Memorial Day, Rolling Thunder and Memories

By Cristiano Del Riccio [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Today is when Rolling Thunder is taking place in Washington, D.C. for Memorial Day. It is truly a sight to see as vets from all over the United States ride their motorcycles to Washington, D.C., and members make a slow ride on a dedicated route called Ride to the Wall referring to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall. They leave the Pentagon parking lot at noon, cross Memorial Bridge and ends at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Rolling Thunder is an advocacy group that seeks to bring full accountability for prisoners of war and those members of the service missing in action from all wars the United States has been involved in. There are more than 90 chapters throughout the United States, and overseas.

Seeing Rolling Thunder leaves you breathless. We used to visit my in-laws during this week every spring and always wound up traveling up I-95 with packs of Veterans, and their supporters, riding to Washington, D.C., on their motorcycles for the event, which always inspired us to attend. While we were there, we visited the memorials and left knowing that we would not have the life we do today if it were not for these men and women.

Memorial Day has always held a great deal of meaning for me. Growing up I knew that the majority of the males in my very large extended family had all served. All of my Great-Uncles were WWII, Korean War, and Vietnam vets. In more recent years, many of my family and friends were Gulf War veterans. My husband’s father is buried in the hallowed ground of Arlington National Cemetery.

I think about their stories and these great men on this day, as well as all of the men and women who have served our country and gave the ultimate sacrifice. None of them liked war. None of them wanted to be at war. But they all revered our country and wanted to ensure it was protected from our enemies.

My Uncle Howard was lucky and landed during the second wave at Normandy. He was a phenomal bluegrass musician and once told me the strings on his guitar lasted longer due to the lack of oil glands in his hands. Hands that were damaged during the war.

Uncle Builo lied about his age and went off to fight with his brothers. He came home at the age of 21 and went back to the local high school to keep the promise to his mother that he would graduate.

I never met my Uncle Max, but cherised his memory with his wife, my Aunt Erika, who he liberated from a POW camp in Russia.

There are so many other stories to tell and so much to see during Memorial Day. It’s not just a day for cookouts, fun on the lake, and having a day off of work. It’s about celebrating the memory of people who went out to ensure our freedom that we so valiantly fought for when founding the United States. They are still fighting. And they still don’t like war.

On this day, it is my wish that you all remember the Veterans and members of our Armed Services and know that none of them like war, but they do love our country. They have been called to protect this great nation so that we can continue to live in peace, and enjoy the freedoms and inalienable rights promised by our forefathers.

What I’ve Learned — Week 16

What I've Learned. Week 16.

I sat in my office for many hours thinking about what I have learned this week. There have been some tough things this week and I don’t know if I a necessarily a better person, but I am wiser and I’ve learned to take better care of me, my marriage and friendships.

1. People will disappoint, hurt, anger, and take advantage of you. My circle of trust grew smaller and I learned a new life lesson. Actually, it has taken months to learn this lesson, I just allowed it come into fruition this week. Yesterday sucked pretty bad, I won’t lie. But I took the time to clear my head and think. Amazing things happen when you do that. I realized I have to do what is best for me.

What is best for me? I’m taking my time back. There is less of me to go around. I was going to say I am being selfish, but how is it being selfish when I am taking care of me? It is not and I am okay with my decisions.

2. There will never be enough hours in the day. Which means I have to make better choices about what I am doing professionally. My time has to be used wisely for me.

3. I need to sleep more. What I really need to do is sleep more consistently, going to bed at a set time and waking up at one. This going to bed at 2 a.m. one night, midnight the other, 9 p.m another, while sticking to my 6 a.m. wakeup, is for the birds.

4. Sitting on my front porch is therapeutic. Last night, my husband I sat on our front porch and talked for several hours after The Kid went to bed. We enjoyed the cool breeze, listened to the crickets chirping and took time to catch up and just be. Spending that time together, away from work, chores, and electronics was a gift and one we agreed to continue giving each evening we’re home.

5. I have amazing friends. Very few of them live in my community, but thanks to our phones and the Internet, we stay in touch, support and keep each other sane. They are rock star friends and while I don’t say it often enough, I am so very thankful they are in my often times chaotic and messy world.

What did you learn this week?

Goetze Candy — Sweet Caramel Goodness

Apple Pizza made with Caramel Creams Candy

Goetze Candy is a family owned candy company located in downtown Baltmore. Founded in 1895, they were originally a chewing gum manufacturer, before making the move to their staple candy, the Caramel Cream®, during the 1940’s. My personal ballpark favorite, Cow Tales®, was added in 1984. Needless to say, I was thrilled to see a care package from them show up on my door step a few weeks ago. That’s right, sweet creamy caramel on my doorstep. They were delicious.

Cow Tales Gift Bucket from Goetze Candy

Goetze’s Caramel Creams® are delicious sweets made out of chewy caramel wrapped around a rich, cream center. Caramel Creams® were first created in 1917 by R. Melvin Goetze Sr. in his family’s kitchen. Originally, they were called “chuees” and did not have the cream center. A year later, he began making the Caramel Creams® we know and love today.

