Hi Buzz! Hi Tigger! Hi Mickey!” and that was cute, but it’s not the part that made me grab a tissue. When Santa appeared at the end, M3 waved harder and higher for him than for any of the other parade participants. “Hi Santa! Hi Santa! I BELIEVE! I BELIEVE IN YOU!” Oh. My. Heart. I got teary. I did. It was just too sweet. I had no idea he’d get so excited! (Where would he get that from?!?!)

There he is -the man with the best bag EVER.

I could go on and on about how wonderful it all was and what an amazing time we had! If you’re thinking about heading to the Big D (Disneyland) this holiday season, you really should go. You’ll see decorations and attractions you can’t see any other time of year. The most wonderful time of the year happens at Disneyland and California Adventure from November 12 – January 6, 2013.

Just go.

He was waving right at me -I just know it! ;)

Stay for the fireworks, get the holiday treats and sweets all over the park, take photos in front of as many trees as possible, and say hello to Mickey from the Calandro Clan when you’re there.


Disclosure: I got a trip to the Big D and experienced some really cool things for information to write this post -food, a place to stay, and entrance to the parks -but the opinions here are all mine. The Calandro Clan loves Disneyland. That’s just all there is to it.

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