Thursday, February 26, 2009

The Ups and Downs of Fashion

Mandy has her haute couture modeling debut coming up in a few weeks with some of the most stunning models this side of Fords Modeling Agency. Let me just say, the Sports Illustrated girls, got nothin' on these girls. The are more beautiful than any of those models and tougher than any athlete who ever graced it's pages.

The Pediatric Cancer Foundation is hosting it Fashion Funds the Cure fashion show in a few weeks. The models are oncology kids. As part of the preparation the girls all got to hang out at Saks Fifth Avenue for a few hours and pick out their outfits, get a manicure and have their makeup done.

Lemme just say, Mandy better make a bootyload of money herself, or marry really well. Cause she? Could so get used to this.

The day started with a chauffeur driven Mercedes. Mandy and I with our lovely chauffeur.

She choose about 10 different dresses to try on and struck a pose with each one. She had numerous colors of shades to go with the various outfits and one super cute pink Juicy Couture bag that had darn well better go with whatever outfit she chose, cause she loved it.

Dress number one

Dress number two

My favorite dress

The dresses just kept comin'

THE dress, but the paparazzi needed to back off and not ruin the surprise.

Somewhere, somehow, I went wrong though. I failed as a mom, as a role model, as a woman, even. I will forever hang my head in shame. I will, from that day forward, walk a little slower, hold my shoulders a little less firmly, speak a little quieter. I tried. I did. I tried to teach her the ways of the world. Lead her down the right path. But, alas, it was all for naught. Because when it came right down to it. I failed my little girl. When she was given unlimited access to all the shiny, happy joy and goodness that Saks has to offer, the thing she was most excited about, the thing that made her the most giddy was being able to do this.

All day.

Over and over and over.

She loved the clothes,

she loved the makeover,

she even loved the mannequins.

But, more than anything, above all else, she loved the escalator.

I am indeed a failure. I promise to try to do better. Oh and? She put on a whole lot of purple sparkly eyeshadow right before we walked out the door. *Sigh* The fashion force? It ain't so strong with that one.

But, my purple sparkly eyeshadow wearing, escalator riding, goofy girl had a great time. Thanks, Amanda and Lindsey at Pediatric Cancer Foundation for making these girls feel like the superstars they are.

Love to all~

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I would like to thank the Academy

The fundraiser was amazing and a great success! I have simply got to do a few shout outs, so please, bear with me.

Anissa- what else is there to say, 'cept you rock. HARD! You poured so much into this and I can't thank you enough!

Liza- Girl, you are a basket making fool! Thanks so much and so glad that knife got to go home with you!!

Diane, Michele, Julie, Sandy- you guys were amazing, driving from over an hour away to help out that day and bringing more loot! Love ya all!

Leanna- "Hey, I forgot something... Can you print this for me, please?" Hehehehhe.... You did so much and managed to not strangle me! You deserve a plaque!

James, Janet, Lithia Springs Elementary and PTA- thank you so much for reaching out to our daughter and our family in such a special way. We are touched and humbled by your kindness.

Sherry- You know I got nothin' but love for you! Thank you for talking me off the ledge and for helping out so much that morning.

To every person and business who donated, to every person who bought a raffle ticket, entered the silent auction, said a kind word or gave a hug...THANK YOU!!! Your love and support provide more strength than I could ever put into words.

I am certain they are playing my "wrap it up music" by now, so I will exit stage left, but not before one more teary eyed, heart felt, THANK YOU!

My second post is up over at 5 Minutes for Special Needs, please go take a look at Compassion and let me know what you think.

Love to all~

Friday, February 20, 2009

Chemo and Fundraiser

I am up to my armpits in Mandy's Fundraiser this week. My two buddies, Anissa and Liza spent 5.5 hours helping to assemble baskets one night this week. There are some amazing raffle and auction items!! I sobbed like a two year old when I saw it all put together....the kindness people have shown to us was just absolutely overwhelming. We hope to see you there tomorrow, Saturday, 2/21 from 10-2 at Lithia Springs Elementary in Valrico! Thanks to one and all who have worked so hard to put this together!

Chemo was fine this week. A few funky neuro-ish symptoms, but overall, she is doing great. It never ceases to amaze me the happiness and spirit with which she bounces into chemo. You would think she was going to a play date. That tells you something about the staff there. Love them to itty, bitty, teeny, tiny bits!

Hope to see you all tomorrow! Lots of pictures and updates from a very full weekend, soon, I promise.

