Sunday, December 06, 2015

Nod, Smile, and Pass Along Your Cart

This is my Aldi quarter. I keep it in the console in my car and every Saturday, I grab it to use to rent a cart for my grocery shopping. Heading toward the cart corral, I usually run into someone who is returning a cart. Rather than taking a new one, I hand over my quarter to the friendly stranger in exchange for the cart he or she has been using.

That's how it works. Rarely does a shopper pick out a new cart. But rather, the exchange of grocery basket and quarter between two strangers occurs in the parking lot.

Here in south St. Louis, where I have lived all of my life, the diversity of our residents covers the four corners of the earth. A great deal of our city's growth has come thanks to minority populations. "My" Aldi is a gathering of nations. While, St. Louis is relatively segregated, Aldi is not. It is as culturally diverse as you might find, next to the farmer's market in Soulard. And, I love it.

My earliest memories include a desire to understand those who were different from me. Perhaps that desire grew from feeling very different myself. I was drawn to other children who looked different or sounded different or dressed differently that I did. The process of engaging others and learning about them at a very deep level seemed inherent and I enjoyed it beyond explanation. My pursuit to understand various cultures, religions, ways of thinking, and ways of life continues to this day. I pride myself on my ability to adapt and "do as the Romans do" when in new situations.

The slow Saturday walk through the narrow, product-filled aisles of Aldi, satisfies my need for that which is different. This past week, a Bosnian man with an adorable baby fidgeting in his arms gave me his grocery cart as I entered the store. I placed my quarter in his dry, work-worn palm, saying, "Thank you." He nodded and smiled. Later, an older, tiny Asian woman asked me to help her find a cut of meat. We did not speak the same language but she did know she wanted a filet. I reached to the top shelf and pulled some options from which she could choose. She selected a package and smiled and nodded her thanks to me. "You are welcome," I said returning the smile. Once I was in line to pay for my food, the lines stretched into the aisles. Children of many cultures begged their moms for snacks and toys in various languages and one little boy threw a temper tantrum. As we each left the store, we handed off our carts to the next round of shoppers who obliged us each with a new quarter to use next week.

Often I wonder how many hands my quarter has passed through en route to a trip through the grocery store. My Aldi quarter, quite possibly, has experienced more culture than most people. I also often think that if the world took a lesson from my south city Aldi, we would find more peace. Perhaps we spend too much time talking when words are not always necessary. We must return to the simplicity of the human experience. Nod. Smile. Pass along your cart to the next shopper.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Writers Write, Right?

My greatest ideas come
while driving in the car
or just before I climb out of bed
to start my day.

They hit be just before
the phone rings or
my dog decides she needs
a walk right now.

I work through them
in my head at first
ordering the words perfectly
before I sit to write.

But then distraction
wipes the ideas away
and my motivation wanes
until I give up.

Writers write right?
They do not merely
leave their thoughts to die.
They cultivate wonder.

Perhaps I am not
the writer I imagined
or the visionary creator
of genius on paper.

Maybe I am simply
the idea person
who kick starts clever notions
for others to see through.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Calling All Exes... Or Not

"Hello, it's me. I was wondering if after all these years you'd like to meet to go over everything. They say that time's supposed to heal ya, but I ain't done much healing."

This morning on the radio, the on-air talent bantered back and forth regarding a report that said the number of women calling their exes has soared since Adele released her song, "Hello."

In the song she anguishes over the destruction of her ex-lover's heart at her very own hands and she longs to apologize for doing so. Yet her ex never picks up the phone when she calls. She reminisces about a time when they were young and carefree but likens their breakup to the world falling at their feet. And now, it is too late to apologize.

From this tragic memory, the smooth and seemingly sacred bellow of Adele's voice creates a ballad that lulls the listener into a place of comfort and nostalgia. The music connoisseur cannot resist the temptation to trace through the mind's Rolodex of past loves and wonder where they are and if they ever wonder.

The level of conceit with which we operate when we assume that we obliterate the life of another simply by leaving is preposterous. We assume that we are the single most life changing event that our ex or exes have had. And then, we feel compelled to apologize. But for whom? Probably for ourselves... because we feel so profoundly bad for having done something we wouldn't wish on our worst enemy. Maybe...

While the lyrics make me cringe a bit because they are laden with selfishness, I love the sound of the song. I will admit, I ran through every breakup from minuscule to colossal in my memory bank. I hold some regrets from my past but I don't want to call and say I'm sorry. There is one, however, who I would like to see and talk to for a while. I have no idea where he is or how to find him. We endured a very trying time together. I survived. I am not sure what happened to him.

"Hello from the other side..."

Sunday, September 20, 2015

September: National Suicide Prevention Month

We don't talk about mental illness. We hide it in the back of the closet with the pants we will never fit in again and the sweater from grandma that we feel too guilty to throw away. We shove it in between the hairballs and dust bunnies that have created their own peaceful colony under the bed. We mumble about it between bites at dinner in a barely audible tone that might be confused for a sniffle or a cough. But we don't TALK about mental illness. We pretend as if it doesn't exist in the hopes that it will just go away.

However, like every other affliction of the human body, mental illness does not vacate on its own. In fact, for many, it does not vacate at all. Mental illness is a lifelong reality for people all around you but you wouldn't know it because they aren't allowed to talk freely about their health issue. The stigma carried with the mention of any mental illness whether it's schizophrenia or depression or bipolar disorder relegates the affected ones to a state of less than, not good enough, crazy.

My students use the term "bipolar" the same way we used the word "crazy." It's a word that is funny to them. People toss it around like they do the word gay. "You're so gay." "You're bipolar, Ms. R." Mental illness is a joke.

Unfortunately for a great number of people in the world population, it is not a joke. It is a disease like diabetes or arthritis or high cholesterol or hypothyroidism or GERD which all require daily care and daily medicinal treatment. Yet, we don't look at those who are diagnosed with GERD and tell them to suck it up and get their digestive systems together. We don't whisper behind the diabetic's back, "You know she has d-i-a-b-e-t-e-s..." We talk about it. We encourage others to stay healthy by sharing our stories. We are proud survivors or managers of our diseases UNLESS they are diseases related to our brains.

