My Carnival Career is Back in Business

After my PTA Carnival days ended approximately 4 years ago, I vowed I was finished with the carnival planning “business” (you’ve heard what volunteers get paid, right?).

BUT…Coach and I are super excited about chairing the 2017 Tulsa Walk to End ALZ, and it’s time to really begin our Walk efforts so we are kicking off the fun in the best way we know how: a party at the football field ❤️💛💙💜

IMG_2823.jpg

We’ve already confirmed with several Walk teams and Walk supporters to join us for the fun:

  • a local radio station to provide live music
  • Barre 3 Tulsa will be teaching a free community class in the south end zone
  • our TU Spirit Squad will be on hand giving out free t-shirts and Golden Hurricane goodies
  • my Tulsa football boys will be on the field passing the ball and teaching impeccable touchdown technique with the kids (of all ages)
  • there will be more than one fun photo opportunity to enjoy
  • Verdigris High School Softball Team wants to see just how fast you can pitch a baseball or softball with their handy radar gun
  • the Cascia Hall Cheerleaders are setting up sidewalk chalk for everyone to dazzle us with their creations

We will offer a very reasonable dinner purchase (I’m thinking a BBQ plate or hamburger basket), water and soft drinks, and definitely some sweet treats like maybe an ice cream stand or son-cone truck.  Or a CAKE WALK – that would be perfect!!

And, of course, there will be help on hand to get you registered for the 2017 Tulsa Walk to End ALZ.  You are always welcome to join our team (TEAM SANDRA JEAN), or you can start your own.  We will also have information about the many services and programs available to help those you love who are dealing with Alzheimer’s.  You are not alone, and we want to make sure you know what assistance is out there and how to access it!

Let me know if you have a Walk team, church or neighborhood group, civic or social organization, company or business that would like to participate in our kickoff carnival.  Hey, I’ll take individuals and families and flocks of friends – anyone who wants to help out is greatly appreciated!! We are open to all kinds of fun booths and games to attract and entertain the community.

My vision is BIG, so come one, come all, and let’s have some fun!

Love and hugs,

Ashli

PS:  Please like and share our Facebook event to help advertise the fun: 2017 Tulsa Walk to End ALZ Kickoff Party – June 21st

Wednesday Awareness: A Sea of Purple

Before I begin our #Walk2EndALZ wrap-up, I want to say a quick thank you to Kelly Hines, TU Sportswriter for the Tulsa World, for helping us bring awareness to ending Alzheimer’s disease with a great piece that was included in her “TU Notebook” column today: $30,000 for a Good Cause.  We are quite lucky to have a supportive sports writing community here in Tulsa which is definitely not always the case in college towns; we appreciate media personalities like Kelly and John Moss and many others taking the time to get to know us as more than “Coach Montgomery & Co.” Their support of our fight against Alzheimer’s is very much appreciated!

The Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s was fantastic!!

14680936_1102124296575490_8939535430583851231_o

A Beautiful Sea of Purple

MawMaw and SonShine

MawMaw and SonShine

Angel Girl and Momma

Angel Girl and her Momma

The kids and I, along with MawMaw, layered up on a beautiful, sunny, crisp Oklahoma morning and headed out to Guthrie Green with about 5,000 fellow walkers.  The set up this year was a blast – kudos to whomever came up with the party bead idea!

The Alzheimer’s Association has a foundation of 5 guiding pillars:

  1. Concern & Awareness
  2. Advocacy
  3. Care & Support
  4. Accelerate Research
  5. Grow Revenue

Each of these pillars was represented with a different color of party beads at the Walk last Saturday.  We had a ton of fun collecting each color by visiting different information booths.  It was truly a clever way to direct such a wonderful crowd throughout the event grounds!

I am proud to report that all four of us succeeded in getting all five colors of beads, we visited with friends (both new and old) while exploring the tables, and even got a super cute picture for my scrapbook:

img_1760

When the program began, I took my place on stage with my SonShine and Angel Girl by my side.  I was tasked with sharing a personal – and inspirational – story.  I certainly did not want to be a “downer” on such a fun occasion, but the fact of the matter is that Alzheimer’s is a downer.  I decided on a story about Coach’s mom, Sandra; here is that story and the first part of my script:

ASHLI:

Hi, everyone!  I am so happy to be here with you this morning!!  Coach sends his “hello” and wishes he could be here, too.  But he is preparing for our Homecoming game this afternoon so instead he send his greetings as well as our two kids.

Many of you may have heard that this cause is personal for us.  Philip’s mom, Sandra, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease just a few years ago.  You’ve never met a sweeter, kinder woman!  It has been really tough watching this disease take its toll.  Just last month she was in town for our first football game of the season and something tiny happened – something that probably only Philip and I noticed.  But it was something that served as a huge indicator of just how ravishing this disease can be. 

Sandra was raised the oldest daughter of a preacher.  She then married a preacher.  She has served the Lord and the church her entire life.  Over the course of 73 years, I would estimate that she has taken communion more than 3,200 times.  But on Sunday, September 4th, when Philip held the communion cups out for her to take one, she looked up at him with blankness and confusion in her eyes.  He went on to hand her one, and still she looked to him, unsure of what to do.  Finally, he helped her drink the juice, and in that moment we both felt a sharp stab of helplessness.  Helplessness and deep sadness that something so important and so personal to her was lost.  We don’t want to lose our Nana!

That is why we walk in her honor today; we are Team Sandra Jean!

I went on to accept a challenge from this year’s Walk chairman to raise an additional $100 to my Walk campaign before Thanksgiving, so if you meant to donate but didn’t get around to it, there is still time.  Click here to go to our Team Sandra Jean website to give a gift online:  TEAM SANDRA JEAN.

And finally, I finished my speech with lots of cheers and a huge invitation:

We are standing here today because we truly believe that the end of Alzheimer’s starts with us. I can tell by looking out into this sea of purple that we are not in this alone. Who’s ready to put a stop to this devastating disease?

[PAUSE FOR AUDIENCE CHEERS]

Let’s let all of Tulsa know that we’re here today to lead the way to the end of Alzheimer’s!