Cow Tales ® are Caramel Creams® made in an elongated form. Which is why I love taking them in my purse to baseball games with the family.  Some folks eat peanuts and nachos, I prefer candy. It’s something my sister started with her young son while he played baseball and I adopted it from her.

I decided it was time to learn more about Goetze and their candy. As a young woman growing up in a textile community, there were many discussions based around buying products in the USA. That has stuck with me as an adult. It keeps jobs in our communities and cuts down on greenhouse emissions, etc., due to shipping costs. Goetze still holds to those ideals and wanting to make the best product possible, employing people in their community and even promotion other companies who manufacture their product solely in the U.S. It was a throwback to my childhood and brought up a wealth of memories I had tucked away.

A tumbler full of Cow Tales!


Goetze wants consumers to know what is in their candy and they have an ingredients page for you to go and read about what they are using. Some are proprietary, which means they can’t exactly list the entire ingredient — mainly flavors. They also list what food colors they use, which are derived from natural sources. But if I told you what they are usually made of, you’d hate me.

I think that listing them clearly and keep the ingredients in the open is great for people with food allergies. Making this information easily accessible is key to preventing possibly life threatening reactions from happening and is an added safety measure.

Goetze is a nut-free facility

Caramel Creams® and Cow Tales® are made in a dedicated, nut-free facility. You can enjoy Goetze’s caramel treats with the assurance that their caramels are made and packaged in a facility that has never processed nut-containing products.

Balanced Lifestyle

The one thing I love about Goetze’s Candy is that even though they are candy manufacturers, they are firm believers in making balanced food choices as part of a healthy diet and even share resources on their website for fans of their candy. There are fitness and nutrition tips, along with a food diary for checking your energy levels throughout the day.


In my bucket of treats, they had included recipe cards. I’m a sucker for a good recipe. When it’s a recipe where I can use shortcuts involving caramel is win in my book. I tried the Apple Pizza (yes, I shared my candy — begrudgingly) made with Caramel Creams® and it was so good. I mean, cream cheese, cookie crust, caramel, peanut butter and tart apples are truly a match made in heaven. (I’m not big on the whole “dessert pizza” trend, but this is more like a tasty bar.)

Apple Pizza made with Caramel Creams Candy

Had I known that Goetze encourages you to save your candy wrappers to send in for free stuff, there would be a box in my office filled with the wrappers from the candy I devoured. I’m not even sure devoured is a strong enough word. Imagine me sitting at my desk, with a bucket willed with Cow Tales® and Caramel Creams®. You think “I’ll just have one” and ten later… (Hey, at least I’m honest.)

Follow Goetze Candy:

Twitter — @CowTales

Facebook — Like them 

Disclosure: I want sent a gift from Goetze Candy, however I did not receive any compensation for this post. All of my opinions are my own and I promise I shared my candy, even though I didn’t want to.

Goodwill: Donate stuff. Create jobs.

Make a difference by donating and creating jobs

I’ve been a big supporter of Goodwill for quite some time after touring their training facility located in Charlotte, NC, during an “Amazing Race” styled event held by the Carolina Panthers. Until that moment, I had no idea Goodwill provided programs and supports services that were made possible by donations of clothes and household items. More than 261,000 people earned jobs in 2013 — one person finding a job every 27 seconds of every business day. Coming from a rural North Carolina county with high unemployment due to the loss of the textile industry, this is something I can get behind.  You are literally donating stuff AND helping to create jobs.

Make a difference by donating and creating jobs

I’m hoping I’ve been able to help create quite a few jobs. We moved in February and had what we like to refer to as “the 15 year purge.” I had no idea you could accumulate so much stuff. How much? A large U-haul and 10 trips in the car went to Goodwill. Clothes that I knew we would never wear again, dishes, board games, and gently used household items that were collecting dust. Instead of it sitting in my house, I knew it would be much better for it to go the home of someone who needed it and would love it. I also knew that I would be helping the Goodwill mission of job creation and creating sustainability in communities by putting folks back to work.

Just roughly guesstimating how much I donated equals to about 200 hours of job training using the calculator at the Goodwill Donate Movement. Even now, I’m a little overwhelmed thinking about the actual impact this will have in someone’s life. I am also working on adding more hours to Goodwill’s job training services. How? Here’s a photo of the corner of my garage where I keep the items I’m going to donate.

Donation to Goodwill

How can you help? Walk through your house and take a good hard look at what you have in it. Do you use it? Do you love it? Could it be put to better use by someone else? If so, send it to Goodwill. You’ll have more room at home and will be supporting your local community.

Related Articles:
Downsizing and Goodwill Job Training

Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons: A Review


This is supposed to be a book review of “Fat Girl Walking” by Brittany Gibbons which is coming out in stores and online Tuesday, May 19th. I’ve read it four times since Thursday, May 14. (I’m a freakishly fast reader.) But I don’t know how much of a review this is, as it is a soul searching look into myself. You see, Brittany has taken everything I have ever felt about being a fat girl walking down the street and scrubbed it with sandpaper until I am raw and pink. I feel like a newborn who has been shot out into the waiting arms of parents who soon realize they have given birth to an angry squirrel.