A few years ago, I was searching for an old, dear friend of mine. We hadn't seen each other since college but he was always on my mind. I reconnected with other mutual friends and acquaintances but I could never find him. I finally stumbled upon some photos of him playing ball overseas and eventually got in touch with his family. I missed him by just over a year. He had committed suicide. My heart was broken. It still is, quite frankly. I often imagine what it would have been like if we had gotten to see each other and talk to each other one more time.

I have a family member who also fights this seemingly impossible battle. The conditions of our nation's mental health institutions are deplorable. They are simply institutions, one step up from prison. In a country where we tout the importance of a balance between physical, mental and emotional wellness, I was horrified to find my family member in a building with no natural light, no windows, no outdoor space, no fresh air, no fitness facilities. They sat in a room full of sick people all day coloring and watching Maury. HOW ARE PEOPLE SUPPOSED TO GET WELL IN THAT ENVIRONMENT?

It is time for us to talk about mental illness, openly and honestly. People don't DO anything to get it. It's a chemical imbalance that for some is temporary and for others lasts a lifetime. Everybody is susceptible. People with mental illness aren't sick because they were bad or irresponsible or broke the law. It just happens. We need to understand, accept and be ok with that. We need to acknowledge the need to develop treatment plans that do not treat the sick like criminals and offer WHOLE HEALTH plans to those who are capable of recovery but have not been given the tools to do it.

Talk. Share your story. Help prevent a suicide. Break down the stigma. Reach out. Hugs don't heal but they help.

And if you are thinking about taking your own life, please stop. I might not know you but I know my world will shift dramatically without you in it. I need you holding up your corner so I can have balance in mine. (And I promise to do the same for you.) Now, call this number and start your journey to real freedom:  1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Are You Coachable?

At the age of eight, I played my first volleyball game. My career ended my senior year in college as an All-Conference Middle Hitter. Since my college days, I have been coaching. From camps to running a program for 3rd through 8th graders for eight years to coaching high school volleyball, l have remained involved in the sport that was my first love.

Over the years, the athletes who have entered my gym have changed dramatically from super-driven, do-whatever-it-takes kids who were pushed and encouraged by their parents to young people who have difficulty grasping the concept of team and who hear their coaches but don't necessarily listen to them. We created a society of student athletes who believe they deserve recognition, they deserve the classiest uniforms, and they deserve to win without ever really putting in the work required. I believe that started when we stopped keeping score and started giving trophies to everyone who showed up.

But volleyball is a GAME. Basketball is a game. Football is a game. Soccer is a game. The use of the word GAME alone implies that someone is supposed to WIN. Not everybody gets to have that experience. WE don't all get to take home the trophy. In team sports, the big trophies are awarded to THE WHOLE TEAM who SHARES ONE TROPHY. That's how it works. And in order to win, you have to be faster, stronger, better, more focused than the your opponent. The team must be comprised of a squad full of coachable people. What does that mean? Are you coachable?

Being a coachable athlete is to be like clay, moldable and stretchable beyond what you think your limits are.

If you already have all the answers or criticism makes you angry, you are not coachable. If you hear the coaches' instructions or guidance but you continue to do things your way, you are not coachable. If you quit (quit the team, quit performing a skill that makes you uncomfortable or that you don't like, quit in the midst of the game), you are not coachable.

If you willingly adjust when coaches ask (or yell) something, you are coachable. If you are the first in the gym and the last one out, you are coachable. If you are working on your skills on your own time, following the coaches' teaching, you are coachable. If you implement the plan laid out by the coach (EVEN IF YOU LOSE), you are coachable. If you hustle without being asked, give your coach your undivided attention, and you leave 100% on the court every single practice and every single game, even when you are mad at your coach, you are coachable.

And if you are coachable, the possibilities for your future OUTSIDE of sports are endless. Sports has a direct correlation to life. (That means, it is related.) The work ethic you practice in sports will carry over to your jobs. Your ability to build a chemistry with teammates will translate to your success as a cooperative and collaborative co-worker. How well do you bounce back when you lose or even FAIL? If you learn to do it now, mistakes in life will be easier to recover from or overcome.

As sure as the sun rises and sets, you will have setbacks and disappointments in sports, AND in life. Most of us already have experienced that. But being an athlete means you are determined, driven to succeed, relentless in your pursuit of perfection, adaptable, able to bounce back and refocus for the next time, willing to love your team through difficulties and exalt them in successes ABOVE YOURSELF. Being an athlete means being coachable.

Are you coachable?

Friday, May 15, 2015

Good Time Charlie vs. Education

Working in the advertising industry is a lot like being on MTV's The Real World. Instead of "seven strangers...picked to live in a together and have their lives taped... to find out what happens... when people stop being polite... and start getting real," the uniqueness of the ad biz is created by teams of people spending an inordinate amount of time together, both day and night, learning quickly the quirks and habits of each other and working toward common goals with ridiculous deadlines. It might not sound the exactly same to most people but if you've lived it, you understand. You cannot be successful as a team without constant interaction, without figuring out what makes your cohorts tick and without collaborating in a way that sets up each and every member of the team for success. When one fails, all fail and when one succeeds, all succeed. 

Advertising is the one industry that understands the true definition of team. The successful agency fosters team ideals. And while, the almost anti-rule environment, random hours and freedom of creative thought doesn't necessarily always translate to other business models or industries, the rest of the world could learn something from the ad world because it is about PEOPLE. In order to achieve success as a team, it is just as critical to support and build up the other players as it is to improve individual skills. The sharing of ideas is the impetus to crossing the finish line in first place. 

