When you see brave, say so.

Today is Day 4 in my 100 Days to Brave journey: “Look for Brave.”

The daily assignment says, “When you see brave, say so.”

So, I’m doing just that…

By sharing the entry into my devotional journal that I am completing as I read the book:

Day 4: 12/14/18
How kismet/ironic/perfect is today’s devo?

For Maci’s scrapbook page today we revisited our cookie party from 2014…the week that her world changed in a very big, very challenging way. As I created her pages, I kept thinking how brave she has been her past 4 years.

And then I opened 100 Days to Brave and todays reading is all about people around us who are doing brave things!

Without a doubt, Maci Maree is my example of brave EVERY SINGLE DAY!

If you’ve been with me on social media for a while, you might remember this from SonShine’s senior year of high school two years ago.  At breakfast each morning before school, I display a new scrapbook page from childhood.

I started this insane tradition to prove to my child these 3 things:

  1. Although you look in the mirror and see a stressed, frazzled teenager, simply dog-paddling to keep your head above water through this senior year, here is a tiny reminder that today is just 1 day in a lifetime of days which will feel very much like a roller coaster ride that includes really high ups and rock-bottom downs, jarring twists and exhilarating twirls, as well as moments that stop your heart while simultaneously taking your breath away.  But today is just today, so don’t give it more worry nor concern than it warrants.
  2. You are loved. You are a gift. You are treasured. Since before you even arrived, when we are together in a one room or under the same roof, or when you are off chasing your dreams and living your own adventure, YOU ARE UNCONDITIONALLY LOVED AND A PRECIOUS, BLESSED GIFT THAT IT IS TREASURED BEYOND MEASURE.  Look at these pages, remember these moments, and know that you are never alone, you are never without support, you are never too old to want a hug, you are never too strong to need a hand, and you are never too far away to come back home.
  3. No one is perfect; you will struggle, you will fall behind, and you will fail. Just look at Mom…she is greatly flawed in many, many ways. On top of that, she is 18 years behind on your baby book, graduation album, and everything in between. But she will never quit, so neither should you!

Now it’s Angel Girl’s senior year, and it’s her turn to re-live her last 18 years one page, one day at a time.

As I mentioned above, today’s page takes us back to December 2014.

Talk about your roller coaster rides!!

(Click here for the play by play of that exciting, crazy time in our world.)

The detail that I didn’t write in my journal is that our family’s step forward came with great challenges for our Angel Girl. Challenges that have required – and still do require – big bravery and immense courage.  Some Many days of the past four years have been tough and rough; and yet, she just keeps going.

She has a huge servant’s heart, she is a kind and sweet soul, she’s a fantastic friend for all who give her a chance and include her in their world, she is phenomenal leader, and she has great passion for her endeavors.

She has a strong spirit, a healthy dose of spunk, and a smile to light up the world!

In her, I see brave, and I am saying so.

I love you, Angel Girl!!

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Last day of classes in the fall semester of senior year…but who’s counting??

Love and hugs,

Ashli

My New Favorite Book

I wasn’t always slated for Alzheimer’s advocacy.

In fact, back in 2008 – after watching a CSI: New York marathon on TV…for ten school days straight…and doing very, very little else – I went back to school for my master’s degree.

In 2010, I graduated from the University of North Texas with a Master of Science in Information Sciences (a.k.a., a librarian’s degree) with graduate certificates in Youth Librarianship and Storytelling.

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I chose these areas of study because I wanted to gain some expertise in something I love.

You see, I knew that Coach hoped to someday be a head football coach at the college level which provides a small, yet potentially impactful platform to create positive change in the team’s community.  And then, when I looked inside my heart and my pretend crystal ball, I saw a deep passion for children and an obsessive love for reading.

Since that decision, Alzheimer’s Disease has attacked our family.  Because we refuse to go down quietly, my public platform has taken on a life of its own.

Don’t get me wrong…I’m happy and proud and honored to shout “WE ABSOLUTELY, POSITIVELY MUST END ALZHEIMER’S” from the rooftops every singe day.  You see, me and Coach, we are determined to help create a world without this horrific disease.

But I do still love children, I do still read obsessively, and putting it all together, I do still adore children’s books!!

Today, at Reasor’s (the Oklahoma version of HEB for all my Texas peeps), I bought my new favorite book:

Daisy-Head Mayzie by Dr. Seuss

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The title and it’s similarity to my Angel Girl, Maci, grabbed my attention.  On top of that, I could not understand how I have never heard of this Dr. Seuss tale.  Obviously, I had to have it.

And now I love it!