[APPLAUSE/CHEERS]

WOW – You all sound great!  So great that I can easily imagine you all cheering loudly from the stands at H.A. Chapman Stadium!  In fact, we would like to invite each and every one of you to a very special TU football game on November 5th. For the second year in a row, Coach and his Golden Hurricane will host an Alzheimer’s Awareness Game.  We have created this special edition t-shirt for the event, and we want to see you wearing one as you cheer just like that – or maybe even louder – at the game.  Best of all, the proceeds from all the t-shirt sales will be donated to the Alzheimer’s Association. You can go to TulsaWalk.org to get more information about purchasing your special edition t-shirt & tickets for the game!

We can’t wait to see you all there!

THANK YOU for being here – THANK YOU for walking today – and THANK YOU for supporting this fight to end Alzheimer’s!

My precious models on stage did a terrific job of showing off our November 5th game shirt!  The shirts are now available at the TU Campus Corner Bookstore at 11th Street and Harvard.  Please run by and pick yours up today!

  tugether-back

In love and hugs on a Wonderful Wednesday,

Ashli

Negative Recruiting & My Presidential Plea

“Whoever is not with me is against me…” Luke 11:23

In Biblical terms, I totally get this scripture. In our daily rat race of “me versus the world,” I soooooo get this. In the 2016 race for a President of the United States, I do not get this.

With election day looming, I am not WITH anyone. And I want to be. I really, really do. I want a candidate – any living, breathing, eligible, American candidate – to show me why I should be WITH them.

So far, however, all I have seen is what in the world of college football we call “Negative Recruiting.” This is a very common practice where coaches (the recruiters) tell prospective players (the recruits) and their families why they should NOT attend ABC, LMN, and every other school showing interest but fail to ever communicate why that student-athlete SHOULD attend their own school, XYZ.

It goes like this…

  • Recruit: Do you think you can use me as a quarterback in your system?
  • Recruiter: Well, Son, I know that ABC is saying they will let you play QB, but trust me, they’re also talking to So&So, and they’re telling him the same thing. You don’t want to go there and experience that!
  • Recruit’s Mom: Coach, tell me about the tutoring and mentoring available for your players.
  • Recruiter: Now, Momma, I know you like the academics at LMN, but be careful – they have a reputation for being extra tough on their athletes. And while I know his education is your top priority, we don’t want to set him up to fail.

And so on, and so on, blah, blah, blah.

The coaches absolutely refuse to answer the very straight-forward questions that the recruit and his family have asked.  This stuff drives me crazy! And it drives Coach crazy, too, so he emphasizes to his staff in no uncertain terms to avoid negative recruiting at all costs. I’ve heard him say many times, “I can’t comment on anyone else’s program, but this is what we are doing/building/creating right here…”

That’s what I am desperate to hear from these presidential candidates. I want them to flat-out, in no uncertain terms, decline to sling mud at ANYONE in our country (and beyond!), and I want them to actually ANSWER THE QUESTIONS that are asked of them.

Our son turned 18 last June, so this is a huge election in our house: SonShine’s first opportunity to vote. And SonShine is serious about his civic duty and his role as an American; I would even call him a “patriot” as he has a deep love for this country, it’s history and accomplishments, and he has a strong desire to see it flourish. He and I, along with his little sister, watched every single second of the last debate together, hopeful that either candidate would give us a reason to join their camp.

Question #1: The last presidential debate could’ve been rated as MA—mature audiences—per TV parental guidelines. Knowing that educators are tying the presidential debates to student homework, do you feel you are modeling appropriate and positive behavior for today’s youth?

Seems like a pretty direct, “Yes or No” type question to me.  I can only assume as neither candidate was willing to answer “Yes” or “No” that they are either incapable of comprehending the question (that’s what my students would do when I asked something over their heads…) or they, too, are horribly embarrassed by the debacle that has become this election season so they avoided an answer, even one as simple as “Yes” or “No.”

Needless to say, at the completion of the debate, we were none the wiser.  My Angel Girl stood up from the couch announcing, “Well that was pretty childish and made very little sense,” and my SonShine was even less sure which candidate is worth trusting with his vote.

Mr. Trump wants to “Make America Great Again.”  FABULOUS – so do I!  My vision of a great America is stunningly beautiful, it’s vivid, and it is very real, not hypothetical.  Mr. Trump, what is your vision of a “Great America” and how, in actual steps and action items, will you create that vision for our country?  What are your ideas as well as your ideals?  With less than a month left before Election Day, I have no idea what our country will look like when you become our leader.  You have not yet described to me this picture you see of a great America.  You’ve told me everything that is wrong with your opponent, you’ve told me everything that is wrong with lots of things, but you have not yet told me what is good in your plan.  And I want specifics.  I need details.  I beg of you, Mr. Trump: please show me what YOU CAN DO rather than what she can not.

Mrs. Clinton says we can be “Stronger Together.”  I WOULD LOVE THAT!  I can close my eyes and imagine a country that acts like a community, a family, a group that cares for one another, people who have each other’s backs through thick and thin.  That image in my head is stunningly beautiful, it’s vivid, and it is very real, not hypothetical.  Mrs. Clinton, how does “Together” make us “Stronger” and how does it look in your vision?  How will you take us from where we stand today – a land tragically divided – to this imaginary place of unity?  What are your ideas as well as your ideals?  I like your dream, but as of October 17th, I have no idea what this land will look like when you become our leader.  I know you detest your opponent, I know you are very talented at dodging and diverting, but I do not know what is good in your plan.  Again, I want specifics.  I need details.  I beg of you, Mrs. Clinton:  please show me what YOU CAN DO rather than how horrible a person you find him to be.

I am a 42-year old, Caucasian female.  I describe myself as having Republican values and a Democrat’s heart.  I am on the fence here.  I want someone to follow, someone to root for, and someone to admire.  I NEED someone to sell me on themselves as opposed to negatively recruiting the competition because we HAVE TO pick someone for whom to vote on November 8th.