I miss advertising because I miss the teams. Being a teacher has allowed flourishing creativity which has been a joy but the lack of teamwork has been disheartening. I don't want to give the impression that nobody wants to work as a team but the culture of a workplace determines the level of teamwork "allowed" or encouraged. I had hoped for constant sharing and pouring into one another's lives as I had previously experienced. So far, I have experienced little or no sharing of great ideas. Others hold ideas so close to the vest while I would welcome the opportunity to throw my plans and ideas on a share drive for anyone to use. It's disheartening because I expected people who live to help children find success to be as encouraging and edifying to the other teachers in their circle. And my experience during my master's program led me to that expectation, I was surrounded by great teachers who nearly overwhelmed me with their thoughtfulness and kindness, all aimed at making sure I would become a great teacher too.

The world sees advertising as a space filled with a bunch of good time Charlies but I know it to be a place where you are surrounded by friends at your lowest lows and the celebrations of success and the big wins are shared with incredible teammates who feel more like family than coworkers. The ad industry made me rich in relationships and my teammates taught me how to be a better team player every day. I miss all my Charlies. I miss being about people and building relationships and loving each other while loving what we do.

Education should take note.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I'd Rather

"I'd rather" a lot of things. Tonight, for example, I'd rather make a list of things I'd rather do than read or grade papers. So, here you go.

  1. I'd rather wear sweatpants and a t-shirt than pretty much anything in the world.
  2. I'd rather live in the city than in the county. 
  3. I'd rather have dogs than cats.
  4. I'd rather cook for friends than go out for dinner.
  5. I'd rather be single than go on dates just for the sake of going on dates.
  6. I'd rather be alone than miserable.
  7. I'd rather love my job than make a lot of money.
  8. I'd rather spend time with the people I love now than regret missing out on their company later.
  9. I'd rather take a long walk in the snow than on the beach.
  10. I'd rather walk in the rain than use an umbrella
  11. I'd rather eat ice cream than cake.
  12. I'd rather be fat than mean.
  13. I'd rather walk a mile in your shoes than repeat my own mistakes.
  14. I'd rather tell the truth than lie but that's easier said than done sometimes.
  15. I'd rather have a very small circle of supporters than busloads of people who are just along for the ride.
  16. I'd rather be cheated on than be a cheater.
  17. I'd rather bear the brunt of your anger than thrust my own anger on you.
  18. I'd rather be understood than liked.
  19. I'd rather be respected than famous.
  20. I'd rather have the full use of my left leg back than have perfect vision.
  21. I'd rather relive high school than college because I think college would have been better if I'd made different decisions in high school.
  22. I'd rather be a famous musician than a good athlete.
  23. I'd rather have five minutes with the son I never met than 24 hours with anyone else.
  24. I'd rather get married than live the rest of my life alone except #6 & #7.
  25. I'd rather be a Cardinals fan who never sees a winner than be a Cubs fan.
  26. I'd rather vacation in a cabin at the lake than an five-star hotel.
  27. I'd rather be a successful writer than a great professor.
  28. I'd rather be rich than poor except #8.
  29. I'd rather be judged for my faults than hated for misgivings.
  30. I'd rather ask the questions than give the answers.
  31. I'd rather sing in front of 60,000 people than 10.
  32. I'd rather see my teammates successful than taste victory myself.
  33. I'd rather go fishing than sit on the beach.
  34. I'd rather learn your story than wonder who you are.
  35. I'd rather stay up all night than wake up early.

What would you rather?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Dear Sister, It's All in the Numbers

6 days!!!

Dear Sister,

As you may remember, tradition for 30th birthdays usually involves giving the birthday celebrant THIRTY of something. Anything, really... So, if I was not completely broke. I would give you forty of a lot of different things. In the spirit of "it's the thought that counts," here is a list of things I would get you in quantities of forty.

1. Bandaids. I would get you forty bandaids for all the scrapes and scratches you acquire from falling while running.
2. Lottery tickets. While it is sort of cliche, I would get you forty lottery tickets to increase your chances of riches.
3. Running Shoes. I would get you forty pairs of running shoes so you could run for the next 20 years, at least, with decent shoes on your feet.
4. Dollars. I would give you forty dollars to spend on whatever you want.
5. Spa Days. I would give you forty spa days so you could relax every 8 or 9 days.



Saturday, February 21, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 is a Blind Date

7 days...

Dear Sister,

In just seven short days, you will turn 40. It comes so quickly. Although you have lived a lot of life, it will sometimes seem as if the years flew by in the blink of an eye. 40 arrives out of, seemingly nowhere.

It's truly not a surprise. You knew it was coming. We all knew it was coming. But when it shows up, it is not wearing the clothes we thought it would. It doesn't look like we have imagined it would for so long. It doesn't sound like 40 is supposed to sound or feel like 40 is supposed to feel or taste like 40 is supposed to taste. But it is 40.

The thing about 40, too, is that nobody else can tell you exactly what you'll discover when it arrives. It's like going on a blind date with a guy you met online. You have seen pictures. You have read descriptions. You may have even gotten your hands on some testimonials that say, "He is a really great guy!" But then you get to the restaurant and the hostess points to a table where your date is waiting and you are... surprised.

Unlike a blind date, however, I think I can guarantee you that 40 is going to turn out just fine. The surprise will be a good one and not an "OH MY GOD... he looks nothing like his pictures which were clearly from 20 years ago" kind of surprise.

So get ready. 40 is lurking right around the corner, waiting to burst into your life. In just seven more days...



Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 is DELICIOUS!

What's a birthday without food? 10 days...

Dear sister,

Let's talk food. In 1975, the year you were born, food history was made too. Did you know that POP ROCKS were accidentally invented in 1975? The inventor was actually trying to create some kind of powdered soft drink when he stumbled up that explosive little gem.

Country Time Lemonade, which was a staple in our house, was also introduced 40 years ago.

Some of the most popular party foods of the 1970s included things like Jiffy Pop Popcorn, melon wrapped in ham, and deviled eggs. Deviled eggs are still a must as far as I'm concerned.

Finally, salad bars became popular in the 70s. Maybe that's why you are so into the rabbit food. You grew up with salad bars!