Love to all~

Monday, February 16, 2009

Alrighty, we got prizes and bling and all sorts of things

We have been so touched and humbled and blessed to have an amazing fundraiser being put on to benefit Mandy's Fund. Let me tell you, overwhelmed doesn't even begin to describe the emotions we feel as the raffle and auction items keep rolling in. It promises to be an amazing day. One for which, I promise to bring several boxes of tissues as I anticipate I will need them as I get all teary and runny nosed and weepy and overwhelmed out in public rather than in the privacy and comfort of my own home.

When I post pictures of the day, Mandy will be the cute little blonde. I will be the one with the red face, swollen eyes, runny nose and rivers of mascara streaming down my face. Sounds downright purty, no?

It is so hard for us to be on the receiving end of something like this. I have been on the other end, many times for many causes. But this? It's hard. It is humbling to be given this kind of support and love. I have said it before and it will always be true, we will spend the rest of our lives trying to pay forward the kindness, love and generosity shown to our family and no matter what we do or for how long we do it, we will still be in debt.

I hope we will see some of you out at Lithia Springs Elementary this Saturday 2/21 from 10am-2pm. Let me just say....we have some AMAZING silent auction and raffle prizes.

Just a few of the silent auction biggies:

Two tickets to any Tampa Bay Buccaneers home football game in the 2009-10 season AND six VIP all date passes to Bucs training camp. My husband COVETS this prize, lemme tell ya.

A four pack of Tampa Bay Lightning Hockey tickets for the March 17 game against the Toronto Maple Leaves AND a $50 gift certificate to The Columbia Restaurant. You even get Lightning tshirts with this one, ya'll! ROCK ON!!

If you won't be able to attend, but would like to bid on either of these items, please feel free to email me and let me know your bid and I will put it down for you!

We also wanted to offer a few of the raffle items for advance ticket purchase. We have:

$100 gift certificate basket that includes a $50 Target gift card, a $25 Old Navy card and a $25 Starbucks card. Ok, seriously, this? Is just about nirvana!

A brand-spanking-new iPod shuffle. What's not to love?!

If you would like to buy raffle tickets for these they are $1/each and can be paid Paypal style( sure to note which item you want to be entered in or snail mailed. Contact me if you need that address.

If you would like to participate in any of these we need to receive your entry by Friday 2/20 at noon.

Ok, and last but not least, the bling, baby!!!

We have these absolutely gorgeous black pearl earrings

Really? Are those not delicious??!! We have the appraisal that values these stunning earbobs at $975. They are available as an online only raffle at my friend, Anissa's site. Go to and check it out, if you are interested.

In non-fundraiser news, my boy child had a huge victory in his budding acting career today! Zachary auditioned for the upcoming play High School Musical 2 at his acting class(the class was a Christmas gift from Grandpa Bill) last week. He found out tonight he got the second lead, Ryan! He is super excited and so proud!! I love to watch him have so much fun and work so hard at something. Just so darned proud of him! Plus? I get to play Crazy Stage Mom again and I have so much fun with that role!

He asked me tonight, "How can I be a child actor, Momma?"

"Well, dude, let's needed to have started a cocaine addiction by age 7 and been dating your 20 year old costar by age 9. Looks like you have aged out of child star status, buddy. Gonna have to wait to be a starving actor until your 20's. Sorry 'bout that."

He will be 10 next month, so dog-gone-it, he has aged out of child actor possibilities. Did you pick up on my oh-so-subtle sarcasm there?

I did, however, take a good 30 minutes to explain the finer points of acceptance speeches and that "I would like to thank my Momma" always comes before "I would like to thank the Academy."

Think he will remember that in about 20 years?


Me neither.

A million thanks to all of you who are supporting the fundraiser and loving Mandy and all of us. It means more than any amount of words could ever begin to express.

Love to all~

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Raffles, auctions and fundraisers, oh my!

All is well here. No more complaints of headaches, which is good. Counts were fine and chemo was uneventful this week.

I am up to my eyeballs getting ready for the fundraiser this weekend. Watch tomorrow when there will be a few online raffle items going up, including a pair of crazy beautiful pearl earrings appraised at just under $1000!

Thia is the lamest of lame posts...but good stuff tomorrow, scouts honor!

Love to all~

Monday, February 9, 2009

Welcome to my crazy

People get headaches.

Shocker, I know. This is certainly not a newly touted medical discovery. This ground breaking information is not soon to be published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. It is not even as timely as a cure for polio.

People get headaches. JUST headaches.

It's okay.

It does not necessarily mean anything other than their head, well, aches. No bigger evil lurking in the wings, no monsters under the bed ready to leap out at you, no boogie men.

Nope, people really do just get headaches.

But, I gotta tell you, when Mandy gets out of her bed tonight and comes out of her room to tell me that, "Every time I lay down my head hurts" it is a one way ticket on the express train to Crazyville for me.

