Meant to Be by Lauren Pizza: Review and Giveaway

Have you been looking for the perfect summer read? Something on the lighter side, but with substance? A book you could easily devour in an afternoon or two, but with humor and an uplifting, inspirational message?

Well, I’m here to tell you I’ve found it!

Lauren Pizza, Author of Meant to Be (Photo Credit: Lauren Pizza)

I had the outrageously excellent fortune of having received an advance copy of Meant to Be: The Lives and Loves of a Jersey Girl, by humanitarian and host of the YouTube show, So Tell Me, Lauren Pizza, a memoir describing her lower middle-class upbringing, her family quirks, friendships, relationships, and later, marriage and children.

The memoir takes us from Lauren’s childhood, through her adolescence and college years, and then her marriage and introduction to parenthood, noting important moments, flashes of insight, and the unique and wise folks who ushered her along her journey.

Wrapped neatly and seamlessly threaded through her anecdotes was an undertone of spirituality, her experience with the other side, a strong intuition, and good ‘ol fate, and the amazing and somewhat unbelievable twists and turns her life has taken – from helping her parents in their New Jersey florist shop to jet-setting around the world with her millionaire husband and his superstar friends.

And, somehow, through lifestyle changes about which some can only dream, heartbreaks, and losses, she maintains her humility, her spunk, and her sense of humor.

I laughed most of the way through, occasionally stopping to read passages aloud to my husband, who nary cracks a smile (he chuckled!).

I was also lucky enough to be granted an interview with this great lady, during which time I was slightly shocked to find so many similarities between herself and I. In a few candid moments chatting about her book, I found the voice on the page was just a (hilarious) two-dimensional representation of the whole person.

Lauren is passionate about her family, lifelong friends, success, and helping others, but, above all, she’s accessible, approachable, and warm-hearted, with no shortage of parenting advice for a woman knee-deep in preschoolers like myself.

She stressed the importance of finding the “house with the best basement”, as this will become increasingly important over time. She was also quick to give me permission to bring in help (something I’ve been struggling with for several years now), in order to both maintain my sanity and nurture my creativity.

As for her rags-to-riches, tell-all memoir, when asked whether or not she’s been treated differently by family (and others) as a result of releasing this book, she replied with a resounding, “Yes!” She also offered that she was told, by someone ‘in the biz’, that after a year or so, the shock and awe should wear off.

When asked whether she’s been compared with another tri-state-area megastar, Theresa Caputo, the Long Island Medium, she replied very matter-of-factly that she has, but was quick to point out that Theresa clearly “has a gift” that Lauren does not possess. I am certain, though, that their tales of Aqua Net would easily rival one another. It also may be fun to have them both in a room. I foresee a much laughing and many people touched.

As for her motivation for writing this book and exercising her creativity with projects including her YouTube channel (where she recently helped raise $17,000 for a young boy with cancer) and movie production, as she stated inside, it was clearly meant to be.

 

I’ve got something extra special for you in conjunction with this review. Not only am I giving away a gaggle of books, but I’ve also got Alex and Ani bracelets, created with inspiration from Lauren’s book, and an original song written and performed by Lauren’s very own family for you! I will be giving away TEN packs including one book, one audio single, and one Alex and Ani If It’s Meant to Be bracelet!

Meant to Be Prize Pack

I’ve literally been bursting with excitement to get this rolling, so I’m very, very excited to be able to offer these gifts to you.

Simply follow the link to the Momma Be Thy Name Facebook page and click the ‘Giveaway’ tab, where you can enter up to five times, plus once per day on Twitter. But wait – before you go – for an extra entry, please leave a comment sharing the most serendipitous occurrence in your life! What was meant to be for you?

 

Lauren Pizza lives in New Jersey with her husband, son, and daughter. Visit her YouTube channel, Laridan Productions, where she airs her show, So Tell Me, and follow on Facebook and Twitter. Ms. Pizza is currently hard at work on her second book.  Meant to Be: The Lives and Loves of a Jersey Girl is available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

 

Everywhere and the author have provided me with the book and giveaway items in exchange for this review. All opinions herein are my own. 

Giveaway Rules: Valid email address required to be eligible to win Meant to Be Prize Pack. Winners will be drawn on June 24, 2014, by 6pm ET and notified via email, the Momma Be Thy Name Facebook page, and on Twitter @MommaBeThyName. Residents of US and Canada ONLY are eligible to enter. Winners must respond within 24 hours or a new winner will be chosen. 

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We’re All Just Dust

You know that feeling you get, that feeling of relief you experience once you reach the end of something long-anticipated? When you walk off that stage, or are wheeled out of the hospital with that newborn baby? That deep, heavy sigh that occurs, almost unconsciously, when you realize you worried so much, for so long, for, essentially, nothing?