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 is on Film

11 days until the day we celebrate 40!

Dear sister,

There are some movies turning 40 this year too. Here are the top five:

1. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

If you haven't seen this one, I recommend it. It is a Jack Nicholson masterpiece and I LOVE the big Indian in this one.

2. Jaws

Another classic but I can't watch it again. Even though it is RIDICULOUS, it scares the crap out of me.

3. Funny Lady

For a singer, any Barbara Striesand movie is worth the time. But dad loves this one too. I have caught him watching it a number of times.

4. The Rocky Horror Picture Show

I have a love-hate relationship with this one. I think I love it because in the 80's, it played at the Avalon at midnight and I would go with my friends.

5. The Escape to Witch Mountain

I remember watching this as a kid. I think it's been remade with Dwayne Johnson which, of course, is genius.



Monday, February 16, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 IS BIBLICAL

With 12 days left, I thought we'd turn toward the WORD...

Dear Sister,

I know you and the man upstairs have gotten pretty close as of late so I thought you would like to know what the Bible says about 40. It's pretty exciting actually. I just swiped this from the website  and I'd like to claim I just knew all of this but... it's been a while!

Here are the top ten awesome things the bible says about 40:

1. Mentioning 146 times in Scripture, the number 40 generally symbolizes a period of testing, trial or probation. During Moses' life he lived forty years in Egypt and forty years in the desert before God selected him to lead his people out of slavery. Moses was also on Mount Sinai for 40 days and nights, on two separate occasions (Exodus 24:18, 34:1 - 28), receiving God's laws. He also sent spies, for forty days, to investigate the land God promised the Israelites as an inheritance (Numbers 13:25, 14:34).

2. The number forty can also represent a generation of man. Because of their sins after leaving Egypt, God swore that the generation of Israelites who left Egyptian bondage would not enter their inheritance in Canaan (Deuteronomy 1). The children of Israel were punished by wandering the wilderness for 40 years before a new generation was allowed to possess the promised land. 

So, it seems you are finally headed into The Promised Land, sister.

3. The first three human kings over the children of Israel, Saul, David and Solomon, each ruled for forty years (1050 to 930 B.C.). After the united kingdom split into two separate pieces, King Joash served forty years as one of Judah's better kings.

It's apparently great to be a king.

4. After the patriarch Jacob (Israel) died in Egypt, the Egyptians spent forty days embalming his body (Genesis 50:3).

I didn't include this because I think 40 means death. I just think this is proof that PREPARATION is everything.

5. God allowed the ancient Israelites, from time to time, to be harassed and dominated by certain enemies in order to chastise and humble them for their sins. The Philistine's, in the southern and western parts of Israel's land, harassed them from 1105 to 1065 B.C. God's resolution to the harassment was Samson (see Judges 13:1, 1Samuel 7:13, 15 - 17).

40 brings humility.

6. The Bible was written by forty different people.

Fun fact. Not sure how it impacts you but, I thought it was cool.

7.  Elijah strengthened by one angelic meal went forty days to Mount Horeb where the Lord passed by and he heard the voice of God
(1 Ki 19:8 KJV) And he arose, and did eat and drink, and went in the strength of that meat forty days and forty nights unto Horeb the mount of God.
8. It rained for 40 days and 40 nights when God wanted to cleanse the world and start over.
(Gen 7:12 KJV) And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights.
Noah waited another 40 days after it rained before he opened a window in the Ark.
(Gen 8:6 KJV) And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noah opened the window of the ark which he had made.

9. Jonah warned the City of Nineveh they had 40 days until God would overthrow the city. The people repented in those 40 days and God spared the city.
(Jonah 3:4 and 10 KJV) And Jonah began to enter into the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.

10. Jesus was seen in the earth 40 days after His crucifixion(Acts 1:3 NIV) After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.

Miracles happen at 40.

Yay, miracles!



Sunday, February 15, 2015

Dear Sister, You Know What They Say

13 days...

Dear sister, I have researched 40 A LOT. And there are quite a few resounding opinions regarding what you need to know. Here are the top three:

1. Once you turn 40, you are always right. It's your life, they are your decisions, and you are always in control of your own life. The opinions of others are simply opinions. They don't become ADVICE until you take it. So take it, or leave it. It's up to you.

2. Sex in your 40s is the best sex ever. I realize this is an uncomfortable topic for us. And I am not speaking from experience here since I tend to just sit in my house all of the time. But rumor has it that this sex that happens after 40 is AMAZING. I would tell you to let me know how that goes but I don't really want to know. Just smile and nod and I will understand.

3. You will learn to use the word "NO" liberally. Except for when it comes to sex, apparently. You will say no to foods you don't like, people you don't want to hang around with and places you do not want to go. You will no longer feel obligated to say yes or to extend favors beyond your comfort zone. In other words, you will be two-year-old Denise again. Except, once again, that sex thing... ew.

Mercy me... 40 is right around the corner.



Saturday, February 14, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 is Love

14 days from the 14th...

Dear Sister,

Not just because it is Valentine's Day... 40 is LOVE. I really love being in my 40's and I hope you will too. Here are some of my favorite quotes about LOVE for today:

“You've gotta dance like there's nobody watching,
Love like you'll never be hurt,
Sing like there's nobody listening,
And live like it's heaven on earth.” 
― William W. Purkey

“You know you're in love when you can't fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” 
― Dr. Seuss

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” 
― Martin Luther King Jr.A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches

“We accept the love we think we deserve.” 
― Stephen ChboskyThe Perks of Being a Wallflower

“I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you simply, without problems or pride: I love you in this way because I do not know any other way of loving but this, in which there is no I or you, so intimate that your hand upon my chest is my hand, so intimate that when I fall asleep your eyes close.” 
― Pablo Neruda100 Love Sonnets

“Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none.” 
― William ShakespeareAll's Well That Ends Well



Friday, February 13, 2015

Dear sister, 40 is Music

15 days... 3 work weeks really...