Up to this point, you have both presented many valid reasons to NOT vote for either one of you.  Over these next 3 weeks, someone – ANYONE – please prove to me why I SHOULD vote for you…I am hearing it from everyone else all over the Internet, but I want to hear it from YOU.  Please.

Furthermore, here are a few tips for you on how to accomplish this task should you choose to accept it:

  1. Adamantly refuse to say anything negative.  It’s that simple – just don’t do it.  There are more than enough ways to explain oneself using positive words and angles, so utilize them.
  2. Talk ONLY about your plans, your programs, and your vision.  Do not ever speak about anyone else’s program, campaign, history, choices, or life.  It’s none of your affair.  You are here to tell me about YOU and only YOU.
  3. Treat these next few weeks as a 21-day college admissions interview in which you are up against yourself and are ignorant to anyone else applying for the same spot.  Share your strengths, illustrate your gifts, explain your potential, but do not reflect poorly upon yourself by disparaging or putting down others as it makes you appear petty, unoriginal, and unqualified for the job which you seek.

I think if either of you, or anyone else wanting a place on this platform, will follow these simple steps, I – as well as millions of other desperate, yet hopeful, Americans – will be in your corner.  We will “bubble in” your name, and we will support you for the next four years (wouldn’t that be a novel idea!).

Ask the head coach of any sport how to sell a program, ask them the importance of winning the press conference, ask them how vital “buy in” is to creating something great.  Ask them how successful negative recruiting is in the end.  They will tell you exactly what I am saying:  it is all on YOU to prove to us that YOU are worth having.

Each American’s vote is a gift of confidence.  It is priceless, and it represents something far grander, far more beautiful and meaningful than any one person.  If you want my vote, prove it.

In love and hugs, and in prayer for our glorious land,

Ashli

e4138845-189c-41ca-865e-642f9625442c

PS: In the next debate, when a speaker brings up anything NOT about their own campaign, a bell (think the huge one on The Gong Show) will sound so loudly that it will drown out the words that are not relevant to the discussion, and that person surrenders the floor immediately.

 

Wednesday Awareness: Tulsa People October “Volunteer Spotlight”

Coach and I are very honored to be featured in the October 2016 issue of Tulsa People!

The photo used in the article is one of my favorites.  It was taken at last February’s Memory Gala here in Tulsa, which just happened to be my first time ever using Rent the Runway.

img_6995

img_6907

I have to say it was a success:  the dress was just as described in a beautiful plum-ish purple, and it actually fit really well.  I paired it with a set of pearls that were a gift from my dad, a vintage bracelet that was a gift from my sister, and my diamond tennis bracelet that was a gift from Coach.  Obviously, I am very well-gifted!!

img_7007

img_7066

Of course, it helps to have a hunky date and gorgeous friends to compliment my efforts, and I am blessed with all of those as well!

img_7008

img_7017

Needless to say, it was a fun and fabulous evening!  How special to see this photo again all these months later and remember it like it was yesterday.  In fact, the reason we were there was to help more people remember more treasured times.  It’s a cause we are still supporting as the need is greater than ever…

tp-october-2016-jpeg

Click on the link all the way above at the top of the page to see the online edition of this month’s magazine, and read below for the “rest of the story” – these are the unused questions and answers to further shed light on why this fight to #ENDALZ is so important to us:

2016 Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s Questions

Years involved in the Alzheimer’s Association: 2 years

Alzheimer’s Association Mission Statement: To eliminate Alzheimer’s disease through the advancement of research; to provide and enhance care and support for all affected; and to reduce the risk of dementia through the promotion of brain health.

Although you both have been selected as Celebrity Team Captains for this year’s Walk to End Alzheimer’s, what are any additional personal reasons for your involvement?

Like most people, Alzheimer’s has touched our family in multiple ways.  Both of us have lost grandmothers to Alzheimer’s, and Philip’s mom is currently fighting the disease.  It is a tragic, heartbreaking disease!  We have witnessed the destruction and devastation Alzheimer’s causes, and we feel very strongly that a cure must be found.  The Walk to End Alzheimer’s is crucial to supporting research and patients, but also caregivers.  We are finding that the role of caregiver is a terribly difficult job, and one that is tough to understand until one serves in that capacity.  We want to assist in this uphill battle as much as possible.  We feel honored to serve as Celebrity Team Captains and hope that we are able to raise awareness and financial support for this essential cause. 

Explain how the funds collected for this year’s Walk will be used.

All funds raised through Walk to End Alzheimer’s further the care, support and research efforts of the Alzheimer’s Association. There are currently 62,000 Oklahomans living with Alzheimer’s disease and 222,000 serving as their unpaid caregivers. While there is no cure for this disease yet, the Alzheimer’s Association is dedicated to helping families navigate the difficult journey with free resources made possible by donations made through events like The Walk to End ALZ.

Tell us how Tulsans can participate in this year’s Walk.

Tulsans can join our team, start a team of their own, walk as an individual participant, become a virtual walker, or volunteer to help with the event. Registration for The Walk is free, but everyone is encouraged to raise the $100 required to get an official T-shirt!  Please do not hesitate to reach out to the Alzheimer’s Association if you have any questions or need help getting signed up to participate.

As Celebrity Team Captains, do you still have room on your personal team?

Yes!! Our team name is “Team Sandra Jean” in honor of Philip’s mom.  We would love to have as many participants as possible in our group.  There is no size limit for teams, so anyone can join! Just search for our team name at tulsawalk.org or set up a team in honor of a loved one, your company, a group of friends, or maybe your church.  The more teams, the better!  The website makes it incredibly easy for team captains to build their team and promote their fundraising efforts.  The tools to make invitations, to send reminders about The Walk, and to create social media posts are all very user-friendly.  We make sure to utilize these applications and are thrilled at how our family and friends across the country support us by donating online even if they are not able to be here in Tulsa for the actual event.

Even as a busy Tulsa couple, why is volunteering important to you? Has volunteering always been a family affair?

