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 ❤️💛💙💜

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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

Graduation is not for wimps.

We are one week out from my SonShine’s high school graduation, and the tears have started to flow. Yesterday was his Cap & Gown Ceremony at school, and I am proud to say that I have already steamed both and hung them aside to be called into action next Friday.

Cascia Hall colors: navy, red, and white…Grad Regalia: black, royal, and silver…Must make sense to someone…we just go with it 🙂

Yesterday was also his last day of classes, but since final exams go through next Wednesday, I refuse to concede that his “last day of school” is yet upon us.

Since today is our last Friday morning of school together, I surprised him with a final “Donut Day” which has been our weekly tradition for the better part of the past 13 years.

Breakfast of Champions, of course!

I have his Senior Board ready to deliver tomorrow morning:

Nothing is nailed down or screwed into the wood board yet, but that Coach’s job 😉

This is a Cascia tradition which requires parents to sum up their student’s life-to-date in 864 square inches (exactly and not a smidge more than 2 feet by 3 feet). I’ve been documenting his life-to-date all year with an incredibly special scrapbook undertaking, and I can’t get it all done. It’s a tough failure to admit on my part, but I won’t have the project done in time for graduation.  We’ve simply enjoyed his childhood too much (as if there is such a thing).  There have been an infinite number of precious times, countless trips and vacations and days spent together, a myriad of treasured people, and more love than words and photos can accurately illustrate.  If I haven’t managed to corral all that joy and and growth and accomplishment on a year’s worth of scrapbook pages, how in the world does one do so in 864 square inches??

But, graduation is not for wimps, and I am not a wimp.  So, I prevailed.  I’ll proudly deliver his board to school Saturday morning just as requested.

And I’m sure a tear or two will escape my eyes.

A few more will roll the next day: Senior Sunday.  The day will begin with all the graduates at our church being recognized and honored and blessed by prayer for the next phase of each students’ journey.  Then we head straight to the dorm to deliver the first load of college “stuff” and begin the move-in process.  After that, we have Baccalaureate Mass and Dinner at Cascia Hall (another fun and fabulous school tradition in which the junior class hosts and serves dinner to the seniors and their families).

My boys helping as junior class servers at last year’s Baccalaureate.

Maybe more than just a “few” tears will roll on Sunday.

Monday is set aside to shop and prep for GradFest.  This is our version of the all-night, seniors-only, lock-em-in party to keep the kiddos safe as they celebrate their success and freedom.  I’m on the food committee, and I can attest that we will not let these sweet babies go hungry their first night post-childhood.  In fact, I’m in charge of the 3 am breakfast, and if I’ve ever taken you to Tally’s here in Tulsa for monster cinnamon rolls and big, fat breakfast tacos, then you know that the Cascia Class of 2017 is in for a treat!

Tuesday is his graduation practice which I, happily, have no part in whatsoever.

Wednesday is Senior Scholastic Night.  My SonShine says not to expect any academic awards, and I have assured him that the diploma is award enough for me and Coach.

Family begins to arrive on Thursday.  Graduation is Friday.

Saturday we are hosting a family get-together to celebrate this phenomenal young man.

Sunday will be brunch before family hits the road, and then we finish moving in the last bits of what he is taking to summer school.

And then I leave him there to start his new life, his new chapter.

So, yeah, a whole lot of tears are going to flow.

Before you condemn me for being THAT mom, the “helicopter mom” who can’t let go of her children or [re]accuse me of being too attached, let me assure you that no one is more excited for my graduate than I am.  No one wants more for him than I do.  No one will cheer harder or support greater than I will.

It does not matter if he is moving 5 minutes down the road or 5 hours across the country.  My sadness at the end of this chapter of his life is not actually about my graduate.  It’s about ME.  That’s right, I just confessed that I have thoughts and feelings and weaknesses and fears for myself and about myself, and I did it right here in front of God and all to see.

Here’s the thing, I absolutely, totally, and completely adore my family.  I think we have a truly perfect family dynamic.  So, yes, I am sad to see that change.

If you find that silly or ridiculous, I don’t care.  Your judgement does not bother me anymore.  In fact, I am sorry that you weren’t able to enjoy your kids more because I have been engaged, I have been present, I have been an integral part of my kids’ lives, and I would not change THAT for anything.  This kid and his baby sister, these last [almost] 19 years as a mom, my Coach, and the world we’ve created together is stronger and more meaningful than any other thing on this physical earth.