Dear sister,

Let's look back at music today. 1975 was a history-making year for reasons that go beyond your birth. ONE of them is the amazing music that ROCKED the industry. Here are the top 10 songs from 1975:

10. Thank God I'm a Country Boy, John Denver
9. One of These Nights, The Eagles
8. Laughter in the Rain, Neil Sedaka
7. Fame, David Bowie
6. Shining Star, Earth Wind & Fire

5. My Eyes Adored You, Frankie Valli
4. Before the Next Teardrop Falls, Freddy Fender
3. Philadelphia Freedom, Elton John

2. Rhinestone Cowboy, Glen Cambell
1. Love Will Keep Us Together, Captain and Tenille



Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dear Sister, This is Late But Here is a List


Dear sister,

I realize that 17 days is not enough time to complete a bucket list. But, there are a lot of gals out there who created a list of things to do before they turned 40. I am not going to steal their thunder. But here are some links you can check out. I will warn you, one of these gals felt that posing naked was necessary. This is not on any of my lists. NONE. Sky diving seems pretty popular too. Hell-to-the-no!




Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 is a Free For All

18 days until the BIG day...

Dear sister,

I don't know if this little nugget of information is going to make you feel good about 40 or scare the crap out of you but I think you should know... The day you turn 40 that little voice in your head that says, "you probably shouldn't wear that" dies. Yes I said it dies. Dead. Gone. You will no longer care about wearing clothes that are either stylish or appropriate. 

For some of us, we resign ourselves to yoga pants. Others retire into fat pants or sweat pants or house dresses. There are mornings when I take the dog out in pajama pants, fuzzy socks and tennis shoes. And I never thought I'd let the public see me in my glasses with my hair all over my head, but 40... I am sure my neighbors talk all kinds of trash about my dog-walking attire. But I don't care. I think this might be the start of an episode of THE PEOPLE OF WALMART but until I show up online in a photo with my butt hanging out of a thong in the candy aisle, I am not going to worry about it.

You shouldn't worry either. You are 40. WEAR WHAT YOU WANT! Maybe we should pick you up one of those cheese bras next time we are in Wisconsin.



Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 is a Game


Dear sister,

Arcades become popular when we were kids and while we didn't really get into them much beyond Atari, there are some video games turning 40 this year too. Here are a few:

1. Pong

Of course this is number one. Plink.... plink.... plink...

2. Jaws

I am assuming this was to coincide with the movie.

3. Anti- Aircraft

The first of the shooting games...

1975 was the beginning of the video game revolution. Lots of big things happened that year, huh?



Friday, February 06, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 More

23 days until the 40th year of my sister's life begins.

Dear sister,

We talk about turning 40 or celebrating a 40th birthday. But we rarely talk about a birthday as a beginning. It is though. The day you turn 40 is the beginning of your 40th year. It's the beginning of at least 40 more years. That's a lot of time. Think of everything you have accomplished and how much more can be done in 40 more years. I bet that's overwhelming.

I am sure the world can wait a week for you to get started so take your time. But, I have made a list of 40 things, I think we should try to do some time in the next 40 years. And by WE, sometimes I mean just you...

40. Learn to drive an RV. (This could come in handy for our family road trips).
39. Learn to drive your own car. (I am not saying you necessarily don't know HOW to drive but your bumper might need a break from those fender benders. I'm just sayin'...)
38. Take more naps.
37. Run more marathons.
36. Eat more chicken. (Cows everywhere agree.)
35. While you're eating... Eat more cake. (I will gladly help with this.)
34. Get your Masters degree. (You keep saying you want to do it!)
33. Vacation on the beach.
32. Road trip down Route 66.
31. Visit Europe.
30. Shakespeare in the park.
29. A whole week in New York.
28. Take part in the 3-day walk for breast cancer.
27. Volunteer 4 times a year together.
26. Redo mom & Dad's family room.
25. Get pedicures.
24. And while we are at it, get manicures.
23. Go see a double feature.
22. Eat bacon sandwiches at Crowne Candy.
21. Trace the whiskey trail. (You can bring Ed for this one.)
20. Take Kirk to see the world's biggest tree house.
19. Detox. (This one is purely selfish. I fail every time I try.)
18. Go to a ballet.
17. Stalk Dwayne Johnson (Again, this is purely selfish. I just don't want to do this alone.)
16. See a concert at Red Rocks in Colorado.
15. See a concert on the lawn at the History Museum.
14. Enter a chili cook-off contest.
13. Throw a tailgate party.
12. Go see a MIZZOU football game.
11. Hire a limo to drive us around all day for no reason.
10. Work a lemonade stand.
9. Yoga.
8. Take a pole dancing class.
7. Take a cooking class.
6. Ride in a hot air balloon with dad.
5. Take a train through Napa.
4. Take mom wine tasting in Hermann.
3. Play catch on the Field of Dreams.
2. Host a massive fundraising party.
1. Keep on keepin' on.

OH MY GOSH... 40 more years. This is going to be fun.



Thursday, February 05, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 Things You've Done

Just 24 days... WOOP!

Sister, you have accomplished so much in the last 40 years. I thought I should make a list.

1. Learned to eat solid foods.
2. Learned to crawl.
3. Learned that crying will get you almost anything you want. (This is an important skill for women.)
4. Learned to walk.
5. Learned to run.
6. Mastered the monkey bars.
7. Learned to read.
8. Aced elementary school.
9. Played high school basketball.
10. Graduated from high school.
11. Moved away from home all by yourself!
12. Earned a college degree.
13. Graduated from college while simultaneously planning a wedding.
14. Got married.
15. Stayed married.
16. Still married!
17. Worked for the same employer for 14 years. HOLY COW! I could never...
18. Gave birth to a wonderful little human being.
19. Volunteered numerous hours at church.
20. Delivered meals to those in need.
21. Ran your own Pampered Chef business.
22. Became an accomplished runner.
24. Won awards for your work.
25. Traveled the world.
26. Served as mom to a gigantic pet family.
27. Learned to drive!
28. Successfully owned a number of vehicles.
29. Bought a house!
30. Performed in front of many (as a child & as an adult in Tennessee!)
31. Survived a hurricane.
32. Said no to drugs.
33. Became a prayer warrior.
34. Supported every endeavor of your sister.
35. Devoted yourself to the upbringing of your son.
36. Became a really awesome mom.
37. Grew into an amazing daughter.
38. Made managing a home look like a piece of cake.
39.Survived 39 years!
40. Turned 40... well almost!



Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Dear Sister, Thanks for Treating my Dog Like a Child

Hey, there are 25 days until you are 40...

Dear sister,

Shiloh loves you.

I love how you treat her like family. I mean, I am the epitome of a crazy dog lady. You indulge me and I appreciate that. Thanks for taking my pup for walks and runs and still loving her even after she dragged you down the sidewalk. Thank you for her special treats and her first sweater. And thank you for putting up with my pet insanity.

Shiloh and I appreciate it!



Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Dear Sister, It's Time to Detox

26 days left...

Dear sister,

You have always been really good about keeping your circle small. But the beauty of your 40s is that it is more than acceptable to remove the toxic people from your life. Surround yourself with those who edify you and build you up. Keep the positive, uplifting friends nearby to celebrate the victories in your life and clear out the negative, the nay sayers, the folks who have no stake in your success. You have always been better at this than me. But it's a good rule to hang onto for your 40s. It is great to be a giver but after 40, it's time to reap a bit of the reward for your goodness, your kindness, and your faithfulness.



Monday, February 02, 2015

Dear Sister, Welcome to the Tired Years

With only 28 days until you turn 40, sister, I feel like it is important to tell you some things that you may have not heard before...
Dear sister,

Welcome to the tired years. I realize that you have been falling asleep in random places for the bulk of your life but the 40th year of your life opens a new chapter of sleepiness. And although you have mastered the art of just going to sleep when you are tired, 40 allows you to lose the shame that comes with "early to bed." You are 40 after all. You are no longer some young spring chicken so folks expect you to go to bed earlier and not stay up all night. Yes, my dear, IT'S OK TO SLEEP NOW! Whenever and wherever. I will probably still take pictures of you though. And I will probably still post them online.



Sunday, February 01, 2015

Dear Sister, You are a Rock

29 days until my little sister is 40 years old!

Dear sister,

Our family is blessed to have you. I don't know if you are aware that you are a rock for us. You are the one we all turn to when we need support. You are the one who listens. You know when to get emotionally involved and when to stay neutral. I don't know what we would do without you.



Saturday, January 31, 2015

Dear Sister, Here's Some Man Candy

With only 30 days left until my sister's 40th birthday, I thought it was time to check out some hotties who are also OVER 40.

Dear Sister,

Enjoy the man candy.

Tim McGraw. He will be 48 this year and he has been married to the same woman since 1996. That's no small feat in show biz. This guy is a real good man.

And how about the adorable Matt Damon? He is 43 years old and just as yummy as he was when he played a kid genius in Good Will Hunting. He would not have to work for days to figure out my word problems, that's for sure!

Let's just stare at Paul Rudd for a minute. I don't think this 45-year-old gets nearly enough attention. He is cute, he is funny, and sometimes he makes me uncomfortable. But I still think he is lovely.

Patrick Dempsey will never not be a total sex pot. He is proof that you should maybe give the dorky guys a chance because deep inside there is a hottie just waiting to blossom. And he plays a doctor on TV which doesn't necessarily mean he is smart but he can play smart and sometimes that is all that matters!

 Dear John Stamos, if you and I ever hooked up, we would certainly have a FULL HOUSE. (I am sorry... Is that #inappropriate?) I have loved him since I was 13 but John just keeps on keeping on. Maybe it's that Greek yogurt he's been schlepping. Whatever it is, this man does OVER 40 right ALL DAY.

Sister I know you aren't surprised to see the better half of Brangelina here. This Missouri bred hunk of burning love seems to not only become a better human being as time passes but he also just gets more delicious. Like fine wine, this man can make all your problems disappear with that steamy squint of his. Stop it Brad. That's not fair to all the other guys.

If you don't already know who he is, sister, let me introduce you to Idris Alba. That smile will melt you faster that butter in a hot skillet. This man is DELIGHTFUL and always dressed to the nines. Over 40? Oh Lordy, yes! And looking good while he's at it.

Last but not least, MY man, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. This man needs no words. Just look at him. Go ahead. It's ok. It's ALMOST your birthday. Mmm-mm-mmm. Can you smell what the Rock is cookin'? Whatever it is, it is HOT.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Dear Sister, RUN!

31 days until THE BIG 4-0!

Dear Sister,

I am FOREVER inspired by your running. I always hated running until I wasn't able to do it which gives credence to the old saying "you don't know what you've got til it's gone."

I remember when you were preparing to run your first marathon. I thought, "this is crazy." You trained hard, running with a group who help push you to your goals. The day you ran 13 miles for the first time, you called me to tell me about it. I was amazed.

A short time later, you discovered you were pregnant with my nephew and you were going to have to dial it back a bit. But you ran that marathon anyway. Again, what an inspiration.

Last year, in Chicago, I felt really luck to be able to follow you along your half marathon route. Kirk and I timed your miles and followed that app that told us exactly when you would be at various check points. Standing at the finish line waiting to see you was exhilarating and a little nerve-wracking. But what fun!

Every time I see you run I think, "Man I would really like to do that too." While I am not able, I am sure you are inspiring others as well! So RUN, SISTER! Run! Keep up the good work!



Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Dear Sister, Where to Next?

32 days 'til FORTY!

Dear sister,

I am so grateful for the relationship you and I have developed as adults. Being four years apart when you're growing up seems like such a huge gap. But when you finally reach the age when it doesn't matter, everything changes.