It is true what they say: the greatest gifts in serving others are received by the givers and volunteers.  We feel blessed beyond measure, and we are inspired by those we meet along the way!  We have also been the recipients of many peoples’ support and assistance over the years, so we know first-hand that a little bit of help can be life-changing!  For these reasons, volunteer work has always been important to both of us, and we definitely treat it as a family affair.  We have been quite intentional about teaching our two children that to be successful in anything, one must have a servant’s heart.  In sharing that lesson of giving with them, we have beautiful memories of family time spent serving, working for others, and enjoying many events like The Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  Those are hours that we treasure and hold close to our hearts with a very tight grip!

Thank you for reading, and thank you for sharing!  Making “Alzheimer’s Disease” part of our everyday conversations is a huge hurdle in raising awareness and, in turn, creating public demand for advances in our – yes, this battle involves us all – fight to END ALZ.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS:  Please consider joining the movement today by visiting www.alz.org/mybrain1

Sunday’s Sermon on Suffering

I am a firm believer that we tend to hear whatever we most need to hear in each Sunday’s sermon.  Sometimes, the message is especially “spot on” and every single word hits its target dead center.  Last Sunday, Mitch Wilburn had my number!!

It was one of those sermons where I was multi-tasking by note taking all over the weekly handout,

IMG_9592.JPG

underlining/boxing/starring scripture,

IMG_9594.JPG

and even finding words of wisdom in the devotional “extras” found throughout my Bible.

IMG_9596.JPG

This month Mitch is teaching from the book of Habakkuk.  The huh??  Yes, I spelled it correctly:  H A B A K K U K.  It contains only three chapters of 17, 20, and 19 verses respectively.  It is found 5th from the end of the Old Testament and takes up all of 4 pages of my Bible.  It is about questioning God.  It is about suffering.  It is about trusting.

Mitch was truly a vessel in that lesson, and he spoke directly to me in three major ways:

  1. Complaining to humans only tears down relationships, but complaining to God builds a bridge from fear to faith.  I have been guilty of taking my frustrations, irritations, and complications to friends and peers, and then I feel hurt and abandoned when they avoid me for being a negative influence who is never satisfied nor pleased with the status quo.  Habakkuk 2:1 tells me to bring my questions, my doubts, and my frustrations to God in a manner of prayer.  That is what is intended, and in doing so I draw nearer to God.  Coach is the next best thing in my world; he truly listens to my concerns and worries.  He genuinely wants to share my burdens.  But after I “vent” to his willing ears, I inevitably feel bad for adding to his load.  While he loves me enough to be there for me in that moment of need, taking my anguish to God is a better bet, for sure!

    lj_MaryEngelbreit_DrawNear-1.jpg

  2. Why, God?  Lord, how long will this suffering last?  Habakkuk 1:13 shows me that I am supposed to ASK.  Ask God “why” and “how” and “when” even when those questions – and the corresponding answers – are hard to accept.  I love how Mitch guided us on this point when he said, “Do not be prideful and arrogant.  Just go ask!”  Not asking God these questions is self-destructive which only hurts me more in the end.  If you’ve been reading my posts about “Rhett’s 16th” over the past couple of weeks, then you know that our friends are suffering in the worst imaginable way as they grieve the death of a child.  They must now face the day that they should be celebrating his 16th birthday.  Recently, Rhett’s mom wrote these words:

    FullSizeRender.jpg

    I am so glad that she shared such beautiful and honest words.  I believe the Lord’s reply is that the “why” is beyond our comprehension and that suffering from grief will forever be a companion, but the simple act of asking, of demanding to be heard, is healthy and necessary.   Taking my inquiries to God is good and right.

  3. Rest in God’s sufficiency.  Be silent.  The reason that I never feel like I am enough is because I am not enough.  I am not enough by myself.  God’s sufficiency is greater which is why I will never succeed alone.  No matter how hard I try to do all and be all for all, I will never come close to that perfection.  This came to me in the form of a major breakdown Friday morning.  I looked around me and suddenly felt like every word spoken, every step taken, and every effort extended over the past 18 months has been a huge, major mistake.  They are mistakes made through deep, unconditional love and the best of intentions, but mistakes at every turn nonetheless.  Poor Coach!  He was so patient as I boo’ed, and I hoo’ed, and I bawled all over him.  He loves me so much more than I deserve.  Doesn’t that sound familiar?  We are all loved more than we deserve.  And because of that fact, we are not alone.  All I have to do is remember that although I will never be enough, God is.  All I have to do is be silent and rest in God’s sufficiency.

Finally, I ask you to take a look at Habakkuk 3:2 which is so very true today!

IMG_9595.JPG

With hugs and love,

Ashli

PS:  Please don’t forget to make your $16 contribution for Rhett’s 16th on July 5th.

The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to go on the heights.     -Habakkuk 3:19

Public Apologies and Tough Truths

They say that life events occur in threes, and it is my favorite number, so this is my third  (and final) installment of the Galentine/FB event ordeal.

If you missed it, consider yourself lucky and click the red X at the top of the screen.

If you witnessed it, you make the call.

If you were hurt or offended by it, please read on.

At the time that I wrote my Facebook rant last Friday night, I did not know who I was writing about because my daughter did not name any names when she told me what had happened.  Since then one mother has reached out to me – which I respect and appreciate immensely – and we’ve been able to visit in person in hopes of not only moving forward, but taking the effort to become closer and better communicators to one another in the future.

I need to write this last post of closure, though, for three important reasons:

  1.  I caused pain to others, and that is not okay.
  2. Since my rant was very public, so should be my apology.
  3. I discovered some concrete reasons for the exclusions my daughter was experiencing; these are things that can be both explained and changed.

Here we go.

Number 1:  Because I did not know who was excluding my daughter, I did not know who to call to visit with in a personal, less public way.  It hasn’t been a secret that she had not been included in very many pre-event parties, outings, sleepovers, etc; in fact, I asked several moms several times to let us know when things were taking place, that she would love to come along, and that I was happy to help as much in any way possible.  Those “friendly requests” did not help, and I wasn’t sure what else to do to let parents know that, whether intentional or not, this was hurting her.  At the end of the day, it was intentional, AND THAT IS OKAY.  Don’t fly off the handle, go into mama bear mode, or feel indignant here.  Each one of us is perfectly entitled (and I do not use that word often!) to pick and choose whom they want to hang out with, be friends with, go out on dates with, join clubs with, and so on.  There is no rule that every person must love and adore every other person, and it is absolutely okay to NOT want to be friends with someone.  IT IS NOT OKAY TO CAUSE PAIN TO ANYONE.  And I did.  For that I am truly, truly sorry.

