Friday, November 22, 2013

Be Aggressive

Be aggressive! Be-e aggressive! B-E-AGG-RESSIVE! Every cheerleader knows the cheer. Nearly every athlete who has played a team sport has heard it.

From the time I could hold a ball, my parents taught me about sports. Football, basketball, softball... All of the team sports shared equal time in our backyard. My dad played high school football and my mom played high school basketball. Dad also played and coached softball into his 30s. They attended St. Louis Cardinal baseball games regularly and held season tickets for the St. Louis Hawks, Blues and Cardinals football team. So I didn't stand much of a chance if I didn't embrace the love of sports.

Thankfully, finding the love of the game was not a stretch for me. A strong, broad-shouldered, tall girl, I enjoyed every aspect of sport: the physicality, the teamwork, the winning. Blessed with incredible coaches and talented teammates over the course of an athletic career that started at the age of 8 and ended in college at 22, sports enriched my life.

In many ways, sports prepared me for life too. The comradery and the teamwork emblazoned on my brain, I always strived to create a team environment in my work situations. Playing sports with and against diverse groups of people and dealing with various personalities taught me that no matter how different you are, you can usually find some sort of common ground, even if it's just basketball. Sports taught me to work hard and to work hard to win. 

What the game did not teach me was that someday the aggressiveness with which I went after life is not something girls are supposed to do. And that someday, I'd be working with the cheerleaders, not just the athletes. And I'd be engaging in every day life with people who have neither an appreciation nor an understanding of the game. My parents and coaches could not have predicted that someday kids would play sports just to play, not to win. And someday winning wouldn't mean as much as just finishing.

Now in my 40s, crippled by degenerative joint disease and knees with little or no cartilage, my playing days are over but my love for the game is not. A fiery passion for sport still fills my spirit when I coach or teach or watch others play. I love what sports taught me and I love the person I am because of the game. Even if others see my aggressive determination and my desire to win as something negative or something unbecoming of a lady... I wouldn't trade learning how to lose gracefully and how to win graciously or developing life-long relationships or traveling the world with my Nikes in tow for anything. 
This is who I am. Perhaps, even, who I was born to be. 

Aggressive. Be-e aggressive.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Quizzes and Q&A

For a short period of time, Facebook buzzed with quizzes and Q&A between friends. Lists of questions passed from person to person and each one tagged ten more people to get in on the fun. I stumbled across one the other day and, while reading through it, realized how much life has changed for me in just over two years. So I thought I'd do it again. Many of the answers are the same but some are very different. Here they are:

1. What time did you get up this morning? 6AM
2. How do you like your steak? medium
3. What was the last film you saw at the cinema? Best Man Holiday
4. What is your favorite TV show?  Sons of Anarchy, All of the Real Housewives & Shahs of Sunset
5. If you could live anywhere in the world where would it be? I'd rather be able to just travel the world than pick one perfect place to live.
6. What did you have for breakfast? Sadly, I had nothing.
7. What is your favorite cuisine? Anything hot & spicy
8. What foods do you dislike?  Hmm... not a huge fan of kale.
9. Favorite Place to Eat? my own kitchen!
10. Favorite dressing? the cheesy dressing my mom makes
11. What kind of vehicle do you drive? Ford Edge
12. What are your favorite clothes?  Jeans & a sweatshirt
13. Where would you visit if you had the chance? I have a long list... Greece, Italy, etc.
14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full? Half full
15. Where would you want to retire? I will probably be working for the rest of my life. But... if I did retire, I would live here in good ol' MO in a house on the lake.
16. Favorite time of day? Evening
17. Where were you born?  St. Louis, MO
18. What is your favorite sport to watch?  Almost all of them. I can't watch golf for a long time.
19. Bird watcher?  If a bird catches my eye, I will watch it. I will not go looking for them though.
20. Are you a morning person or a night person?  I am a total night owl.
21. Pets? After a number of my fish committed suicide, I adopted a beautiful black Beagle/Lab mix. I love that dog!
22. Any new and exciting news that you'd like to share?  You wish. Just stay tuned. I have a lot of things in the hopper. (And a lot of obstacles right now but not for long.)
23. What did you want to be when you were little?  The quarterback of the football Cardinals or a singer
24. What is your best childhood memory? in general, i cherish the memories of how free we were to run the neighborhood and how much time we spent outside with our friends.
25. Are you a cat or dog person?  dog 
26. Are you married?  Never. Um, I mean. No... not yet. :) 
27. Always wear your seat belt?  always
28. Ever had your purse or wallet stolen? yes. twice.
29. Any pet peeves? i usually can't put my finger on anything until it happens and then I'm like "OH I HATE THAT!"
30. Favorite pizza topping?  cheese
31. Favorite Flower? Gerber daisies
32. Favorite ice cream? Baskin Robbins Chocolate Peanut Butter
33. Favorite fast food restaurant?  McDonald's (yes, it's true)
34. How many times did you fail your driver's test?  None
35. From whom did you get your last email? a coworker named Karen
36. Which store would you choose to max out your credit card? Target
37. Do anything spontaneous lately? Not lately. But I LOVE spontaneity. I might have to do something this weekend.
38. Like your job? Yes! I love the work I do. And I really enjoy my team.
39. Broccoli? Love it.
40. What was your favorite vacation?  I love them all and I love them often
41. Last person you went out to dinner with?  Val, Connie, Tiffany, Carlette & Gynequa... a group of gals I met in my 20s who I adore and for whom I am very grateful
42. What are you listening to right now?  the news
43. What is your favorite color?  red
44. How many tattoos do you have?  none yet
45. Coffee drinker?  never
46. How many children do you have? lots of them
47. If you team up with any superhero/villain who would it be?  Batman (I don't know why this was my answer the first time but... I'll stick with it.)