It would be impossible for me to pick a favorite moment from all of our good times but I have really enjoyed seeing the country with you. There is nobody else I would want to take a carriage ride in Memphis with or who I would rather have sitting beside me in a gondola up the side of a mountain. With the exception of your son, I can't imagine riding out a hurricane in New York with anyone but you or road tripping through an insane number of tolls just to get to Wisconsin.

Without you, I probably couldn't take my dog on our little vacations. And without you, WHO would get on stage, shake that money maker and don a ridiculous hat just to entertain a crowd full of strangers. Fishing, swimming, admiring buffalo, traipsing through the Badlands, literally chasing cabs in New York City... I am so glad I have a sister to do those things with me.

More than the traveling memories we have made, I look forward to the adventures that lie ahead of us sister! Where to next?



Monday, January 26, 2015

Dear Sister, Your 40 and My 40 Might Be Different

33 days... woah.

Dear sister,

In 33 days, you will turn 40 years old and I have a confession to make. I don't really know that I know that much about living in the 40 decade even though I have done it for roughly three years at this point. And truthfully married, mom 40 is so intensely different that single, no kids 40.

If you were single and childless like me, I would be writing blogs giving you advice about online dating after 40, single sex after 40, how to get pregnant (or not) after 40. I would be posting long lists of meat market hangouts in town where you could find single men and the tastiest beverages. I would offer suggestions for hobbies or activities in which you could engage that would help you broaden your social circle. I would be sending you links to great places around the world for solo travel.

In many ways, turning 40 is the same for everyone. There is that "is this middle age" or "is this the top of the hill" kind of feeling. And there is the "oh my god, I can't believe I am already 40" thought which is fairly common. But in many ways your 40 and my 40 might be different.

And that's ok. In fact it's awesome. It's what makes the world go around.

Love you, Sister!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Dear Sister, You Could Be a Millionaire!

34 days until my sister's 40th birthday...

Dear sister,

With only 34 days until your 40th birthday, I thought you'd like to know that for many, their greatest success came after 40. What does that mean for you? Well, it means that, while you are already hugely successful in your life, there's still time for MORE GREATNESS.

Did you know that Julia Child didn't write her first book until she was 50? And Vera Wang, most well known for the decadent wedding dresses she creates, did not begin her designing adventure until she was 40 years old.

Remember the beloved television show "Little House on the Prairie?" Laura Ingalls Wilder didn't publish the first book in that series until she was well over 60. Even Mother Teresa won her Nobel Peace Prize after 40. In fact, she was almost 70!

There is a host of women who are millionaires who didn't make that money until after they turned 40. I guess that's good news for both of us! Ariana Huffington, one of my personal heroes, was 55 years old when she sold her company for $315 million. Liz Claiborne didn't delve into fashion until she was in her 40s and Ursula Burns became, not only a millionaire, but also the CEO of XEROX at the age of 50.

It's encouraging to know that you can continue to grow after 40. You can start new things after 40 too. Most exciting is the notion that you can even become a millionaire after 40! Go Sister!

EEEK! Not long now!



Dear Sister, You are in Good Company Turning 40

35 days...

Dear sister, I hear that 40 is the new 20 (which, incidentally, means that 44 is the new 24 and that thrills me)! I dug up a little proof for you.

Did you know that studies show that for the first time in history, more people in their 40s are getting married for the first time? I realize that this doesn't apply to you but hopefully this information will help you stop worrying about me! Along the same lines, more women in their 40s are having their first child. Thank you modern medicine.

But enough about me... Also for the first time in history, more women over 40 in Hollywood are being cast in LEADING roles and on stage divas like Sheryl Crowe are still rocking on their way to their 50s. Here are some other famous ladies who will be turning 40 with you this year. If they aren't the real proof that 40 is the new 20, I don't know what is.

Drew Barrymore also has a February birthday! She will be 40 on the 22nd. The hilarious Chelsea Handler will beat you to 40 by just three days.

 Actresses Eva Longoria and Angelina Jolie will embrace 40 and all its glory in 2015 and I am certain they will continue to look absolutely fabulous.

Less famous but notable Nadia Suleman (the OCTOmom) and Kate Gosselin (from Jon & Kate Plus 8) are marching into the 40s with you as well.

That's not all! Mayim Bialik, Charlize Theron, and Danica McKellar will also blow out 40 candles on their big days.

You are in really good company, sister!

Lots of beauties are turning 40. Including you!

Almost there... OMG.



Saturday, January 24, 2015

Dear Sister, Don't Just Take My Advice about Turning 40

36 days!

Dear sister, since you are only 36 days away from your 40th birthday, I thought it might be a good idea to gather some perspectives other than mine about this BIG day. So here are some quotes from others, some famous and some not, to guide you on your journey and potentially to make you cry a little. (It happens. You're almost 40.)

Life begins at 40 - but so do fallen arches, rheumatism, faulty eyesight, and the tendency to tell a story to the same person, three or four times.” Helen Rowland

At the age of 20, we don't care what the world thinks of us; at 30, we worry about what it is thinking of us; at 40, we discover that it wasn't thinking of us at all.Author Unknown

Forty isn't old, if you're a treeAuthor Unknown

The "I just woke up" face of your 30's is the "all day long" face of your 40's." Libby Reid

Forty is the old age of youth; fifty is the youth of old age.” Victor Hugo

The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which mean never losing your enthusiasm.” Aldous Huxley

35 is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained thirty-five for years.” Oscar Wilde

There is so much more than that little space from 14 to 40. And if you cut that off and begin to believe that you are not good past a certain age, then you end up scared and insecure and afraid. That is definitely NOT beautiful.” Rene Russo

Friday, January 23, 2015

Dear sister, 40 is Kind of Scary

37 days. until my sister turns 40...

Dear sister,

I would be lying to you if I didn't tell you that 40 is a little bit scary. While it is liberating and it opens the door to an exciting new chapter of your life, 40 has a seriousness about it.

First of all, your health is uncomfortably in question. You have to get mammograms after 40. It's a yearly test just to make sure you don't have breast cancer which means that, for some reason, it is possible every year after 40 that you might have cancer. That's scary.