Number 2:  We live in a very digital, very graphic, and very public world.  My daughter knew about the whole Galentine Dinner from SnapChat and Instagram posts.  She saw who was there, how much fun they had, and felt a great sadness that she had missed out on that fellowship.  It is not the first time she has discovered a painful fact via social media, and I can guarantee that it will not be the last.  I took my own pain for her situation and all my frustration online, so I want to apologize online as well.  I am a firm believer that we must own up to our actions, that we will make mistakes, and that we are called to take responsibility for those poor choices just as much, if not more than, we are called to share positive, good works.  While I do not actually regret writing that FB post (I absolutely hope that if/when my kids are being less than they should be someone will alert me in any method they feel comfortable using!), I do not like causing hurt to anyone, and again, I am very sorry for that.

Number 3:  I am thankful to my friend who was willing to say the hard things to me.  It is incredibly difficult to tell someone what others find off-putting about them, but it is information I asked for and am glad to now know.  She was able to three main reasons that my daughter has been shunned since moving here last year.  One is hers to own, one is on both of us, and one – the worst one – is all on me.  I’d like an opportunity to explain them…

I want to start with one of my favorite stories.  When my son was beginning 7th grade, a coach asked him about his buddies and best friends.  He listed a group of boys that he hung out with and played sports with, and then he told the coach, “As far as my best friend, well we move around a lot with my dad’s job, so I guess my little sister is my very best friend because she is always there with me.”  The coach was so moved by his response that he emailed me that morning to share such a beautiful and honest reply.  My SonShine is now a 17 year old junior in high school so his school friends and buddies play a bigger role; I am sure that they, along my husband, are who my son confides in the most.  That is how it should be, I think.  Even so, my kids still have a fabulous relationship.  They lean on one another, they support one another, they pick on one another, they act silly together, and when Coach and I are on our deathbeds (in many, many years, I hope), they will turn to one another.  I would not want that any other way.

BUT…it seems that my daughter is hesitant to leave her brother’s side if they are together.    I am sure that is true.  He is a security blanket for her, one that sees it as his job in life to watch out for his baby sister.  Between school schedules, workouts and practices, and community activities, they are not actually together that often, though, so when they are in the same place I can imagine that she sticks pretty close to her Bubba.  I’ve spoken with her about feeling confident to go off with her friends knowing that he is not far away and enjoying his own friends, too.  Hopefully, she will make that adjustment and others will notice her efforts, resulting in them wanting to get to know her for who she is, not simply as his little sister.

So, reason #1 that my daughter wasn’t very well received was that she clung to her brother too much.  That one is hers to fix.  Reason #2 is a fault of hers as well as mine it seems:  we talk too much about where we’ve been before.  That’s a tricky one.  I lived 40 of my 41 years in Texas.  Most every memory, experience, high, low, good day, bad day, joy, and disappointment happened there.  My kids are in the same boat.  Our stories from the past do not take anything away from our present nor the future.  Tulsa has been incredible, and we absolutely love it here!  I’ve [finally] got our home all set up and unpacked and decorated, the kids are bought in and in love with their school, and the University of Tulsa has been a phenomenal fit for Coach’s first head coaching job.  It’s kind of like having a second child…you can love both without taking anything away from the other.  We can treasure Texas and adore Oklahoma all at the same time, AND WE DO!!  I’ve spoken with my Angel Girl about this concern of talking about the past, and again, we both agreed that there is probably a lot of truth in it.  But if we should not speak about our experiences, our old schools, our long-distance friends, our accomplishments, our struggles, our successes, our defeats, the good, the bad, and the ugly of our lives, what should we talk about?  What do we have to offer a conversation?  After this discussion, my daughter said, “Maybe I should’t mention Texas or China Spring or the schools I’ve been to or my old cheer squads or our church in Waco or how I’ve seen things work in other places? So what do I talk about with people?”  My sad response was, “Maybe nothing?  Maybe you just have to be a cheerful listener for a while.”  That broke my heart to tell her, but it’s kinda’ true.  So reason #2 is an easy fix and one she and I both will be addressing from now on.

Reason #3 is one of those Tough Truths that we know about ourselves, hope people will love us in spite of, and pray to overcome.  I come from a long line of brilliant, beautiful, caring, smart, savvy, and critical women.  I’ve said it in many other blog posts: I struggle with saying “Great Job!” when something was not all that great.  It comes off as terribly negative, and I really dislike that about myself.  I try so hard not to be me!  I really, really focus on finding something encouraging to say, I work diligently to hide expressions of dismay (Sadly, I do NOT have a good poker face at all!), and I tell myself not to speak out loud over and over and over again.  What’s worse is that when I see something that is less that great, I want to rally the troops, form an army, make improvements, be a catalyst for change, and create a better situation.  Unfortunately, my tactics must be totally awful because in the end I just seem to alienate those I was trying to rally.  This is recurring occurrence, and it appears that I’ve done it again. But this time it has caused a lot of hurt for my precious girl.  I will not deny that I was less than impressed with one of her activities last fall.  I was so desperate to find a friend with whom I could commiserate that I am sure I complained about this activity to anyone who was within earshot, regardless that they did not want to hear, did not want to be engulfed in my negativity, nor join in my army.  I quickly became seen as The Complaining Mom, and the end result is that when the moms I was “venting to” felt the need to distance themselves from me, their daughters distanced themselves from my daughter, too.  This was brought to my attention early last fall, and I immediately apologized to the entire group involved with the activity, and I took a huge step back.  I sat in my car during practices so that I would not be seen, I sat with family or alone at ballgames so no one would feel embarrassed that I sat with them, and I did not utter anything besides positive praises out loud.  It was too little too late, though.  The damage was already done.  I am so sad about that.  We want to make our kids’ lives better not worse.  I especially want to be a servant and a light for others.  I guess I just don’t do a terrific job of turning those dreams into realities.  So, as I said above, the third reason is all my own doing and something that my Angel Girl now has to pay for…oh, the sins of the father.  I am so, so sorry to have done this to her!