I spent most of my twenties in this spiral, practically hyperventilating over the details of my yet-to-be-solidified life, whether I’d find love, fulfillment, have children, own a home. The energy I put out could have easily powered a medium-sized city. And interviewing for jobs? Disney World, for at least a week.

I worried a lot. We humans worry a lot. We get something accomplished, and it’s onto the next. We meet a goal, and then make a new one. Never do we sit back and ‘let things happen’, or ‘Let Go, and Let God’, as the saying goes. As a matter of fact, I believe this is why we even have sayings like this. Because we never do these things on our own. We need to be reminded, to be preached to, to be calmed.

We throw pennies in fountains, wish on stars, bend over idols, and pray like the Dickens’. And once one scene closes, another curtain rises.

Many a book has ended with the main character walking off into the sunset, vowing to accept whatever fate has in store. Why do you think that is? Because we don’t want to wait for fate! We have better things to do. Like worry about fate.

We often don’t take stock of our happiness – right here in front of us, at this moment. We often lack the faith we need to get us through the day – and try to fill the gaping holes we create within ourselves with prayer and Xanax. Sometimes both.

This is how we live. This is our fuel.

We wish away the very times of our lives we spend a lifetime yearning to get back. We curse away our youths, then spend the rest of our lives trying to recapture them. We want nothing but to be successful and independent in our twenties, but do not realize, until it’s over, that we’ve unconsciously chased away one of the greatest, most memorable, most vibrant times of our lives.

So, why do we do it? Is it culture? Is it human nature? And is it useful?

I was told in college (many times, actually), that a certain measure of anxiety is actually a catalyst to achievement. And, thinking back to my dorm room days, holed up with a book and a highlighter, mere hours before an exam, I’d say this is true.

Had someone told me, when I was crying in my soup at twenty-three, that I would settle into a rather comfortable life, with a loving husband and three beautiful, intelligent, healthy children, I would have immediately responded, “Yeah, right!” But if – and this is a big if – I had heard that and taken it to heart, or had what some fine folks call ‘faith’, I may have enjoyed many more Friday nights, alone, on the couch, with Dateline and a buffalo chicken calzone. Which, now that I think of it, I may just have done.

And when you really think about it, the macro of our existence, the fact that we’re infinitesimally small in the face of time, Earth, and the universe, spilling coffee on your white capris seems a little silly, doesn’t it? Or eagerly anticipating one of those magical, milestone birthdays? (Eighteen and Twenty-One, I’m talking to you!)

It’s all a bit like standing in Times Square with the delusion that someone will notice you, or looking out at the stars without acknowledging the fact that you were, and will one day become, a speck of dust. Myopic.

In short, I think we need to stop worrying – about love, about success, about life, about the future. Put away the angst. Most of the time, you’re on the right track, doing the right thing, and when you’re not, the universe has its ways of knocking you off. Taste a tiny scoop of Buddha, and let physical things go. Chances are, you’ll be just as happy with ‘less’ as you are with ‘more’.

Things usually work out. Eventually. You just have to remember, when you’re busting your ass to meet a deadline, or trying to bench a hundred pounds, that you’re just a mammal, on a habitable planet, that someday (or, maybe even tomorrow) will become extinct.

If that doesn’t bring you a little peace and appreciation of the here and now, I don’t know what will.

Milky Way Over Crater Lake [Explore 07/09/13]

Milky Way Over Crater Lake [Explore 07/09/13] (Photo credit: Joe Parks)

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Opinions on EVERYTHING from Old People (i.e., My Parents)

You know that thing where generations clash? Where you teach your parents to use the remote twelve times, yet they still press all the input buttons, then call you because ‘there’s no picture’?

Yeah. So, here I am, living peacefully (enough) in 2014, yet little bits of baby boomer keep being flung at me like shards of broken glass. And sometimes it just gets on my nerves.

So, without further ado, I’d like to impart to you, dear reader, my family’s opinions on everything:

 

Cable Television: Unnecessary. You can pick up that antenna at the Walgreens.

The Internet: A scary, unsafe place. Unless they need a coupon.

Dishwasher: Why would anyone put dishes in there, when it only takes five minutes to wash them all by hand?

Ice Cream: Imperative. Must be in the house at all times, and fed to children pre- and post-meals. Especially Breyer’s Coffee.

Half and Half Containers: Should be distributed to children in public places until sucked completely dry, the plastic implodes, and any remaining cream splashes into their eyes.

Vacations: People with three kids don’t take vacations.

Smartphones: What do you keep looking at that thing for?

Hats, Coats, Socks, and Gloves: Should be piled on children at all times. There’s a draft.

Petroleum Jelly: The remedy for any skin malady.

Vicks VapoRub and Antibiotics: The remedy for any illness.