Sunday, September 29, 2013

My Mom Has Alzheimer's

My mom has Alzheimer's. We never talk about it because it is scary. We never talk about it because if we did, we would be admitting that Alzheimer's is her truth. We would be admitting that it is our truth. And we would be admitting that we are scared to death.

My uncle, who is a Catholic priest, also has Alzheimer's. Recently, he got on a plane to go visit friends and when his plane landed, he wandered through the airport unsure of where he was, why he was there, and who he had gone there to visit. Eventually, employees of the airport helped him piece his story together and helped him reach his friends.

My grandfather, who died over ten years ago, lived his last days in a nursing home, suffering from Alzheimer's. I remember the last time he came to my parents' for dinner before he moved to the nursing home. He didn't remember me. My dad explained that I was his granddaughter but he looked at me with fear in his eyes, trembling on the couch. He had no memory of me at all.

A lot of people think it is ridiculous that I go to my parents' house nearly every day. But someday, she is going to get lost. And someday she is not going to remember me. So while she's still of relatively sound mind, I am going to spend as much time with my mom as I can. I might come out of the other side of this completely alone. But it will have been completely worth it.

We never talk about the Alzheimer's. We just pretend that life is as it always was and that it will always be this way. I hate that this is our truth. And I am more scared than I have ever been in life about the toll this disease will take on our family. But it has given me perspective. And it has given me a relationship with my parents like I have never had.

My mom has Alzheimer's.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


Cherokee nation is mourning the loss of the custody battle involving a native child. Her father, a Cherokee member, is mourning the loss of his right to parent his baby. Her mother, who is not native, is mourning the loss of her right to give her baby up for adoption. A non-native couple in Charleston, SC is rejoicing the return of a child they adopted four years ago. A child of mixed heritage, both native and not, has been shuttled between families over the course of her four years but there is no report regarding how she feels in this moment.

In 1971, when I was adopted, fathers did not have paternal rights with regard to adoption. While men could petition the court if they knew their child was being put up for adoption, mothers were not required to get permission from fathers before starting the adoption process. Because of the lack of paternal involvement in the process, I was not aware of my native heritage until I was 17 years old and that nugget of information was not confirmed until 25 years later. My father is of mixed heritage like the baby mentioned above. He is the culmination of the melting pot that is our country, boasting a little bit of Irish, a spot of English and some combination of Cherokee, Apache and Blackfoot. While I am not an official expert on the subject, I am Veronica in many regards.

Throughout the battle for parental rights, people on the outside have formed an opinion. Most of those opinions focus on the racial differences. It's the Indian vs. the white man. It's Indian government vs. the U.S. government. Jurisdiction vs. jurisdiction. Parent vs. parent. Where is the baby in all of this? Where is Veronica? Many will say that they are each acting in the best interests of the child but I challenge that notion. Who's right is it, really, to say what is in Veronica's best interest?

Adopted children host an internal battle throughout theirs lives between their nature and who they are raised to be. But we never talk about that. So maybe the best interest of the child is to stay with the birth family. However most birth families are not equipped to offer a world of possibilities to the child so maybe the best interest is to place the child with a family who will broaden the horizons for the child and help turn the ancestral tide for the birth family.

There is no one solution. But whatever the best interest is, it should not be based on race. If ethnic heritage played a role in my fate, would we have lopped off a leg for the Irish, given an arm to the English, offered my art to the Apache and my voice to the Cherokee. What about the Blackfoot? What would their portion have been?

Is there an obligation of adoptive parents to make sure the child's cultural heritage is shared with the child? Yes.  In whatever way possible. And while I won't offer what I think should have happened in the case of Baby Veronica, I will say this: Cherokee nation should step up and offer cultural education instead of continuing to fight the adoptive parents and the adoptive parents should vow to encourage a connection between their daughter and Cherokee nation.

This case is not uncommon. There are Veronica's everywhere. What is in the best interest of Veronica and everyone like her? It is a world of peace and understanding, where the racial divide is diminished by the love of diversity and a curiosity of culture. It is a world of endless possibilities. It is a world where all cultures are experienced and appreciated and honored by all cultures. The best interest of these children is the best that life can offer.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Forty-five Years and Counting

On Friday the 13th, in September of 1968, my mom and dad were married in church on the south side of St. Louis. She wore a short, lace-covered, white dress because she was over 30 which was far too old, back then, for a big wedding with a ball gown. He wore a black suit with a thin black tie, his hair parted on the side and slicked back by a small black comb which he later used until there was no hair left to comb.

I met them in 1971, when they adopted me through Catholic Charities. Of course I don't remember that meeting because I was just six weeks old. But I have many early memories, most of which include the blue shag carpet in the living room or the velvety blue chair he used to rock me in or food. We ate. A lot. 

Dad worked all day and sometimes all night while mom kept our home up. Every evening, dinner hit the table the moment he lumbered through our big, creaky front door. He always sat at the north end of the table and she sat to his left. They still sit in the same places and they still eat dinner together every night, although she rarely cooks anymore.

In the evenings, they watch TV. We used to go for walks but neither of them move very well anymore. Sometimes they sit on the front porch and watch traffic pass or talk about the neighbors or how old the trees are that line their city street. 