The most likely scenario is that she has a headache. Plain and simple. Just a headache.

It could be allergies.

It could be a cold.

It could be that she listens to Laurie Berkner and Carrie Underwood at full volume.

It could be....lots of things.

It's probably nothing.

But, does it invite all those nasty thoughts to, please, break down the bolted door and bully their way into my the very front of my head?

Um, yea, it does.

My daughter has a headache.

And that? Is the stuff my nightmares are made of.

Love to all~

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Weekend, Cliff Notes style

I got to do my very first guest post ever people! Makes me feel all grown up, like. It was more than a little intimidating to know that I was writing for more than just you guys.

Please, go read, please offer some feedback! No rotten tomato throwing allowed, please. I am old and my reflexes are not great and I fear I could not duck fast enough! Anyway, here ya go. Be gentle!
The Diagnosis at 5 Minutes for Special Needs

Mandy had a funky day today. She was complaining of being cold, very tired and some short term memory issues. Oh yea, I can go all kinds of crazy with those things. In all honesty, she is tired. She has been in chemo for darn near a year. Yea, she's tired. There is no blood count reason for it, but she is entitled to some tired.

Alannah is being quite the social butterfly this weekend...birthday party, movies, etc. Apparently there was an attractive young man at the birthday party...I really gotta get on signing her up for nun school.

Zachary is up to his eyeballs in studying for his upcoming audition for High School Musical 2 play. He has been struggling with breaking out in hives the last two days. Poor guy! Think I can get the makers of Benadryl to send me a free case to set next to our Duraflames?

Ronnie left us today for the frigid land of Denmark. I think he may have to wear every single article of clothing he owns all at one time to try to stay warm.

That's all I got ya'll.

Love to all~

Friday, February 6, 2009

Jessica Rose Kohut 12/31/2002 - 2/6/2009

The gates of heaven opened wide this morning for a new brave and beautiful angel. Jess, you were and always will be very loved.

The Brave Little Soul

By: John Alessi

Not too long ago in Heaven there was a little soul who took wonder in observing the world. She especially enjoyed the love she saw there and often expressed this joy with God. One day however, the little soul was sad, for on this day she saw suffering in the world. She approached God and sadly asked, "Why do bad things happen, why is there suffering in the world?".

God paused for a moment and replied, "Little soul, do not be sad, for the suffering you see, unlocks the love in peoples hearts". The little soul was confused. "What do you mean", she asked. God replied, "Have you not noticed the goodness and love that is the offspring of that suffering? Look at how people come together, drop their differences, and show their love and compassion for those who suffer. All their other motivations disappear and they become motivated by love alone.

The little soul began to understand and listened attentively as God continued, "The suffering soul unlocks the love in people's hearts much like the sun and rain unlock the flower within the seed. I created everyone with endless love in their heart, but unfortunately most people keep it locked up and hardly share it with anyone. They are afraid to let their love shine freely, because they are afraid of being hurt. But a suffering soul unlocks that love. I tell you this-it is the greatest miracle of all. Many souls have bravely chosen to go into the world and suffer-to unlock this love-to create this miracle-for the good of all humanity.

Just then the little soul got a wonderful idea and could hardly contain herself. With her wings fluttering, bouncing up and down, the little soul excitedly replied, "I am brave; let me go! I would like to go into this world and suffer so that I can unlock the goodness and love in people's hearts! I want to create that miracle!

God smiled and said, "You are a brave soul I know, and thus I will grant your request. But even though you are very brave you will not be able to do this alone. I have known since the beginning of time that you would ask for this and so I have carefully selected many souls to care for you on your journey. Those souls will help you create your miracle; however they will also share in your suffering. Two of these souls are most special and will care for you, help you and suffer along with you, far beyond the others. They have already chosen a name for you.

God and the brave little soul shared a smile, and then embraced. In parting, God said, "Do not forget little soul that I will be with you always. Although you have agreed to bear the pain, you will do so through my strength. And if the time should come when you feel that you have suffered enough, just say the word, think the thought, and you will be healed.

Thus at that moment the brave little soul was born into the world, and through her suffering and God's strength she unlocked the goodness and love in people's hearts. For so many people dropped their differences and came together to show their love. Priorities became properly aligned. People gave from their hearts. Those that were always too busy found time. Many began new spiritual journeys-some regained lost faith-many came back to God. Parents hugged their children tighter. Friends and family grew closer. Old friends got together and new friendships were made. Distant family reunited, and every family spent more time together. Everyone prayed. Peace and love reigned. Lives were changed forever. It was good. The world was a better place. The miracle had happened. God was pleased."