Some of us are lucky enough to have our first official stress test at 40 too. Again, nobody worried about my heart when I was 39. But ALL OF A SUDDEN, at 40 years old concern cropped up regarding the functionality of my heart.

Secondly, 40 equals ADULTHOOD at all costs. For me, in particular, 40 meant I had to finally grow up. Even though you grew up long before I did, there is a finality about 40 for all of us. You CANNOT be a kid any more no matter how tempted you are. This is the NO turning back point. You are grown, you must act grown and if you don't, people will talk about you. (Although some folks will talk about you no matter what.)

Finally, 40 is a clean slate. While that sounds enticing, it is frightening to think about how you are going to fill that slate. It implies there is work to do to find that happiness and freedom. So make a plan, sister. Don't just coast through 40. This is bigger than you realize.



Love, Sister

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 is an Accomplishment

38 days until my sister turns 40.

Dear sister,

I don't know if you realize what an accomplishment 40 is. Even more, I don't know if you realize how proud I am of everything you have accomplished in your 40 years.

I am not referring to the typical accomplishments like learning to walk and talk and use the potty which you mastered like a boss. And, while surviving high school and graduating from college are really a big deal, I don't mean that either. I am talking about all of those other MAJOR things that you have done.

For example, you birthed my nephew in record time with NO drugs and you have raised him to be one of the kindest, most loving human beings I have ever known. There is nothing in this world for which I am more grateful. He is the bright spot in my dark days and my inspiration to be better in life on a daily basis. And he came from YOU. You did that sister. You cooked that little sucker up and brought him into the world like I eat cake... quickly and with great ease.

Also, you have worked the same job for 14 years. I would DIE in the same place for 14 years. I haven't done anything for 14 years except drive a car. Even when it wasn't easy, you stuck it out and worked hard and you have achieved career longevity. That is not only admirable but also a testament to strong character.

Did I mention that you run? I used to run because I had coaches screaming at me. Now the only time you would see me running is if someone was chasing me. But you run not only because you enjoy it but also because you are so good at it. 5Ks, half marathons, marathons... You run. And that is amazing.

How about the fact that you are one of the most committed and dedicated people I have ever known. When you believe in something, you plant your feet firmly in it and dedicate your life to it. Whether it is your family, your church, or your God, you give your whole self (within reason) which is an incredible example for those around you.

In addition to that dedication, you love others well. Strangers, friends, and family benefit from the gift of love that you share with everyone you meet.

You have traveled, you have volunteered, you have trained others on their way to creating a better lives for themselves... You will whip up a pan of mostaciolli for any family in need and most of the time a batch of chocolate chip cookies will accompany it. You get up EVERY TIME you fall. And you fall a lot. BUT YOU GET UP.  You eat healthy and take good care of yourself and your family and the zoo you have living in your house.

Sister, you have accomplished so much in life already. Turning 40 is just another thing to add to the list. It is also another chapter in which I am sure that you will add trophies and travels and many more great deeds.

Not long now. Almost happy birthday sister.



Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 is Freedom

In just 39 short days, my little sister will turn FORTY years old! The following is my day 39 blog and my 2nd wish for her birthday.

Dear sister,

In 39 days you will enter a phase of your life that is built for pure enjoyment. From the moment you begin to wear the big 4-0, you are officially free.

It took me 40 years to realize that all the trials and tribulations of life had purpose. I always believed that everything happened for a reason. And I was always fairly certain that it was all connected somehow. But I never fully understood how the exploration of my twenties and the discovery of my thirties would lead to absolute freedom in my forties.

Your 40th birthday will bring with it relief and an unyielding sovereignty. All of that time you spent figuring out who you were as a teenager and a twenty-something go-getter and the years of setting plans in motion toward the fulfillment of every dream you ever dreamed in your thirties will pay off. You will finally be the ruler of your life.

40 is Freedom, sister. No longer concerned with building your life, you can now just LIVE IT!

My wish for you today is that you will embrace the freedom of your forties whole-heartedly and just ENJOY the world you have created without worry or concern.

I love you,


Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Dear Sister, 40 is a Time to Dream

Four years ago, I prepared to turn 40 by blogging for 40 days until my birthday. Forty days from today, my little sister will turn 40. So for the next 40 days, I will blog for my sister. I will write everything I want her to know about being 40 and anything else that may come to mind.

I hope you will follow along and get ready to wish Denise a HAPPY 40th BIRTHDAY!

Forty is a time to dream.

Dear sister,

My sister Denise and I with my dog in the Badlands of South Dakota.
I never imagined being 40 years old and I certainly never imagined that my little sister would be 40.  But 40 was my favorite year of life to date! 

Some of my earliest memories are actually of dreams I had for my future. I had hoped to grow up, get married, have a house full of kids and build the American dream. As it turns out, all of that was not in the cards for me. However, one of my greatest joys has been watching you build your American dream. I am so thankful that you have been able to experience the thrill of being a wife and mother and that you were able to give our parents a grandchild to cherish. 

Turning 40 brought forth a revelation for me that I want to pass along to you. Dreaming isn't just for children. I realized somewhere on the route to this major milestone that I had been reinventing myself for years and that it was still ok for me to pursue my dreams. I learned not to be discouraged just because the dreams I had as a child may not have come to pass exactly as I thought they would. And I made a decision, roughly 40 days out, that my fortieth year was going to rock. There's a lot to be said for DECIDING to enjoy something before it happens.

So I made a plan for my fortieth year. I decided that I would volunteer once a month. I planned to spend more time having fun and less time worrying. I didn't map out every detail but I plotted it out in my head and began to dream it up in my heart. Indeed, 40 was the happiest year of my life.

Sister, as you embark on your fortieth year, my wish for you is many more years of dreams fulfilled. I hope that you will dare to dream in your fortieth year and that you will watch as your dreams continue to come true. It is never too late to do absolutely anything you want to do. 

I also wish for you a happiness beyond measure. I hope you experience joy in a way you never have.

I love you!