This book will lead you down into your own personal rabbit hole and it is a good thing. We either avoid our rabbit hole or we stay in it out of fear. I know where I stay and my rabbit hole is about as funky as the jeans you’ve been wearing for a week that can now stand on their own.

Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons

First things first, Brittany Gibbons is as honest and funny as the day is long. I sat on my front porch the first time I read “Fat Girl Walking.” My neighbors who were out for a walk moved to the other side of the street because they thought I was in the midst of a psychotic break, complete with tears streaming down my cheeks, red faced and gasping for air. A teenager with a middle-aged gay best friend who has a white cockatoo that swears in French and drinks lowball glasses of scotch would make Jim Dial crack a smile. (If you don’t know who Jim Dial is, go to YouTube and search for Jim Dial and Murphy Brown. Please don’t tell me if you have to. I’m afraid you’ll send me straight to my first Botox appointment and I’m not sure my accountant would let me deduct it off of my taxes.)

Gibbons relives her chilhood pain — her father’s accident, name calling from her peers, and cheerleader tryouts. She shares her struggles with anxiety and the physical and emotional affects it had on her as a child and as an adult. As she lets you into her head, you realize how much she is in yours. You find parts of you in her book and find yourself noddng along, wanting to curl up next to her so you can cry and heal.

It’s that life-changing book that you want to read. Because I learned something from Brittany Gibbons and I think it is the most important lesson in this book: I want to be the woman they adjust the shots for. While you won’t have full context for that statement until you have read the book, you will soon after. I have cried my eyes out, reading that line over and over, writing it on scraps of paper and sobbed it on my husband’s shoulder. (The mascara stains are going to be hell to get out of his white dress shirt.)

Personal take-aways from “Fat Girl Walking,” complete with inner monologue.

You’re not as thin as you think you are

It doesn’t matter how good you look today, on the internet, someone is going to take the wind out of your sails. That’s a nice way of saying they’re going either stop reading you or start calling you names. Most of the time, it’s both. Which is why I don’t put pictures of myself on the Internet, because believe me, you don’t want to see me looking like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man on my recent farm tours — it’s a sexy that only livestock appreciates, and then only if I am holding feed.

Can I be honest? I’m terrified. Of what you will think. What others will think. And I know that at the end of the day, it only matters what I think and how I feel, but when you’re 42, peri-menopausal, and are crying because there is a large zit in the middle of your giant forehead wrinkle, life gets confusing. Do I jump into a Slayer a mosh pit or sit in my rocking chair and complain about my aching lower back?

Taking Charge 

Brittany’s second rule of being fat on the Internet is taking charge of your fat on the Internet. You’re in charge of your life and you have to set terms, whether they are for you, or for others.

That really is so much easier said that done and B has done it well. I’m terrified. Which is why I want to curl up under a duvet with her. Maybe I should just give her the password to my blog and let her go click publish on all of the posts I have sitting in draft about this subject.

The Fourth Trimester

Pregnancy does a number your body. I think we’d both like to know the real deal from Gisele and the rest of the Victoria Secret’s models who’ve given birth. They look great on the outside, but is their underwear hiding the multitude of pregnancy/childbirth induced problems our granny panties do?

Shut Up

While I don’t have a daughter, I found that what I do regarding my weight and figure affected my son as well. For all young ladies and gentlemen I encounter, there is no “F” word. That word is “fat.” I feel the other “F” word is much more respectable.

I also avoid self-deprcating humor regarding weight as it really bothers my son and husband.

Last Cake Ever

How many “tomorrow I will eat healthy” and then you get close and personal with your friend Sara Lee? The sugar crash is hell and Krispy Kreme has the “hot doughnuts now” sign on.

Fat Shaming

It is a real thing — which is why I’m still working up the guts to be a fat woman on the Internet. That being said, skinny shaming is just as bad. We are all real women.


I’ll never look at a scallop the same way again. Want to know why? You’ll find out in Chapter 8. In other news, snorting water forcefully up your nose from a highball glass would be a lot better if the salt from your neti pot was already mixed in.


Fat Girl Walking isn’t a diet book. It isn’t one of those former fat people memoirs about how someone battled, and won, in the fight against fat. Brittany doesn’t lose all the weight and reveal the happy, skinny girl that’s been hiding inside her. Instead, she reminds us that being chubby doesn’t mean you’ll end up alone, unhappy, or the subject of a cable medical show. What’s important is learning to love your shape. With her infectious humor and soul-baring honesty, Fat Girl Walking reveals a life full of the same heartbreak, joy, oddity, awkwardness, and wonder as anyone else’s. Just with better snacks.

Brittany Gibbons is the author of the blog “Brittany, Herself,” a body image advocate, model, author, TED speaker, media personality, internet catalyst, curve flaunter, comedian, adult summer camp owner, fashion hoarder and eater of the cold Chinese take-out in the fridge.

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Disclosure: I was sent two copies of “Fat Girl Walking” from Harper Collins and am so very thankful.