You can rest assured that THIS mom, the one with the red nose and splotchy eyes from crying, is the luckiest, most blessed lady you know!

Happy Graduation Week, and here’s to the Class of 2017!

With love and hugs,

Ashli

The Tulsa Opera Ball

 

Spring Break in Grand Cayman

 

Cascia Hall Junior/Senior Prom

 

CH Class of 2017 Senior Breakfast

 

Silly Selfies on Mom’s phone (Happens weekly and usually without Mom’s knowledge!)

Taking AIM

I often get the question, “Is there anything I can do?” when I share my work to end Alzheimer’s Disease. Yes, there is: take AIM.

AIM stands for Alzheimer’s Impact Movement, and it is the Alzheimer’s Association political action campaign partner. Officially from the AIM website:

AIM is a nonpartisan, nonprofit advocacy organization working in strategic partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association to make Alzheimer’s a national priority. AIM is a membership organization and we ask you to join us! The annual membership fee is $20.

Members have access to member exclusive benefits and opportunities, and only members may contribute to AIMPAC. AIM relies on the support of its members to advance the Alzheimer’s agenda in Washington.

I am a number’s gal, and I firmly believe there is strength in numbers.  Let me put it to you straight: we need bigger numbers (which means more members).  The beauty of AIM is that for a political organization, it is actually – at least in my mind – very non-political.  Because Alzheimer’s Disease does not discriminate in any way, form, or fashion, it is the definition of apolitical.  In other words, the fight to #ENDALZ reaches every single person on capital hill, it reaches across party lines, and it does not care about one’s race, or sex, or age.

Beating Alzheimer’s is one – maybe the only one – issue that everyone can agree must be a priority.  Best of all, our elected officials (from all parties) see that importance.  Their struggle comes in with time.  There are only so many hours in a day, in a week, and in a legislative session; the senate and congress depend upon us to know how to fight this truly atrocious disease.

That is where AIM, with a strong membership core made up of hundreds of thousands of Americans, comes in.  The greater our numbers, the more influential our voice.  As a collective group, AIM presents bills, research needs, and battle plans to legislators.  Because AIM partners with the Alzheimer’s Association and gathers “intel” from all over the world, they are the most knowledgeable voice for what needs to be done.  By joining AIM for $20 per year, you are speaking directly to your elected officials.

Just this week I had the opportunity to meet with an amazing, smart, savvy, and precious (I’m sure “precious” is not how she wants to be described, but it is true) legislative assistant for one of my Oklahoma senators.  My big “ah ha” take away from our conversation is that Senator Inhofe oftentimes has challenges getting other senators to support Alzheimer’s funding and programs because of the time it takes to see results.  In fact, Jennifer mentioned that if it takes longer than 10 years to see a dollar’s return on investment, politicians are hesitant to support spending that dollar in that particular way.  This is because they want/need to show their constituents progress today, not in 15-25 years (isn’t that just the world we live in…instant success, immediate gratification, and all that now, now, now junk…grrrrr).

Here’s the truth:  it WILL take 15-25 years for us to find a treatment so that people can live a normal, healthy life with Alzheimer’s Disease.  It might take 50+ years to find a cure.  This disease is that much of a monster.  BUT…if we don’t fund the science now to start that timeline, in the future we will regret having not started much earlier.  By building AIM, we prove to our elected officials that we want them to make those tough, long-term decisions and that we support them for supporting the battle to beat and end ALZ.

When I was in Orlando for the Alzheimer’s Association Summit this past January, one of the presenting doctors made a profound statement:  “We are all going to die, that’s a fact. I want to die of something else, with my memories intact.”  To that I say, “ME TOO!!”  But to make that an option in my future – in your future – we must come together today.

Please use this link to place your $20 annual AIM membership:

https://www.alzimpact.org/join/join_aim/code/ba7df2e558/method/link

I usually don’t ask this, but please also share this post via email to your family and friends, a retweet, or posting it on your Facebook wall.  This small step in fighting Alzheimer’s is critical, and this is how you can help.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS:  In 50 years, my beautiful Angel Girl will be 66 years old.  Right now 1 in 10 Americans age 65 and over have Alzheimer’s.  2/3 of those are women.  Those statistics are only getting worse.  I really, really want that cure to be ready when she needs it!

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!!

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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:

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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!

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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

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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.

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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!!

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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!

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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…

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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

How a Spanish Soap Opera Saved My Sanity

Last Tuesday I quit.