"Look at that one, Betty," he says, pointing out a monsterous pin oak a few houses away. "It's all dead at the top. We should call the city and let them know."

Earlier in their marriage, mom was more of a busy body and dad, just stayed quiet but since he retired, he meddles just as much in the business of others as she does and I find it very humorous.

They spend nearly all day and night together now which was a difficult adjustment after years of being apart while he worked. He didn't know what to do with himself at first and it drove mom crazy. But now they are both content to just sit and do nothing sometimes and that's fine. They deserve to do nothing. After all, staying together for 45 years is hard work. It didn't come easy. I remember times when I thought they'd get divorced and it scared me. But they stuck it out, partially because they had to and partially because they didn't know anything other than the life they'd built together.

He still buys her flowers. They hold hands when walking outside. Once in a while I will catch him sneaking up behind her while she's washing dishes at the kitchen sink to give her a kiss. It's all the stuff that marriage is made of right? Or maybe it's just the stuff that keeps it going. Either way, happy 45th anniversary, Mom & Dad! I love you.

Sunday, July 07, 2013

Making New Memories to Cover Up the Old

The very wise Rose Kennedy once said, “It has been said, 'time heals all wounds.' I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.”

There are certain pains that others are not able to understand. They are pains that fill the cracks and crevices within you. These wounds hide in the deepest, darkest places. The once flooding, incapacitating waters of despair that nearly drowned you have receded to a place a thousand miles away. Not one physical trace of evidence remains. No bruises, no scabs, no scars. Some days, it feels like it may never have really happened. Some days, it seems like it may have been just a nightmare. The people who lived through it with you are scattered now. Those who are still around never fully understood the circumstances and have no grasp of the weight of the sorrowful burden that is still buried in your soul.

Time does not heal these wounds. Passing years do not take this pain with them. 

However, with time comes opportunity to forge new memories and to build a life that is contrary to the tragedy left behind. New memories, like fresh paint on a dingy wall, cover over the sadness and make it more bearable to view. New faces, new experiences, new pictures plaster over a painful history. New smells, new sounds, new tastes fill up the bigger spaces, pushing stale, lifeless moments into the hidden spots.

So I will celebrate more birthdays with loved ones, attend ball games with friends, see the sights of this beautiful country, enjoy music and good food. I will continue to build this wonderfully blessed life. It is a life that dreams are made of, honestly. But right now, I will have a good cry before packing up this sorrow for another year. And then I will go on. As always. Making new memories to cover up the old.

Saturday, May 04, 2013

With a Little Help From My Friends

It is amazing how much you can get done in less than two hours with a little help. I have been learning how to ask for help over the last year but help is not always available. Sometimes help doesn't come in the form you think it will either.

Today, three students from Vianney came over to help around my house. They hauled trash, broke down boxes and took them to recycling, carried huge containers up and down the steps from my basement to my second floor, and cleaned up my front balcony. They even moved a massive couch and a table from the top floor to my basement, maneuvering narrow staircases and hallways along the way. It was a task I needed help with for months. Before 11AM, chores that had been awaiting completion for a very long time were finally done. And my office and art studio is almost free from stuff and ready to be used again.

I am so grateful for the help I received today and for my friend who arranged it for me. Next up... Painting. Who's ready.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

42 Things You Might Not Know About Me

In years past, I have put together similar lists so some of these might be repeats. I haven't looked back to make sure I don't duplicate anything. But in honor of my beautiful age, 42, here are 42 things you might not know about me:

  1. I have never been a coffee drinker. I drink a Diet Dr. Pepper every morning.
  2. One of my favorite musical moments came when I sang the National Anthem in front of more than 60,000 people at a NASCAR race.
  3. My tolerance for anything I perceive as nonsense is really low.
  4. I respect others even if I am incapable of liking them.
  5. Although I don't like everyone I give my best effort to do so. I consider this my greatest weakness. By "this" I mean not liking everyone AND trying to like everyone. 
  6. Usually, after deciding I don't like someone or something, I have a change of heart. That's how I became friends with some of you and how I ended up driving a Jeep Liberty.
  7. I am physically stronger than I think I am and not nearly as strong emotionally as I claim.
  8. I am not the product of my birth nor of my environment. I am the sum of my parts.
  9. I love my life and I am proud of every part of it including the painful parts and the pieces I don't share with anyone.
  10. My deepest regrets are often words... The words I have said. The words I have not said. The words I never even thought to say until I could no longer say them. The words I have written on paper.
  11. The best interests of others are always top of mind for me. Then I consider myself. And I always consider the consequences. 
  12. In 2 weeks, I will graduate with my Masters in Communication Arts. As a kid, I was a lazy student so I never saw this coming. The road to get here was not smooth.
  13. More than anything, I would like the opportunity to be a mother again.
  14. I have three secrets that I hold dear. By the end of this year, I anticipate that I will have only one.
  15. The level of patience I have achieved is the result of a lifetime of waiting. I have learned to stop praying for patience.
  16. Confidence evaded me until I was in my 30s. Up until then, I was just faking it.
  17. I haven't picked up a paintbrush in two years but before that, I was an avid painter.
  18. I wish that a haircut could make you skinny and beautiful.
  19. By the time I was eight years old, I was already enrolled in Weight Watchers and on my first diet.
  20. I thought I knew everything by the time I was 28. Now I know that I have so much more to learn.
  21. I was a sports writer a long time ago. The first pro sport I covered was the Major Indoor Soccer League. I am glad that wasn't my final career choice & that you don't have to have just one career.
  22. I have curly hair. I straighten it every day because it's not pretty curly. It's weird, inconsistent, frizzy curly.
  23. My dog's barking makes me CRAZY. Mostly because I am worried it is disturbing the neighbors...
  24. I am an emotional eater.
  25. If I had more money, I would spend it on everyone else. I already do that but that's because I have what I need and I don't want the rest to go to waste.
  26. I know the difference between a want and a need. About 85% of the time, I act on my wants.
  27. My least favorite chore is taking out the trash.
  28. The year I turned 40, I volunteered once a month. That was the happiest year I think I've ever had and I don't think that's a coincidence.
  29. I hate that women who love athletes are called cleat chasers and men who love athletes are called fans.
  30. I also hate that my past relationships define me more than my accomplishments or my abilities.
  31. I say the F word. A lot. I am not proud of it. I have tried to stop. I am still trying. But I need a lot of work in a lot of areas so... it's on the list.
  32. One of my favorite nights out is Margarita Night with my friends. 
  33. Nothing makes me happier than the laughter or joy of others.
  34. I can't imagine anyone ever really loving me.
  35. I cry a lot. Every emotion I experience comes with tears of some kind.
  36. I want to be an accomplished author but I am hindered by the fear of hurting others in the process of telling my story.
  37. Morality has not always been my strong suit. I have made many decisions that others would question. I want to be a good person but I often fail miserably.
  38. Baking & ironing relax me. I make amazing bread. And if fry bread took talent, I would claim that as one of my bests too but... it's pretty easy.
  39. I remember names and I recognize faces. In my work and in my volunteer efforts that has been my job at times. I am not good with numbers.
  40. My taste in men is inconsistent. But it's usually eyes and smile that get my attention.
  41. I played ball competitively from the time I was 8 years old until I had an accident 14 years ago that caused me to lose the use of my left foot.
  42. I love making lists.