Food Allergies: Don’t exist. (See Also: Lactose Intolerance)

Weather Forecasts: Should be watched at every iteration of the evening news and imparted to all family members, via telephone, frantically and repeatedly.

Traffic: Will almost guarantee death by impatience. Should be avoided at all costs.

Air Conditioning: Too cold. Wet a facecloth and lay it over your sweaty body.

Changes of Plans: Not allowed.

Driving in the Rain: Forget it.

Parties: Too much work.

Backseat Driving: Necessary at all times, especially during periods of rain.

Napkins and Sugar Packets: Yours for the taking! All you can grab!

Parenting Advice: Abundant and continuous.

Work-Related Functions: Can’t you just stay home?

Insects That Carry Disease: Completely fictional.

Plastic Water Bottles: Totally safe.

Grocery Shopping in One Store Only: You know eggs are on sale at Stop & Shop, right?

Marinades of Any Kind: We like it plain. Except for those frajitas.

Reading Glasses: Fifty pair (all leopard print), either broken or don’t work, and must be fought over in public.

Refrigerating Leftovers: It’ll be fine on the counter for a few hours. (See Also: Groceries in a Hot Car)

Oscillating Fans: The solution to summer!

Dinner for Five: Under $30, or we don’t eat.

 

We’re kickin’ it Old School. Do you feel me??

10 Ways to Stay Happy as a Parent

Things at home have been hectic. In fact, I’ve been going a little insane. I’m here to share with you today a few trade secrets about staying happy in a house full of small children, frankly, because it’s so damned hard.

 

Here’s my list:

 

Forget ‘Clean’

the messiest

the messiest (Photo credit: demandaj)

Not only should you forget the word ‘clean’, but you should also forget ‘tidy’, ‘organized’, ‘neat’, and ‘on-time’. If you’re reaching for these imaginary brass rings, you’re already behind. There is no clean, and there won’t be for a long time. You have to accept that.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throw Away the To-Do List

to do list

to do list (Photo credit: mister ebby)

Just toss it on out. Sure, you’ll get everything crossed off, but it will be months until you do. It’s best not to even write it (unless you’re like me, and writing the list is the only way you’ll remember). By the time you get to the end of it, the list will be scribbled on, dog-eared, and covered in soy sauce stains. It’s just not worth it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sleep

Sleeping

Sleeping (Photo credit: Ed Yourdon)

I used to feel guilty about resting, taking a nap, feeling like ‘something won’t get done’ if I sleep, or sleeping was just too indulgent. Well, here’s a question: Would you rather get a little rest and catch up later, or half-ass your tasks as a clumsy, red-eyed, sniveling beast? You owe it to yourself (and everyone else around you) to feel rested – at least occasionally.

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the Good Stuff

Champagne Gatinois Rosé Grand Cru

Champagne Gatinois Rosé Grand Cru (Photo credit: dpotera)

I’ve had every form of Mom Guilt imaginable – the one where I feel awful taking up more than a sliver of the bed because there were five people in it, the one where I don’t need a new jacket because the kids need three, the one where I can’t enjoy a well-deserved evening alone in the house because it’s too quiet. I’ve been there. And it’s taken me almost four years to let go. So, for next time? Buy yourself a lobster and a bottle of champagne, crank up the television to a normal volume, then camp out on the living room floor and eat it. And don’t apologize for it. Ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Put Down that Parenting Book

Reading

Reading (Photo credit: paulbence)

There’s nothing that upsets parents more than continuously holding up a yardstick to their child. Does he eat ten solid foods? Does he point to what he wants? Does he throw a ball with two hands? Can he whine in eight syllables? In more cases than not, your child is developing perfectly well. Why are you torturing yourself? And me?

 

 

 

 

Don’t Complicate Your Life

Setting off on complicated (or expensive, or both) journeys while you have small children in the house is always a losing proposition. I know you think you can do it, that everyone will be fine, we all do, but when your entire family is trapped in a ten by ten square for five days because you’re having hardwoods put in, you start to realize the error of your ways. Perhaps applying to graduate school or attempting to become a sommalier while you’re still cleaning spitup out of your hair aren’t the most solid plans. There will be plenty of time to conquer the world. You don’t have to do it today.

 

Don’t Push too Hard

I know how crappy it is to be at home with kids all day. I also know how crappy it feels to force social interaction when a) you’re only half into it, and b) everyone else is only half into it as well. Your life has changed, and it will change again. The adult interaction you so crave will return, in abundance, when your kids go off to school. In fact, you’ll probably start hiding behind your car from the PTO president. Enjoy whatever silence you can steal for as long as you can.