After 8 solid weeks of workouts, meetings, appointments, practices, events, ballgames, and the general chaos that takes over my calendar, I declared myself DONE for a day.  I had been rushing from thing to thing, hour after hour, until I was about to drop.  So, I decided to put a Netflix series on in the background and relax on the couch for a couple of hours.

I believe it was the hand of God who must have put Grand Hotel in my suggested shows because divine intervention is the only way a Spanish speaking dramatic series could possibly show up there!  But, as the description was in English (the only language I actually do comprehend), I didn’t realize it would be 100% subtitled until after I hit the button to begin playing Season 1, Episode 1.  Within about 5 minutes, and before I could get tired of reading subtitles, I was hooked.

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My plan was to pay bills and return emails on the laptop while watching  (even on my self-imposed afternoon “off” I felt guilty if I was not working on something), but I quickly realized that I could not half-way watch a program in a foreign language.  It was all or nothing if I wanted to watch it (and I very much did!), so I was forced to put aside the bills and the computer.  I was physically unable to multi-task, so all I could was sit and enjoy the show.

And boy did I.  I really, really enjoyed it!!  I looked it up on IMDB and discovered that it aired in Spain for only three years, so I quickly justified that I had earned a full day of watching and basically canceled my normal routine last Wednesday just so I could sit on that couch and watch more and more of my new show.  By Thursday I was feeling quite the Slacker Mom, so I forced myself to pause the show between every single episode to change out laundry.  On Friday afternoon, I squeezed in 15 minutes of watching here and 20 minutes there to get through a couple of episodes, and Saturday night my reward for surviving Coach’s life-shortening-come-from-behind-by-31-points-to-win ballgame was to splurge on more Grand Hotel.  This time from the soft, warm, cozy comfort of my bed.

I am happy to report that at 11:53 pm last night (one full week after beginning this journey), I finished the final episode!  Life may now resume (but not as previously scheduled because I am determined to keep my sanity now that it has been found!).

I am also happy to report that it was worth every single, lazy, laid-back moment: the finale did NOT disappoint, and the week off from the hustle and bustle of our world was the absolute definition of bliss.

I know it was ridiculous.  My family got a kick out of watching me watch my show obsessively (although, all three of them could tell you the story line because they, too, got engaged in that plot from time to time!).  I am positive that my sister – who actually is fluent in Spanish – thought I had lost my mind when I told her what I was doing.  I mean honestly, who requires a week-long Netflix binge to find a way to slow down?

Hmm…who doesn’t?

The Truth in a Joke

I am a firm believer that every joke is rooted in a bit of truth, and while I confessed my brief television addiction in humor, there is a sad truth in the telling:  I was so unable to stop multitasking, stop running, and stop the chaos, that it took an inability to understand spoken words to grasp 100% of my attention on any one thing.

Now that’s a problem.

I remember reading an article (likely from Facebook) several years ago about the effects of multitasking on mental health, and I remember they were not good.  So, I turned to the Internet to learn more.  Here is a Google search that returns 4.8 million results in 0.43 seconds on the negative impact our incessant need to multitask has on our minds:  “Multitasking Bad for the Brain”

No wonder we are losing them!

Well, I do not want to lose my mind.  It was my Grandma Syble’s greatest fear, and it came true in the form of diagnosed Alzheimer’s Disease the last two years of her life.  And while I am certainly not claiming that multitasking causes ALZ, I am declaring that we should be taking better care of ourselves.

And when it comes to multitasking, that particularly applies to us women.

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Seriously, what have we set ourselves up to do?  Who have we set ourselves up to be?

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Personally, I do not want to be either of those moms pictured above.

Right now in America, over 5,000,000 people are living with Alzheimer’s, and 2/3 of those are women (www.ALZ.org).  That is just the known Alzheimer’s patients.  There are additional forms of dementia and brain disease to compound those numbers.  This is an epidemic that must stop.

I want to beg and plead with you to slow down, enjoy every moment, and take time, but I know that just like me, you feel obligated and controlled by your calendar and commitments. Instead, I will simply remind you that life is a gift, and the life you’ve been given is the only one you will be granted, so whatever you do with your days, make them meaningful and memorable and marvelous!

With Love and Hugs,

Ashli

PS:  If you do happen to make time for 66 episodes of greatness, check out Grand Hotel, and let me know if you love it as much as I did 😉

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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,

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underlining/boxing/starring scripture,

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

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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!