The story is precious, about a beautiful little girl who discovers something different about herself, has to deal with the fallout when everyone panics over her being different, and then realizes that she’s lovable and valued and proud to be herself [and grow daisies on her head] after all.

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But the main reason that it’s my new favorite is because just before bed my Coach and my Angel Girl stood by my side and looked over my shoulder while I read this book aloud to them.  No phones in the room to distract, no TV’s with which to compete, just the three of us standing in the kitchen while I read Dr. Seuss out loud.

For me, that was a perfect moment.

The icing on the cake is the historical information about Mayzie and Dr. Seuss at the end of the book…which explains why I had not ever heard of this treasure.

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The sprinkles on top of the icing on top of the cake?  I get to read it all over again.

To my SonShine!

The next time he is home 🙂

Yes, he is now 20 years old.

Yes, he’s a big, strong, rough and tough football player.

Yes, he’s an uber-busy college student.

But he’s listened to me read 100’s of books out loud, and he’s a good sport, and he’s the world’s best son, so I know – just as Coach and Angel Girl did tonight – he will indulge me with this one: my new favorite book!

Love and hugs,

Ashli

*  PS: please click here if you would like to support my efforts to #END ALZ –

Thank you, thank you, thank you!!  A.

Spring Break 2018

Spring Break 2018 was truly a great one!

Me and Coach and the kids enjoyed a positively perfect week of relaxing family time…

We made it to Spring Training for our Houston Astros:

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We spent some quality time on the beach, which included reading:

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And practicing a little yoga:

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And, of course, playing some catch:

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We didn’t set a morning alarm for 5 straight days, and we spent the evenings playing cards, enjoying movies, and simply slowing down for a few minutes to take a deep breath and enjoy being together as a family.

Meanwhile, the Alzheimer’s Association was having quite a week itself, both in Washington as well as in Oklahoma…

  • Oklahoma HJR 2014, a resolution presented to the House by Representative Cyndi Munson and to the Senate by Senator Ervin Yen​ was passed by both the Oklahoma House and Senate declaring Alzheimer’s a Public Health Crisis in Oklahoma.  This may seem like a small step, but in actuality it’s a big leap in the right direction!
  • Oklahoma HB 2514 has been approved by the Floor Leader, Senator Greg Treat, to move to the Senate Health and Human Services Committee for consideration. This is the bill that I was advocating to get passed when I spent a day at the capital in OKC.  That day we witnessed government in action as Representative Cyndi Munson and Senator Ervin Yen introduced the bill, and it passed the House vote with flying colors.  Now it will move to committee and from there to the state Senate for final vote…#VoteYESonHB2514

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  • On Tuesday, March 20th, the Alzheimer’s Association released their 2018 Facts and Figures.  This annual report is an update on where we stand in fighting this disease, and while the death toll and diagnosis rates have only gone up, knowledge is power; therefore, it is critically important that we read, understand, and share all we know…#Every65Seconds.
  • On Wednesday, March 21st, the U.S. Congress, in its final appropriations negotiations for fiscal year 2018, included a $414 million increase for Alzheimer’s and dementia research in its spending plan for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and today, Friday, March 23rd, it was finalized and signed into law.  Oklahomans should be very proud of Representative Tom Cole who is a major voice on our behalf, one of our very best national advocates to #endALZ, and a driving force behind this historic budget victory.  This brings annual research funding to $1.8 billion which is knocking on the door of the $2 billion per year that scientists have said is necessary to eliminate this disease.  Please, please take 30 seconds to thank your congressional representatives for supporting this critical funding bill:  Click here to send an email of thanks.
  • Last – but certainly not least – the Alzheimer’s Association is very excited to announce that another one of our priorities — Kevin and Avonte’s Law — has been signed into law. Kevin and Avonte’s Law reauthorizes the Missing Americans Alert Program to help local law enforcement officials quickly identify people with Alzheimer’s who wander and reunite them with their families.

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If you are already receiving Alzheimer’s updates and information, I am sure you’ve been grinning at your inbox just like I have this week.  If you aren’t getting the updates, please join AIM, the Alzheimer’s Impact Movement.  It involves only a $20 annual membership fee, and we need you as a member.  The greater the number who join, the clearer the message to Congress that America deserves and demands that we as a nation properly care for those living with Alzheimer’s, that we actively support their caregivers, and that we make finding treatments and then a cure a top priority.

Well, friends, I will step off my soapbox and leave you with my heartfelt hope that you, too, have had a fabulous Spring Break 2018…and maybe a few ocean outtakes 😉

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Love and hugs,

Ashli

My Home

The Montgomery crew just completed two consecutive weeks of Homecoming…the first at Angel Girl’s high school, the second at TU.