What's On Your Mind?

Social media has given me a false sense of familiarity. If you've read my blog for a while or, better yet, if you have known me for many years, you understand that I struggle with a feeling that people never really know who I am. The people who get you, who understand you, who know the kind of person you are at the core rarely doubt your motives, intentions or meaning. They don't often question your heart or how real you are. They don't lump you into groups with other people you remind them of or who they think you are like. Because, they simple know you.

Recently, I took a Facebook vacation which has been even more difficult than I anticipated. Lingering event invitations forced me to revisit my profile shortly after the hiatus began and irresistible notifications regarding comments on blog posts piqued my interest and so many people plan special occasions around or on Facebook now. Admittedly, I spent some time this morning, looking through the groups I had created to see most recent status updates from all of my friends whom I have neatly categorized by how I know them. While catching up proved satisfying, I also discovered bits and pieces of some drama I avoided by disappearing for a while. That was satisfying too. Overall, limiting my Facebook activity to blog or Pinterest posts has served me well.

Today, I am taking this Facebook hiatus a step further. I am going on a twitter fast. The daunting task of keeping my thoughts to myself worries me a bit. The temptation to post status updates and answer the question "what's on your mind"overwhelms me at times. But it is necessary.

I don't want to defend who I am or explain myself to people who I have never met face-to-face. I don't want to have an argument with a man whose hand I have never shook. The assumptions made based on 140 characters are often ridiculous and I am uncomfortable with the notion that twitter posts define a person. Please note that I am also guilty of making assumptions and thinking I understand the character of a man by what he writes in 140 characters. I am not innocent. But I do feel the need to take a step back for a moment and reevaluate why and how I use these channels of communication.

So for now, I will continue blogging here and on tumblr. I will keep pinning delicious things on Pinterest of both the food and non-food nature. And I will figure out another way to say the things that are on my mind.

See you soon tweeps! "Don't you forget about me."

Tuesday, April 23, 2013


Over 40 years ago, a girl from the north side of St. Louis met a boy from the south side of St. Louis. The rest of their story is hazy. After all, every story has three sides, as they say: her side, his side, and the truth. But the result or the consequence of the affair that followed their meeting, was me.

I was born into unreal circumstances with an uncertain future. But six weeks later, I met my mom and dad. They adopted me, took me home, and committed to raise me as their own. And they did.

Being adopted is a blessing and a curse and someday I will fully capture it all in a wildly successful book that you can all buy and read. The blessings and curses both are too numerous to mention in a short blog. And unless you are actually adopted, you cannot completely understand the experience anyway. But in short, being adopted is not easy. It doesn't have to be tremendously difficult but it is simply not easy. That is not to say that I am not grateful to be adopted because I am. But there is a degree of uncertainty and clearly a lot of unknowns.

As I grew I up, I heard stories about my birth family as told to my parents by the adoption agency but because my family loved me so dearly and because I was surrounded by cousins and a sister and aunts and uncles nearly all the time, I didn't wonder about the people from whom I came. I didn't feel like I was missing anything.

However, over the course of an adopted person's life wonder does eventually creep in and many of us search and find our birth families, as I did. And more often than not, the fairy tale meeting that we imagine does not happen. But what adoption does for you is it changes how you define family, how you see family and how you experience family.

Family, for us, is about finding common ground with people. It is not about sharing the same blood. Family, by necessity, is about making connections and bonding in some way because the bonding experience is stolen from us as babies. And when we make connections... When we call you family... that's a big deal for us.