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  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:

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    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!

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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

Are you there, God? It’s me, Ashli.

This week I had an opportunity to read ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET. by Judy Blume.  I read it with my Angel Girl for a mother-daughter book club meeting we wanted to attend.  I thought I had read it as a youngster, but I didn’t remember the story, and now I am sure that I had not read it before.

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The book was first published in 1970, and its accuracy and spot-on illustration of life as a preteen girl in the 2010’s says a lot about our failure to make growing up any easier!

The story resonated for me through several threads…being born to a multi-religion family, growing up as a female in this world, and the challenge of discovering who I will be when I grow up.

The lesson I loved most in the book is that no one is perfect, so we should love them in spite of that fact.  Margaret is hurt to find out that her friends are not perfect; in fact, they are just as vulnerable and desperate to protect themselves as anyone else.  Then she learns that grown ups are not perfect when her parents frustrate her and her grandparents just plain infuriate her.  And finally, Margaret realizes that she, too, is not perfect when she “unloads meanness” (that is my own phrasing) on a school mate.

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I am embarrassed to say that I have those same moments of meanness, and I had one yesterday towards the most precious, kindest hearted, sweetest soul that I know:  my Angel Girl.

Yesterday I taught my first full yoga class.  And I botched it badly.  Everything was rolling along pretty well until the final long-hold pose…Malasana (Standing Frog Pose):

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This pose is a fabulous hip, groin, and chest opener.  It is one that is pretty do-able for most people, thus a good choice for ending class on a successful note.  UNLESS God gifted you with legs that have the tightest, least flexible, most severely contracted ligaments, tendons, and muscles on the planet…just like he gave to my Angel Girl.

It is no secret that while I was blessed with natural flexibility but no muscles or strength, Angel Girl was gifted with pure muscle, lithe strength, but very little flexibility.  I have never – and I mean NEVER – watched a person work year after year to overcome an obstacle like she does.  Cheerleading is her sport, her hobby, and her true love.  She refuses to let her natural limitation hold her back from what she loves.  I’ve seen her tendons strained to the point of snapping when pushing into her splits.  I’ve seen tears streaming down her face when overstretching.  The thing that I have never seen is her giving up.

So when I made a hurtful remark that her Malasana was [and I quote] “the worst one out here” I was just like Margaret in our book:

I did an awful thing today.  Just awful!  I’m definitely the most horrible person who ever lived…

I wish I could turn back time and not say that cruel thing.  I wish I didn’t try to build some up by tearing others down.  I wish I was a better yoga leader, mom to my precious gifts, and human being:

  1. In yoga there is no measurement, no comparison, no good/better/best, so my rude comment was totally fabricated in a petty attempt to be funny.
  2. A mom is her child’s biggest fan.  PERIOD!  No qualifications, and no quantifications!  EVER.
  3. Humans should be a source of support and encouragement, never an influence that causes self-doubt or feelings of unworthiness.

In that moment yesterday, I failed at all of these in a big, miserable, un-erasable way.

But, Angel Girl (and all others who might read this confession), you go be YOU regardless of me and my mistakes.  You keep overcoming your obstacles, fighting through your struggles, and seeing the good in everything and everyone around you.

And I will work harder to be part of that good!!

I love and adore you, sweet girl, and I really am your biggest fan.

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Love and hugs to all,

Ashli

Officially Official

It’s been a while since I have written, and I have so many things I would like to write that the words are pin-balling around in head to the point that my brain is total chaos…nothing new around here, for sure!

I think I will begin today with a bit of good news:  Four and half months after completing my Yoga Teacher Training, I finally made time to finish my Yoga Alliance registration.  I am officially an official RYT200 designated yoga instructor.

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Until now, I’ve been too scared to teach, so the certificate was not of huge concern.  See, I came away from teacher training feeling very knowledgable, very well-practiced, and very unsure about my abilities to lead a class.  So much so that I have been stuck in a self-inflicted “yoga paralysis” that not only kept me from feeling qualified to teach, but also made me feel inadequate to do any of the yoga practicing and/or sharing in which I used to find so much joy and pleasure.

I tried to “fake it ’til you make it” at the beginning of the year.  I had grand plans of teaching my friends online via blog posts and Instagram pictures:

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It lasted 6 days before the self-doubts took over.  I figured, Who am I to be teaching anyone else when I am so clueless myself?

So I quit.