The silver lining is that if the people here never feel drawn to get to know us beyond these faults, when you’re married to a college football coach, everything is temporary.  He will win too few or too many, and we will have another opportunity to meet and move into a new community.  These experiences will help us in that time of transition when it comes, and if that is why we were meant to go through them, then their purpose has been served.

I hope that time is a long way in the future, and I hope that before then this community of girls and moms will embrace us and forgive us and find value in us.  That closeness I spoke of above ensures that no matter which way the cards fall, our family will always be okay.  We will always have each other, and that is a lot.  It’s a gift!

Again, if I indirectly or unknowingly hurt you or offended you, I am sorry.

I will not bring up Galentine again.  I am sure I will write about parenting, about being a coach’s family, about moving, and about personal struggles.  I love writing.  I’ve always been wordy, but if you’re willing to get past the loquacious loud-mouth, I’m not that horrible a person.  I love deeply, I am loyal and dedicated, and I have a huge desire to make this world a beautiful place.

Thank you for the chance to say sorry, the chance to not make excuses but rather to explain, and the chance to ask for forgiveness.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

james516thereforeconfess.jpg

Happily Ever After

Today is a momentous day.

One often refers to a major life event as being “the first day of the rest of my life.” Well, 7474 days ago that happened to me when I met Coach at the Stephenville Intermediate School 6th Grade Track Meet. That was the day that our happily ever after began, and we’ve been living our modern day fairy tale ever since.

It just so happens that on that day, I had been alive a total of 7474 days. That’s right, as of today, October 6, 2015, I have now been with Coach as long as I was without him:

I am not sure which set of days produced the most growth, but I know I have come a really, really long way. Certainly physical growth and mental growth most likely peaked during my first set of 7474 days, but without a doubt emotional and spiritual growth have been most abundant the second set of 7474 days. I can not even attempt to imagine spending the last 10 million minutes with anyone else, and I fully intend to spend all the rest of my seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, and decades with him!

How fun that from here on out, I can say with absolute mathematical certainty that Coach is my majority. He’s the one who makes the challenges beatable, the sorrows bearable, and the struggles worth battling. He is the one who keeps me grounded, prevents me from giving up (mostly on myself), and shares in all the good stuff.  He is the one who reminds me what love is and shows me what it feels like to be adored and cherished.  Even when days are rough or times are tough, I never, ever doubt these truths.

So, from our beginning as youngsters falling in love…

Scan 6

Scan 6 - Version 2

Scan 6 - Version 3

To today’s gift of being the most blessed parents in the world…

IMG_4614

Here’s to SEVEN THOUSAND, FOUR HUNDRED SEVENTY-FOUR days together…and counting – ILY, Coach!!

PS:  Try out www.timeanddate.com to play with your own set of magic numbers 😉

Kickoff Couture

Two of my favorite words in our English language: KICKOFF & COUTURE

kickoff

couture

I adore football, and I adore clothes; what better thought to ponder than the ultimate question of “What am I wearing to the game??”

I am forever pinning game day fashions on Pinterest:

IMG_3797 IMG_3796

Since coming to Tulsa, I have found several new boards definitely worth following:

mm jp jp shop tu pjp em jp

This morning, I even discovered/connected that TU colors (royal, red, and yellow) just happen to be Snow White colors – who knew that there is an entire movement of Disney-character-based designs? FOR GROWN UPS?

sw jp

Most are not my style, but I could absolutely do this:

IMG_3800

Or this:

IMG_3801

Or even this:

IMG_3803

Of course, my actual outfit – on my actual body – never actually looks like all these fun pins, but last week I pulled off some cute Kickoff Couture. I can’t believe I am doing this.  Publicly.  But here it is…

What I Wore: Thursday, August 20, 2015 Edition

Coach has forecasted (and requested) White Out conditions for our season opener on Saturday, September 5th. I was having little success finding the 32 shirts I needed for family and friends traveling to Tulsa for the game, so I asked the football department how we could get a great, but inexpensive, shirt to the masses. I researched white outs at other colleges, Coach helped me design a shirt, and a local sporting goods store jumped on board to produce them for us. I am thrilled with how the project has turned out, and I can’t wait to see our shirts walking around H.A. Chapman Stadium in just 2 short weeks!!

Screenshot 2015-07-31 14.21.27 Screenshot 2015-07-31 14.21.34

This past Thursday (August 20th) I attended Coach’s first ever Kickoff Luncheon, so of course I wanted to #1) look like a fun and spirited coach’s wife, and #2) promote our WHITE OUT campaign:

IMG_3757 IMG_3771

I started with one of our soft, comfy, and cheap WHITE OUT tees, adding an undershirt because it was 65 degrees in Oklahoma that day (Really? It’s the middle of August!). They are silver on the front and will have a fabulous glisten when the sun touches the bleachers on game day. The back reads “The New Reign Begins: TU vs FAU September 5, 2015” and for only $5 per shirt, everyone should buy several 😉

As awesome as cotton t-shirts are, they are not exactly business attire, so I added a few glamorous touches to dress it up a bit…from head to toe.

In honor of my amazing sister’s very special birthday which just happened to be on August 20th as well, I began with some of my particularly favorite jewelry, a matching Sorrelli necklace and bracelet set that my sister gave me for my 30th birthday.  They are exquisite in shimmery, jeweled red and blue tones, and not once in the last 10 years have I worn them and NOT received multiple compliments on how gorgeous and classy the pieces are or how magnificently they reflect the light! They are examples of those “forever fabulous” items in your wardrobe that you’ll always go back to again and again and simply love to wear:

IMG_3765 IMG_3770

Now for a quick side-stroll down memory lane 🙂  Me and my sis…Scan 1

Scan 1 - Version 2

VLUU L200 / Samsung L200

(Anyone else notice that I am always the goofball??)