There is a lot of discussion in the world about the definition of family. From my perspective, we should respect others' definition of family because it is different for everyone. Family, in my life, was not one woman and one man who came together to create a life with 2.5 children and a golden retriever. Growing up, my family was three fathers and three mothers, including my foster family, and a host of other relatives not "related" by blood but "related" nonetheless. As an adult, my family is a combination of those with whom I was raised, just one mom & dad, some members of my birth family who I've been lucky enough to find and get to know a bit and a couple of handfuls of very dear friends.

Sometimes family as defined by others might not make sense to you. And you might not have the ability to imagine family from their perspectives. But it is not for you to argue or disagree with because it's not YOUR family. It is not your experience. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Boston Bruins National Anthem Demonstrates the Strength of a People

After 9/11, I had the honor and privilege to sing the National Anthem at the St. Louis Blues game. I sang the first few words and, like this, the crowd joined in and sang with me. What an amazing experience. As an anthem singer, there is nothing like hearing the people join together to sing the anthem with you.

Singing the national anthem is not a performance. The purpose is to lead the people in singing a song that tells the story of a nation, who when the battle was over and the smoke cleared, stood strong and whose FLAG WAS STILL THERE.

This is what is is all about, people. Good job, Boston.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

42: History & Baseball & Lessons in Life

The Jackie Robinson story, "42," took the box office by storm this past weekend. Any movie that includes baseball automatically makes my list of movie must-sees. But I anxiously awaited this baseball movie based on the life of Jackie Robinson. I heard his story many times, not only including the history-making baseball anecdotes but also the painful and sometimes terrifying personal experiences that accompanied him on his trailblazing journey. What a brave man with an incredibly selfless and brave wife.

When the trailers first started airing in the theaters, I decided to invite my ten-year-old nephew to join me but before I could extend the invitation, he called me and asked if we could see it together. This past weekend, we found our reserved our seats in a local "fork and screen" theatre, ordered a giant bacon cheeseburger to share, and settled in for more than two hours of history and baseball and life lessons. 

Reviews and friends alerted me in advance that in order to accurately depict Robinson's story, the language was strong and somewhat shocking. In other words, "the N word" was tossed about repeatedly. Obviously, over the years there has been tremendous controversy over that word. In my personal opinion, it is repulsive. But it is not a word that my nephew has had a lot of exposure to, if any. So I thought it was worth a conversation before we saw "42." 

I asked him what he knew about "the N word" and he said he learned about it in school. His teacher taught him that it was a bad word and a term that should never be used to describe or insult another person. I asked if he could give me an example of another word that might be comparable. "Is it like calling a white person a hoosier?" he asked. "No," I replied. "It's much worse than that." But I paused. What should I teach my nephew or even other children who are not black about "the N word." How do I describe it or explain it in a way that would be so impactful that they would understand the horror of being called such a word? Then I thought, what would my black friends want me to tell my nephew? And I thought, how great it would be if I could get a number of my black friends, of all ages, male and female to send me a short video sharing their feelings so I could just show him, rather than telling him. (What a great idea for a video project, huh? Don't steal it...)

But there was no time for all of that. So I told him that I thought people who use "the N word" to describe others or as an insult were saying that person has no value and no worth. I told him that I believe it is one of the worst things you can say to a person. And I told him that it's so horribly demeaning that it's a word that should be erased from our vocabulary. And then, we watched the movie.

Following the show, my nephew and I agreed that it was a great experience and a fantastic movie. Jackie Robinson changed the face of baseball and opened the door for many, many people. We agreed that because of his determination and his decision to stick it out and play through the difficulties he experienced, baseball is a better game. 

And then he said, "I think if I ever heard someone call someone else that word, Aunt Michele, I might want to punch him in the face." Not exactly how we want to handle situations but... I think he gets it now. Sometimes, we can't teach others simply with words. Sometimes, they have to see to understand.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Baseball Season is Here!

Baseball season is finally here so I thought it would be fun to go back and take a look at every blog I have written that had "Cardinals" in it. And it was fun. There were some good stories and some great pictures. Take a look!

Let's Have a Conversation

I could write for hours about the various divisions among Americans. So much of the division is driven by FEAR and it's fear that could be eased by simple conversation.

Last night my 10-year-old nephew called to tell me about his swimming lessons. He said there were some Indian kids in his class. "Indians from India," he said, "not Indians like you, Aunt Michele."

I replied, "It's cool to be surrounded by people who are not like you, isn't buddy?"

"Yes," he said. "It's awesome."

It is awesome. And if you have not had the experience because you are afraid, I assure you that your life is not as full as it could be.

I urge you to:
Never make assumptions.
Clear your mind of everything you think you know.
Have a conversation.
Make a friend.
Increase understanding.
Banish fear.
Eliminate divisions.

This week, there has been a stir about a song recorded by Brad Paisley and L.L. Cool J on the this very subject.  Here are the lyrics:

To the man that waited on me at the Starbucks down on Main, I hope you understand
When I put on that t-shirt, the only thing I meant to say is I'm a Skynyrd fan
The red flag on my chest somehow is like the elephant in the corner of the south
And I just walked him right in the room
Just a proud rebel son with an 'ol can of worms
Lookin' like I got a lot to learn but from my point of view

I'm just a white man comin' to you from the southland
Tryin' to understand what it's like not to be
I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done
And it ain't like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn't start this nation
We're still pickin' up the pieces, walkin' on eggshells, fightin' over yesterday
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

They called it Reconstruction, fixed the buildings, dried some tears
We're still siftin' through the rubble after a hundred-fifty years
I try to put myself in your shoes and that's a good place to begin
But it ain't like I can walk a mile in someone else's skin