I also stopped participating in online yoga challenges.  These are uber-popular ways for yoga teachers across the globe to build their following, promote their craft, and round up business for their workshops.  These “yogalebrities” are firmly frowned upon in many yoga circles.  They are viewed as attention-seeking, exhibitionists who wow the masses with crazy physical contortions but never lead those masses to their personal path of enlightenment, which is “supposed” to be the purpose of yoga practice.  These are considered to be bad, bad people.

Except that I like them.  In fact, following a few of these “yogalebrities” and their daily challenges was a tremendous motivation to me when I began attending yoga classes and attempting to practice at home on my own.  I can see how flouncing into an advanced posture without knowledge, warm up, nor a plan for getting out of it is quite dangerous.  It is also dumb, and while I am certainly ignorant and unknowledgeable about many, many things in this world, I am not by definition DUMB.

Each day these “yogalebritites” share a new pose for their monthly challenge.  I, being the information-hound-slash-know-it-all that I am, would google the pose, read the entry for that pose in Yoga Journal’s online posture dictionary, and even watch videos and scroll through images to better learn how to do it safely and with maximum benefit.  This would lead to my mat where I would warm up with my reliable and steady old standby – Sun Salutation A – and spend a few minutes stretching (that is also no-no terminology in some yoga circles).  Some days this took 5 minutes while other days it took 50 minutes, just depending upon what felt good and what my body seemed to need in that space and time…I learned to let the moment be my guide, and it was pretty fabulous.  Next I would work on that day’s prescribed yoga challenge pose, and when I got it mastered as much as was going to happen, I would grab a family member to snap a photo for me to share online.

It never felt like I was putting on a show, craving attention, or committing yoga sin, but after being so entrenched in the yoga community during my teacher training, I really began to doubt these activities.  I did not want to cause harm or injury, and I definitely did not want to appear phony or fake.

So I quit.

To further muddy the waters, I woke up to find myself a yogi with no studio in which to feel at home.  I had just spent 4 months attending yoga teacher training about 30 minutes south of where we live; it is an incredible facility with amazing yoga classes and extremely talented teachers, but the reality is that I don’t want to drive that far.  I know that a 60 minute class becomes a three hour day-swallowing adventure by the time I drive there, allow time to set up my space and use the restroom, complete the class, clean up my spot, visit with classmates on the way to my car, and drive back home.  Sadly, I can’t get my “To Do List” done as is, so I sure can’t afford to lose three hours per day driving around Tulsa County.  On top of that, my annual membership to a yoga studio just minutes from our home expired, and while I find it a good studio, there were little things that seemed to keep me from going regularly.  Those “little things” are my own hang ups, and thus, my problem, but ultimately that type of membership is too expensive to NOT use.  I felt very displaced.

So I quit.

One of the main reasons I wanted to receive yoga teacher training was to feel qualified to lead myself in home practice.  So, now that I had quit sharing and quit attending classes, I turned to my home practice…

Except that I didn’t.

Instead, I spent these last two months going from a school fundraising auction project to fighting the flu to planning our annual football family dinner after the Spring Football Game to helping throw and enjoy an absolutely delightful 5-Bride Bridal Shower, back to the auction project to a small relapse of flu to more auction project (which was – thankfully – a big success!) to a National Charity League project to work for my membership with the Junior League of Tulsa to Alzheimer’s Association AWARE board, back to NCL project to a craft project to another craft project, and now on to hosting an AWARE event.  I thoroughly enjoy my volunteer work, and I DO believe that my service makes a difference, admittedly not for the masses, but at least for a few.  There is not a single one of those involvements that I want to – or am willing to – give up, and yet over the past 9 weeks I have managed to put all of my most precious and important priorities on the back burner, including my family, my home, and myself.

And it stinks.

But today I am beginning again.

Today is Day 1 of “May I Begin Yoga 2016” on Instagram, and I am doing it!

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This is a sequel to the very first challenge that I completed two years ago when I was just starting to discovered my passion for yoga:

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I had so much fun back then…learning new postures, trying the poses, and having my family by my side as my professional photography troupe:

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Day 1 for both years is Downward Dog, or called Adho Mukha Svanasana in Sanskrit:

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2014 Yoga Challenge

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Fast-Forward to 2016

So, it’s officially official…I am back in the saddle, again 🙂

With hugs and love,

Ashli

PS:  Here are a few outtakes (sporting the Yoga Teacher tee!) that my photographer (Coach) caught on camera 😉

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