Back to business…

Next, I added a fun and flirty skirt with big, wide blue and red stripes.  I felt like a teeny-bopping cheerleader in it, but since I truly am Coach’s biggest, loudest, and cheerleading-est fan, I was willing to go back in time to the rah rah days of old.  The best thing about this piece: it was a $20 ModCloth gem that I simply had to have and ordered two years ago (when our colors were green and gold); it has been waiting patiently in the closet for its turn, and the Kickoff Luncheon was the perfect excuse event:

skirt

I finished my look with navy patent leather high heels and a little, red clutch.  There is not much to say about “patent” and “leather” and “high” and “heels” except that they, too, are a few my favorite words when strung together, they are totally awesome, and they always look good.  For my handbag I chose this Coach beauty that Coach and the kids gave me for Christmas last year as we were preparing for the move to Tulsa and new game day colors:

IMG_3750

TaDa!! The finished look, with the very best part of all my outfits added in…my arm candy, my Coach (looking very dapper himself!):

IMG_3753

Well, that’s all, folks, my first foray into fashion blogging.  Now, go order a big supply of WHITE OUT shirts for family and friends and neighbors and strangers, and we will see you on Skelly Field at 2:30 pm, Saturday, September 5th.  #ReignCane

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS: Here are a few out-takes of me attempting (but NOT succeeding) to take a picture of my outfit to share.  How do all these youngsters excel at selfies??  That is NOT easy.

IMG_3744 IMG_3745 IMG_3747

8 Months and Counting

Last Saturday was a good day.  It is easy to get caught up in the speed of life and forget to acknowledge the simple fact that a day was good, so I find it worth repeating:  it was a good day.

The day began at the kids’ high school for their intrasquad scrimmage:

IMG_4560

SonShine carrying the ball after a reception on O…

IMG_4625

…and getting to the play on D.

IMG_4510

My big-bowed Angel Girl and her sweet big sis…

IMG_4574

…earning donations to take them to nationals.

Athletics gets its fair share of criticism, and sometimes rightfully so, but I truly adore watching my kids perform.  They are both extremely hard workers with huge hearts and each possess a grand love for what they do.  Neither is a star or stud, but they both bring a lot to the field and to their team.  They both have good moments and tough struggles. They both have victories and defeats – and not just on the scoreboard or podium, but on a daily basis with good catches and frustrating drops, stunts that stick and pyramids that fall, and the natural goods and bads, ups and downs of life.  I like that competition and sports are helping me (and Coach) teach these essential lessons day in and day out.

While their scrimmage was going on in Midtown, Coach’s first scrimmage of fall camp was happening on campus.  It’s amazing what a man on a mission can accomplish in a short amount of time. Coach knows his heart and when he goes after something he goes with passion and precision and people. That probably reads funny, but it is totally true: Coach is a “people person” who never meets a stranger.  He is easy to love, and people respond to and migrate to him naturally. I think it is because he is genuine; he genuinely loves boldly. He’s honest and affectionate, he’s down to earth and more than a little bit country, he’s intense yet patient.  He is who he is, and because that is easy to recognize and admire, it doesn’t take long to love this guy.

Take me for instance…

April 21, 1995:  We met… December 21, 1995:  We married.

P and A wedding photoEight months to the day.

The faithful Golden Hurricane have fallen for him just as quickly…

December 15, 2014: Coach is officially announced as the 29th head football coach at the University of Tulsa:

IMG_0608August 15, 2015:  Fan Appreciation Day.  Eight months to the day.

I was overwhelmed with the crowd on Saturday!  So many people came out to support Coach and his guys that the line to meet the players was the entire length of the concourse, several people wide, and all the way out to the gate.

IMG_3629

For the fans, it is great fun to visit with the players for a minute, pick up a schedule poster, and gather autographs.  For Coach and the guys, those fan interactions are priceless.  Of course they have a deep love for the game and are highly, highly motivated by their own goals and team accomplishments, but those smiles and high 5’s are the sweetest icing on a heavenly cake.  Seeing the joy and laughter on Coach’s face and on all his players brings a warmth to my heart (and a tear to my eye).  For the Montgomery’s football really is family, and it was a really good day.

IMG_3635 IMG_3636 IMG_3643

But the day was not yet done.  In fact, our football family is expanding.  Our DFO and his precious wife are adding to our crew in Week 1, so we showered them with diapers, wipes, cream, and powder while enjoying a fajita feast with all the staff and their families.  It completed my day perfectly, hearing giggles and stories and seeing first hand how in these 8 months, we have come to care for each other, to look out for each other, and to be there for each other.  It was a really, really good day.

IMG_3625 IMG_3626

But don’t forget, we’re still counting.  Coach and the guys have a couple of weeks left to finish up fall camp.  And then, on September 5th, after months of endless meetings, days and days of film, miles and miles and miles of practice reps, and more preparation than you can shake a stick at, the real fun begins.  There is a lot planned for the season opener, and it’s going to be a blast!  Coach has ordered WHITEOUT conditions at H.A. Chapman Stadium as the 2:30 kickoff promises to be hot and sunny, there will be Hurricane Flags for the first 5000, and tailgating will be in full effect with games and inflatables for the little kids and a Lexus giveaway for the big kids.  Honestly, I can not wait!

We hope to see you there 😉

With love and hugs,

Ashli

#ReignCane

Me and Coach  #ReignCane

House to Home Countdown: #10

It is 5:07 am, and I just dropped Coach off at the airport.  He has been back and forth a few times since becoming “the” coach at TU, but this is the only time he has not left his truck in the lot.  I drove him there this time because this time he won’t be back.

That sounds so final and dramatic…of course he will be back; we have family in the area, tons of friends to visit, and he will be through here time after time on the recruiting trail.  He will see the Heart of Texas again.