'Cause I'm a white man livin' in the southland
Just like you I'm more than what you see
I'm proud of where I'm from but not everything we've done
And it ain't like you and me can re-write history
Our generation didn't start this nation
And we're still paying for the mistakes
That a bunch of folks made long before we came
And caught between southern pride and southern blame

Dear Mr. White Man, I wish you understood
What the world is really like when you're livin' in the hood
Just because my pants are saggin' doesn't mean I'm up to no good
You should try to get to know me, I really wish you would
Now my chains are gold but I'm still misunderstood
I wasn't there when Sherman's March turned the south into firewood
I want you to get paid but be a slave I never could
Feel like a new fangled Django, dodgin' invisible white hoods
So when I see that white cowboy hat, I'm thinkin' it's not all good
I guess we're both guilty of judgin' the cover not the book
I'd love to buy you a beer, conversate and clear the air
But I see that red flag and I think you wish I wasn't here

I'm just a white man
(If you don't judge my do-rag)
Comin' to you from the southland
(I won't judge your red flag)
Tryin' to understand what it's like not to be
I'm proud of where I'm from
(If you don't judge my gold chains)
But not everything we've done
(I'll forget the iron chains)
It ain't like you and me can re-write history
(Can't re-write history baby)

Oh, Dixieland
(The relationship between the Mason-Dixon needs some fixin')
I hope you understand what this is all about
(Quite frankly I'm a black Yankee but I've been thinkin' about this lately)
I'm a son of the new south
(The past is the past, you feel me)
And I just want to make things right
(Let bygones be bygones)
Where all that's left is southern pride
(RIP Robert E. Lee but I've gotta thank Abraham Lincoln for freeing me, know what I mean)
It's real, it's real
It's truth

Thursday, April 11, 2013


Shouting from the depths of a broken heart...
Joyful laughter as the baby crawls...
Snoring like a steamboat's horn while recovering from a long day...
Ceaseless moans of pain and pleasure...
Slamming doors to say what words cannot...
Angry children stomping through the yard to escape their mother's disappointment...

The neighborhood bustles with the sounds of relationships.
Every home erupts with emotion.
Life fills the air, the streets, the alley ways.

I lie here listening.
I lie here still, afraid any movement will disturb the destiny of this night.
I lie here listening.
I lie here still and wondering what it would be like to feel those things. Any of those things. Any extreme of those things.

Clanging bottles hit the bottom of the dumpster as the barkeep tends the trash across the street.
The wind lightly rattles my windows.
The yelling, laughing, snoring, moaning, slamming, and stomping stops.

I lie here listening.
I lie here listening to the silence, afraid because its quiet now.
I lie here listening.
I lie here still and wondering what the aftermath or afterglow of such glorious emotion must be like.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

A Season of Gratitude

For the last few years, I've tried to write a blog just before my birthday to set expectations for the upcoming year. This year I failed to do so. During the month since I turned 42 years old, I gave great thought to what I'd like to have happened over this next year, what kind of outcomes and I'd like to see, and what kind of impact I would like to make on the world around me.

Mapping out my 40th year seemed simple because it was such a big birthday, such a milestone in my life. I felt like that year needed to be a laundry list of things that I wanted to accomplish before I was too old. And it was. And I accomplished nearly everything I set out to do.

In just two short years since then, however, my life has grown and changed and developed in a way that creating a laundry list of things to do seems slightly overwhelming. I do not want to set myself up for failure. And you might ask, well where's the challenge in that? But the purpose of setting goals for your life is not always to create challenges for yourself. That can be a part of it when you're doing things to better your life like losing weight or getting healthy or getting your finances in order. Those are great challenges and great goals to set up for yourself. But in considering the mark you want to leave on the world in the next 10 months or so I think sometimes you want to make it easy to actually accomplish something, to check some things off your list, to make a difference in the lives of others or the environment, or to just do some good.

So I've made a decision regarding the focus for my 42nd year of life. This year is going to be my season of gratitude. It will be my year of demonstrating my thankfulness to others. It will be a year of showing people how I feel about them and not just telling them. It will be a year filled with experiences and moments that will create memories to last a lifetime.

For those of you who know some of the personal challenges that I have endured over the last month or so this might seem like really odd timing to make such a proclamation. You may even be thinking that my actions in the last few days are contrary to this dedication to a season of gratitude. But as I said to my sisters the other day, we all make mistakes... some of them shameful. All we can do is do better the next time.

So it won't be a year without making mistakes. It will not be a year without trials or tests. (Although if I can swing that from here on out, I will.) And it won't be a year without starting over or redos. It will be a year of doing my best to demonstrate my love for others and just to say thank you.

Welcome to my season of gratitude.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Rock Bottom

I've seen a lot of things lately that talk about hitting rock-bottom. They say that hitting rock bottom is sometimes the best place to start... to start over I suppose. Then I wondered how anyone could ever think that reaching your lowest point could be the best thing that ever happens to you.

But maybe they're right.

Rock is solid. It's firm. It's sturdy. It's difficult to destroy. It creates a great foundation.

Better to start from rock bottom than to start from something like sand bottom or water bottom or mud bottom. All of those things are movable and changing and don't provide a place for you to get your footing.

Think about it. When people who are close you are in trouble others always say they are going to have to hit rock bottom before they decide to make changes. And maybe that's because they can't stand up because they've fallen on a soft surface. A place that's not quite uncomfortable enough to want to get up and make whatever changes are necessary. Maybe it's because that gentler space provides a moment of rest to someone weary with doubt, uncertainty and the whirlwind of chaos that is his or her life. Or maybe it's like quicksand, pulling them down deeper or water rushing past so fast, they can't find a way to just get up.