 

Don’t Be a Show-off

20121201-_IGP1571.jpg

Rainbow Cake (Photo credit: Tim Ebbs)

Nobody likes a show-off. It’s great that you’re taking advantage of the wealth of resources on Pinterest, but your kid looks a little nuts in his home tie-dyed shirt, standing barefoot in a square of clay, eating a cake with ten rainbow layers, playing in a bowl of pinto beans. He does. Plus, there’s only room for one six-tiered, fondant-covered FROZEN confection at the bake sale. Have you considered volunteering instead?

 

 

Get Some Help

I know how that sounds, and if that’s the kind of help you need, by all means, go for it. It’s an hour of quiet in my book. What I’m talking about is help – with cleaning, caring for children, errands, etc… Too often we think we can do more than we actually can. Ask for help, and don’t feel guilty accepting it. I’m still working on this one.

 

Don’t Dress Your Kids in Zulily

I know what you’re thinking – absurd, right? The stuff on Zulily is so cute! What the hell is she thinking? Well, I’ll tell you: When you dress your kid so damned cute, you raise the bar. When you raise the bar, we have to do laundry. When we do laundry, we get trapped under the pile. When we get trapped under the pile, we start to suffocate. When we start to suffocate, our oldest kid dials 911. When 911 arrives, we’re wearing ripped yoga pants. When we’re wearing ripped yoga pants, being rescued by a hot firefighter, we die of embarrassment. When we die of embarrassment, our kids become orphans. Don’t dress your kids in Zulily.

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Listen to Your Mother Providence: That’s a Wrap!

I’ve put off, in one way or another, writing this post for close to two weeks.

I’ve waited for that magical morning I actually have ‘time to think’, when I can stare dreamily out my front window at the conifers swaying lazily in the sunshine. But the fact is, that morning only happens, in the best of circumstances, once a month.

More typically, I’m thinking about writing as I’m piling up muffin crumbs on the floor, coaxing someone, for the ninetieth time, to just use the damned potty, for God’s sake, or sneaking in an important phone call while there’s another adult human around to run interference.

I’ve been busy. A little overwhelmed. And I expect things to remain this way for the next few months.

But, like a wad of gunk stuck inside the elbow of a sink, I need to clear out this jam so I can move forward.

As you remember, I was a bit worried about my stage debut at the Listen to Your Mother Show. I attempted to transform myself from Marisa Tomei’s character in My Cousin Vinny to a pastier, slightly more spry version of Maya Angelou. Didn’t work.

I was reading a piece about my grandmother’s passing, and I questioned the decision, literally, until the moment I took the stage. I wasn’t comfortable talking about something (or someone) so close to me, much less through a microphone whose speaker was aimed directly at my family. It was too much for me. I sat backstage, with my head in my hands, asking myself repeatedly, ‘Why didn’t I write something funny?!’

I can say, in as short and sweet a manner as I can muster, that being involved in this experience, this show, has changed me, and at a deeper level than I’m accustomed to discussing with my paisans.

(Jen Cowart, Lori Istok, Claire Nicogossian, Anika Denise, Daphnee Rentfrow Photo Credit: Anika Denise)

What I will say is, when I stood up at the podium and read my piece (without looking directly at my family, of course), any fear I harbored melted clean away. I had grown trusting of the crowd, who had been dutiful enough to laugh at the right times, and frown at others. Enthusiastic family members’ eyes twinkled up at their loved ones on the stage. The immediate feedback my fellow cast members received during their readings was assurance enough for me that I was in the right place at the right time.

When I took the stage, it no longer mattered how many seats were filled, what I wrote, what I wore, how bad my accent was or wasn’t, or what the audience’s reactions would be.

The simple act of reading my own words aloud healed me in places I never knew were broken, while quietly building a foundation from which I could begin to grow again. Little pieces inside of me began lining up, as if magnetically attracted, from my first meeting with the cast, culminating in an unforgettable and cleansing experience on the stage.

In short, being part of Listen to Your Mother was transformative.

As a result of this show, I found healing, friendship, opportunity, and a strengthened bond with my own family.

(L-R: Daphnee Rentfrow, Claire Nicogossian, Yours Truly. )

(L-R: Daphnee Rentfrow, Claire Nicogossian, Yours Truly. Photo Credit: Anika Denise)

I’ve made friends that I hope become a much greater part of my life. The embers of creativity in my heart have been fanned to a full flame, and I’m intent on forging some works of art in this fire (when the kids allow me, of course).

CastPhoto

But the best part is, I’m not looking wistfully back on our experience together. I’m looking enthusiastically ahead, asking, “What’s next?” which is the single greatest gift I could have received.

 

The video of all our readings will be available this summer. At that time, I will post a link to the videos. Special thanks, of course, to our fearless producer, Carla Molina, and she from whom Listen to Your Mother has been borne, Ann Imig. To learn more, visit Listen to Your Mother.

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