But he won’t ever be back to this home.  And driving back to the house so early this morning, that fact hit me really hard.  Honestly, I am a bit shocked that it affected me at all.  After 7 homes in 19 years (Leonard, Stephenville x2, Denton, Pearland, Lorena, and China Spring), I know better than most that houses come and go; it’s memories and love that make a home.  On top of that track record, this home had a bit of a rocky start.  It took a little longer than normal to truly shift from house to home…

This house broke one of the Cardinal Rules of Coaching: never move mid-job.  There is little to no job security in football.  Even less in the coaching of college football.  When we make a move, we pick a house, and we stay put, paying extra on the mortgage principal from Day 1 to ensure that the equity is not upside down.  EVER!

But this time, through a series of events and decisions, we found ourselves moving from a southern suburb to a northern suburb after 3 years on the job.  As we scouted houses, we came across a new construction project that was just getting started.  The builder said we were early enough in the process to turn his spec house into a custom build.  There was still time to make a few floor plan changes, I would be able to select all the fixtures and finishes, and best of all, the project was slated to be on display in the 2011 Parade of Homes so it would have special pricing and be move-in ready on the final day of the parade which coincided perfectly with Coach’s summer schedule.

We never dreamed we would have the time assurances to build, we absolutely loved the neighborhood, and although it was way more house than we intended to buy, we liked the layout and could see our family living there.

I am here today to countdown the top 10 things that truly make this house a home for me (which is a very positive thing), so I am skipping over the building process (which is a very negative thing), but suffice it to say that it was an arduous journey, one that left me emotionally bruised for a while, yet one that taught me three very important lessons:

1.  Listen to your gut, and never be afraid to walk away.

2.  Believe in yourself, and never allow anyone to bully or berate you.

3.  Have faith in your strength, and never forget how strong love can make you.

Now for the fun part – drumroll please – the first entry on my House to Home Countdown is

#10: CHRISTMAS at 615 WHISPERING OAKS

We moved in to the new house on July 4, 2011.  Yes, you read correctly.  We were THAT family moving ourselves across town on July 4th, a national holiday, in the summertime heat.  MawMaw was the only person to show up and help that day, so it was Coach, two highly intelligent and directive ladies (like mother, like daughter…), two pre-teens, and 3200 square feet of crap to carry.  WAYYYYY FUN FOR COACH!!

I was so bitter about the building experience that for several months I really didn’t even want to be there.  After putting hours and days and weeks of thought into every little detail on the house, I had a hard time sitting in it while Coach and the kids were away during the days.  It wasn’t until I got ready to decorate for Christmas that first year, that I began to see the house as our home.

The first bit of excitement came with my library tree.  The library is really the blueprint’s study/office that I transformed into a library by adding 10 foot tall bookshelves on two of the walls.

IMG_0697 IMG_0696

The third wall is painted a rich, chocolate brown and displays my (currently useless) collection of diplomas and certificates, an antique door that I turned into a desk, and the computer on which I am typing.

IMG_0698

The fourth wall is a half-pentagonal, 16-foot tall wall of windows that faces the street in front of the house.  The most amazing chandelier is suspended from the midpoint of the pentagon, and directly under the chandelier is an outlet, with a dedicated light switch, created especially for a big, beautiful Christmas tree.

IMG_0700

When Coach and I married on December 21, 1995, we chose a Christmas theme of red and green, and we put a Christmas tree in the reception hall to set a festive, joyous tone.  Shopping for that tree was the only other time I purchased a tree and all it’s decorations in one stop.  And Hobby Lobby wasn’t around then…but this time it sure was!!

I found a fabulous array of turquoise, tan, cream, white, and chocolate colored ornaments – everything you can imagine like glass and glittery balls, feathers and beads, plaid ribbon for bows, and snowmen – lots and lots of snowmen!  Putting up that tree was so fun, and it was new, and it was about this house, especially for this home.  It was the first time I believed that this house would transform into our home as all the ones before had done.  How perfect that my belief was brought to light by Christmas!

SANY0533

SANY0535

SANY0536

SANY0539

SANY0537 SANY0538

My favorite ornaments are often the simplest:

IMG_9981 IMG_9982

Well, my tree fun doesn’t stop there.  This house was made (intentionally, of course!!) for Christmas.  In fact, I have a total of 7 trees throughout the house – yep, SEVEN 🙂

The wedding ornaments and bows from 1995 are still around, and they go on a 7-foot tree in the dining room which is also visible from the street.

IMG_9988

IMG_6644 IMG_6643

SANY0544 SANY0545 SANY0546

I especially love our annual hot chocolate bar that sits next to the wedding tree along with one of the cutest Santa pics you’ve ever seen:

SANY0547 SANY0550

Our ever-expanding collection of family ornaments and artwork go in the living room on a 9.5-foot tree.

IMG_0641

IMG_0646 IMG_0645

 

IMG_0648 IMG_0654 IMG_0652

 

IMG_0008

Books can be found on all my trees…no big surprise there!

IMG_0644

IMG_0649

 

IMG_0009

 

IMG_0007

And even a message for Santa:

IMG_0010

I adore my most treasured tree skirt (which happens to be the same one that was under Mom’s tree throughout my childhood):

IMG_0638IMG_0637

The upstairs Baylor-themed game room is home to a green and gold tree which is decorated with all kinds of silly and random football memorabilia such as ticket stubs, growl towels, and bowl game trinkets.  This tradition will definitely continue next year, just with a new theme and a couple new colors to play with 😉

IMG_6689 IMG_6691 IMG_6692

The kids each have their own trees in their rooms: Angel Girl’s is pink, and SonShine’s is blue.  I love seeing how they put them together each year, and they never look the same two years in a row!

SANY0557 SANY0561 SANY0562 SANY0564 SANY0566 SANY0567 SANY0568

Finally, I have a tiny miniature tree that travels with us when we are gone to bowl games for Christmas.  When at home, it presides over the kitchen from its perch high on the bar.

IMG_3284

Each tree is special, as are the garlands and goodies that I drape and set on every cabinet, mantel, and countertop throughout the month of December.  I am eager to see how they all come together in a new house in a short 11 months!  Just know, whoever spends next Christmas at 615 Whispering Oaks, you’ve got a great foundation for establishing joy and turning this house into your home…

With love and hugs,

Ashli

IMG_3293