Believing in God's promises . . .
" . . .For I am the LORD who heals you."
Exodus 15:26

Love to all~

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Will work for Duraflames

I can admit it. I am easily amused. Truly. I have been known to say incredibly stupid stuff and crack myself up to the point of spewing beverages out my nose.

I know.

My parents is sooooooo proud of me.

That being said? The folks at Duraflame? THEY ARE FUNNY PEOPLE!!! Well, at least Caroline from the marketing department is funny. Cause, Caroline from the marketing department? She cracked me the heck up!!!

If you are a frequent reader you might remember The Great Duraflame Incident of 2009. Go ahead, click on that link. Relive my epic failure of a Norman Rockwell moment.

Ah yes, my kids are still traumatized, as are my dogs. Hey, what can I say? If I am going to do something, I am going to do it with panache, baby.

So a few days ago was pretty much a crummy day on a whole lot of levels.

Spilled my mocha right after I made it and didn't have time to make another one.
Tripped over the dog and hurt my toe. AGAIN.
Late getting kids to school.
Bad economy hit home in a very tangible way.
Put dinner in the crock pot. 8 hours later realized I did not turn it on.
Oh? And? An ant invasion worthy of a guest spot on the Twilight Zone, probably going for the rotting, never cooked attempt at dinner in the crockpot.

Yea, cause I am an extra special kind of smart.

It was a rough day, people.

And then I am sitting outside youth orchestra waiting for Alannah when my little-flashing-red-light-of-you-have-an-email love of my Blackberry goes off.

And then I read the only thing that managed to make me laugh so far that day:
Dear Mrs. Willis,

We recently ran across your January 16th website blog “Our Duraflame had too much flame and not enough dura”, and are relieved to hear that you conquered the thingamigig in the end so you could enjoy your Duraflame fire. We would like to send you a coupon for a free case of firelogs, but you must promise us you will check the thingamigig before lighting the fire next time. Also, we don’t recommend roasting marshmallows or any food items over the log.

Please send us your mailing address and we’ll send you the coupon. All our best to you and your family.

Best Regards,

Caroline *her last name removed to protect the innocent*

Caroline *again with the last name removal thing*
Duraflame Marketing

So, Duraflame marketing folks and the very funny Caroline, here I stand, with my left hand on my keyboard and my right hand on my heart, "I do solemnly swear to be aware of proper thingamigig placement prior to lighting my Duraflame. I promise to not grab the stupid thingamigig handle and relocate it when it is 145 degrees cause it is over your beautifully burning fire, traumatize my kids, make my neighbors dogs bark or scare cows into midnight mooing. I do hereby swear to always light it only on the arrows and eat my marshmallows untoasted."

Does this mean I score my case of Duraflames now?


In other news, Mandy's fundraiser is coming along nicely. My friend Anissa over at has donned her Super-Fundraising-Hero cape and has come up with a fun way of donating and advertising your blog or favorite website. Go take a peek at her site. We are still looking for raffle and auction donations. In the next week or so, we are even going to put up a list of items and take online orders and payments for raffle tickets and maximum bids for auction items. That's right, we will stalk your favorite items for you while you sit at home basking in the glow of your Duraflame fire. Whatcha think of them apples?

Chemo went well this week. Mandy's counts were lowish, but not alarmingly so by any means. Her ANC was down to 970, but everything else was in normal range. Her fatigue is improving, but still there. I suspect it is just an accumulation of chemo. She has had chemo every single week for almost 5 months now. That is a whole lotta benevolent poison to pump into one little body.

Love to all~

Monday, February 2, 2009

Fundraiser for Mandy

We have been so blessed to have been surrounded by wonderful friends throughout Mandy's fight. I truly don't know how we would get through this without the love and kindness we have been shown. We will spend the rest of our lives trying to pay forward all the kindness and even then? We will still be in debt.

These same friends are stepping up to the plate again and are doing a fundraiser in conjunction with the Family Fun Fair at Lithia Springs Elementary in Valrico, FL on 2/21/09 from 10am-2pm.

The Family Fun fair is a great family day with all sorts of carnival games and fun activities for the family. The PTA and administration have been so kind as to give Mandy a booth to sell these fun little gizmos for $5/each.

We are also gathering items for a raffle/auction. All proceeds from the booth will be going to Mandy's Fund.

We would love to see you there. If you have anything you would like to donate for the fundraiser, it would be greatly appreciated. We are truly humbled and honored to have such wonderful people surrounding us, loving us, praying for us and holding us up.

Please feel free to email me at if you would like to help out.

Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.

Love to all~