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.