Falling to the ground, to the rock, to the bottom is painful. it's jarring. it's shocking, It wakes you up. It disturbs you. It's uncomfortable. But it's safer than all of those other unpredictable surfaces.

So maybe hitting rock bottom is the best place to start. What are you waiting for? Get up. Plant those feet on the ground. You can only go up from here.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Back Down Again

In situations that drive you down and place seeming limitations on your life's possibilities, there are three routes to survival:

1. Faith
2. Inner Strength
3. Being surrounded by people who pick you up and help put you back together again

Two weeks ago, I picked up a heavy crockpot and threw out my back. It seems ridiculous. But a history of back problems and a genetic predisposition to degenerative discs makes even the simple things dangerous at times. I have been down this road before and the end results were not ideal. Fifteen years ago, I lost the use of much of my left leg and foot so the prospect of heading down a similar path with my right leg frightened me beyond words.

So I did the only three things I knew how. I prayed. I remembered that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. And I called on my friends and family who have visited and talked and laughed and cried and eaten dinner with me.

I could not have gotten through the last two weeks without the people with whom I've chosen to surround myself. Even a short phone call or a voice mail has brightened my days trapped on the couch. (For a social butterfly like myself, bed rest is like prison.) My mom has done my laundry, my sister has taken out the trash, my ten year old nephew calls me to FaceTime almost daily... And my friends have been wonderful.

The diagnosis is two herniated discs. The treatment is a long list of drugs and therapies before surgery. And I will be just fine. It could be so many other things. So many more devastating things. But... This minor setback has demonstrated how truly blessed I am.

My cousin called on a day last week when i was feeling particularly sad and lonely and she said, "but you are not alone Michele. You are surrounded by family and friends who love you."

Yes, I am. My back may be down and out right now but thanks to all of these wonderful people and the man upstairs (as the Catholics like to say), I won't be for long.

Face Time without Facebook

It has been just under two weeks since I decided to stop following the daily happenings on Facebook and I would by lying if I said I didn't miss it. I do but the time I have spent away from hours of perusing the Facebook pages of others have allowed me to focus on blogging more and dabbling a bit in my art which I hadn't done in years. Today, in fact, I hope to start painting again.

Over the course of the last 10 days, I have had more conversations with my friends that did not revolve around plans to go out than I have in a long time. I will say that we are still texting a lot but that's fine. Our relationships are not revolving around catching up on Facebook without actual, real communication.

Shortly after deciding to scale back my Facebook involvement, I hurt my back. Forced to spend time on the couch or in bed because I have been unable to walk has increased the temptation to dive back into Facebook. I have checked emails and I have one big event (St. Louis Cardinals Opening Day Tailgate) coming up that I am keeping track of but reading statuses all day, browsing photos, checking up on folks and all of the other day-to-day activities have ceased for now.

I miss my people but like I said before, I am still around!

We will see what the future holds.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Kindness as Currency

They say that nothing in life is free. Supposing that is true, that does not mean that the only currency with which we can pay for life's things is money. Many have paid for freedom with their lives. Others have sacrificed comfort or promotion or better lives for themselves to benefit others. They have paid the price of whatever that thing is with a currency other than money. Blood, sweat, tears, dignity... all forms of currency.

However, the simplest and most overlooked of these alternate currencies is kindness. Returning kindness for kindness is often the greatest repayment one can offer.

Good deeds are most often not done with the expectation of repayment. But there is nothing wrong with offering kindness in return anyway. When you are the beneficiary of the goodness of another, be grateful, say thank you, do something nice in return. It could be as simple as opening a door, or helping carry groceries or baking a pie.

Kindness is always welcome.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Please Feel Free to Lay in My Lap

Traveling is exhausting. Even when the purpose of the trip is rest and relaxation, getting to and from a destination can be difficult and the journey can be long. Traveling for work always created added stress for me. Life at home doesn't stop because one person is in another state. Responsibilities still need tending and being unavailable for the day to day needs of home and family makes traveling a bit trying.

Travel by plane offers a unique set of challenges:
To check bags or not to check bags...
Getting through security without having to turn over the $9 makeup you forgot was in your bag...
Reaching the departure gate on time...
Boarding without nailing a fellow passenger in the head as you pass through the narrow middle aisle...
Finding the right seat belt parts and extending them to their limit so you can actually buckle them...
Remembering that the other 179 people who are on a plane with you have just experienced every bit of what you have prior to sitting down...
And most of all, deciding whether or not to put your seat back for the duration of the flight...

On the radio the other day, a discussion was held regarding that last travel challenge. Should you put your seat back or not? Is it ok to do because you can or is it rude?

Do you remember the scene in Dirty Dancing when Patrick Swayze is teaching Jennifer Gray how to hold her frame while she dances and he shows her what area is her space? Well, I submit that the space directly over my lap, just in front of my chest, is my space. When the stranger in front of me lowers the seat back to sleep in flight, he or she is basically sleeping in my lap.

Maybe if I was shorter and didn't require a lot of leg room or if I was thinner and didn't tend to spill over into the seats on either side of me, I wouldn't mind as much. Maybe then there would be ample extra space allowing my neighbor up front to spread out and take a snooze. But I doubt it. My lap is my lap. Unless you have properly introduced yourself, bought me dinner and drinks, and I have invited you to rest in my lap, you cannot do so. It's presumptuous and rude.

Now please return your seat to the upright position. Or I might have to jostle my tray table around and laugh loudly for the next two hours.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Facebook Hiatus

Dear Facebook friends,

After weeks of careful consideration, recent events have confirmed that a vacation from Facebook is in order. This has been a difficult decision for me because I find tremendous joy in many of my connections on Facebook. I both blame and credit the social media platform for reuniting me with friends and family I had been separated from for a long time.

Reading about the major milestones and minor happenings in all of your lives enriches my life experience and often overwhelms me with gratefulness. It also pains me at times, pulls at my heart strings, reminds me how important it is to pray without ceasing and pushes me into action when others are in need. I don't know if the Facebook experience can be wholly and properly explained in words. It is an experience that, for me, engages every element of my being at times.

However, Facebook has robbed me of a lot of time. It has pilfered my face-to-face and voice-to-voice time with many of you. It has watered down the things that mattered most before Facebook and it has created an obstacle to growth in so many ways. I need more time to spend with actual people and not just avatars and statuses and online photo albums. I need to write instead of getting trapped in a vicious cycle of candy crush saga. I need to live my life.

I realize that many of us have just started our relationships either for the first time or after a long period of time apart. My departure from Facebook is, in no way, a reflection on you. Believe me, we would not be connected on Facebook if I didn't find at least a bit of fabulousness in you. And I hope when I return, you will still be on my friend list and I will be on yours.

I will still be blogging, both here and on tumblr. Hopefully, I will be blogging more frequently. Those blogs will still autopost on Facebook so you can keep up with my Facebook hiatus if you'd like. I hope to start a couple of new blogs during this time as well as get my children's book published and complete the fictional novel that is sitting on my life's back burner.

And if you really want to know how I am, instead of making assumptions based on a Facebook status or a tweet or a pin on Pinterest, you can reach me via email and by phone. I will have more time for conversations in the coming days so don't hesitate to call or meet me for lunch or dinner or ice cream.

Until we meet again Facebook friends...

All my best,


Thursday, February 21, 2013

Dad Called

For years, every time I called my parents' house, conversations between my dad and I would last little more than ten seconds before he handed me off to my mom who sat nearby. My dad, like many men, has never been a big phone talker. Lengthy conversations have always been reserved for my mom.

But as they have aged, roles have reversed a bit. Chats with my dad now last upwards of three minutes and often include short anecdotes from his day while my mom is often distant and short. While my mom once served as the information gatherer and would report back to dad regarding the events of my day or my week, she now takes a back seat to my dad who has taken on the role of lead reporter.

The other night, my dad called me. He had been out for dinner with my mom and my aunt. On their drive home, they stopped at a store to do some quick shopping. While the ladies went inside, dad stayed in the car and, to pass the time, he called me to talk. It was a milestone in our relationship.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Lyrical Attraction

Music has been an integral part of my life from the time I was very little. My dad owns hundreds of albums and 45s that he played over and over. Jumping on the bed while singing ruled my 6 year old world as the king of all pass times. Over the years, I've listened to and learned to love a little bit of everything. But I am typically attracted to music complimented by a bit of lyrical genius. The words matter to me.

Here's a relatively new song by a country artist names Kacey Musgraves. This is an example of a song that I believe excels in the lyrics department. In other words, I love it.

"Same hurt in every heart.
Same trailer, different park.
Mama's hooked on Mary Kay.
Brother's hooked on Mary Jane.
Daddy's hooked on Mary two doors down.
Mary, Mary quite contrary.
We get bored, so, we get married
Just like dust, we settle in this town.
On this broken merry go 'round and 'round and 'round we go
Where it stops nobody knows
and it ain't slowin' down.
This merry go 'round."

Monday, January 21, 2013

In Honor of Dr. King...

My favorite quotes by Dr. Martin Luther King. (Pulled from The King Center website.)

"I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final say in reality. Right temporarily defeated is stronger than evil triumphant."

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere."

"The time is always right to do what is right."

"Anybody can be great because anybody can serve... You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart."

"We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Top Ten Things I Do with My Dog (that would be more annoying if she wasa child)

Here is a list of the top ten things I do with my dog that would be more annoying if I was doing them with human children. Some of these things I swore I'd never do.

10. I complain about all of the toys strewn about my house and wonder aloud why they can't seem to find their way to the toy box.

9. I feel distraught when she behaves in a way that is contrary to what I've taught her (and sometimes I wonder what her life will become if I can't get her to act right).

8. I worry that she doesn't have enough friends or enough exposure to different people and animals.

7. I panic if I leave her alone for too long and I often leave her with my parents who "babysit" her. To make it worse, I call them frequently to check on her.

6. I imagine the horrible things that could be happening to her when I'm not around, like jumping through one of our second story windows in an attempt to find freedom.

5. I monitor her eating behaviors to make sure she's not eating too much but is getting enough nourishment to maintain her ideal body weight. (This is something I clearly don't even do for myself.)

4. I give her kisses constantly. Nothing on the lips. Just the cheek. Over and over and over.

3. I can't help but be concerned if she is warm enough. Now that she has a sweater (purchase for her by my sister), I am afraid her feet might be cold and often consider getting her some little booties. I have not buckled yet.

2. I examine her poop. Carefully.

1. I expect her to understand how I feel and to behave accordingly. I am frequently disappointed.

While most of those things already place me firmly in the crazy pet owner category, I suppose the good news is that I have room to get worse.