Let it be known: I LOVE HOMECOMING!!

Here is a selection of (BIG and BEAUTIFUL) mums that I have made over the years:

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Clara Belle, Uncle Shaun, and Miss K (who was crazy enough to grow up to be a [strong and amazing] football coach’s wife!)…Stephenville High School, 1996.

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Angel Girl, Bruceville-Eddy High School, 2009.

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For SonShine’s date, China Spring High School, 2012.

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We don’t leave out the boys, either…a garter for Angel Girl’s date, also 2012.

I LOVE MAKING MUMS!!

Here are a few homecoming goodie bags from over the years:

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2012

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2014

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2015

I LOVE CREATING GOODIE BAGS!!

Here are my babies attending homecoming dances:

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Angel Girl, Freshman Year, 2015.

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The gorgeous Miss C with SonShine, Junior Year, 2015.

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Two very good looking kiddos, Sophomore and Senior Years, 2016.

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Sweet B and my Angel Girl, Junior Year, 2017.

I LOVE MY BABIES!!

Here are some of my favorite homecoming victories:

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2013

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2014

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2016

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2017

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Yesterday!

I LOVE VICTORIES!!

And parades 🙂

This year I was honored to close out TU’s homecoming festivities with a session of “recovery” Yoga With Momma Monty on the football field.  Today was a perfect, crisp, sunny morning.  There was a crew cleaning the stands from yesterday’s game, a few folks were running bleachers, and a handful of alumni/employees came to practice with me.  It was both energized and peaceful in the same moment.

By definition, “yoga” means “calming the fluctuations of the mind.”  I find that incredibly valuable in a world that is overfilled with electronics, displays, beeps, words, sounds, music, lights, and stimuli in every shape and form.  Developing the ability to calm the mind is life-changing because it filters out the noise of life and refocuses on the right now.

This moment is the most important.  And once you let this moment pass, it will never be revisited nor regained.  Therefore, living in this moment, thinking in this moment, and loving in this moment is more important than I know how to explain or describe…so just trust me: it is!

Loving this moment, this place, and this life is my idea of being HOME.

When Coach asked me to marry him, when he asked me to be a coach’s wife, he said we might move around, he said we will experience be both adoration and hatred (often by the same people from week to week), and he said it would be tough at times.

He also said that as long we were together, it would be beautiful, rewarding, and fulfilling life work. TOGETHER.

When we chose to start a family, we reiterated our motto: as long as our children are safe, we can go anywhere, and together we will thrive.

We’ve embraced that mindset for 23 seasons now.

Coach is my home.

He is my shelter, he is my safe place, and he is my strength.

You can love him or detest him.  You can praise him or slander him.  You can support him, or you can choose to not.  But you – not anyone – can ever diminish him or cause me to doubt him.  Yes, he’s a brilliant, incredible football mind.  But even more so, he is patient, and he is kind.  He is emotional and loves big, in a whole-hearted kind of a way.  He is the epitome of a wonderful provider, the definition of a family leader.  He takes care of me, and he takes care of our family; he takes care of everyone in his world.  He supports me and all my crazy ideas and projects and aspirations.  He believes in me when often I don’t even believe in myself.

We love each other deeply and with great intention.

Yes, Coach is most certainly my home.

Which means that our kiddos are my decorations.  They make my life pretty!  They add sparkle and excitement and fun and flair.  They are joyful and funny, sweet and smart, fragile and strong, sturdy and delicate, rustic and elegant.  They are go-with-the-flow, low-maintenance, and easy-casual. They are high-end and high quality.  They are absolutely priceless.  They are the most blessed bonus of this life and the sweetest of icing on my cake!

Wherever are those three, my heart and my home will also be.

So, that’s my idea of home (as well as a photographic display of why I find homecoming so very fun).  I hope your home – not the walls and floors and ceilings and windows around you, but the people who create the foundation for your life…I hope they know that they are your home, just as I hope that Coach, and our SonShine and Angel Girl, know that they are mine.

One last thing to share…I’ve never done this so I hope it works.  I use Spotify to create my yoga playlists, and today’s Homecoming Yoga list turned out really well (if I do say so myself), so here it is:  YWMM – Home

Have fun listening, and have a wonderful week ahead 🙂

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS:  We have also dealt with our share of homecoming defeats.  Of course, no season is rainbows and butterflies 24/7…

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2016, 43-7 Homecoming loss to Oologah.

But one needn’t question our resolve; our love never waivers.

Struggle brings this family closer; we find ways to build one another up.  And win or lose, I could not love my Coach and my kids – my life, my love, and my home – any more fervently, any more devotedly, nor any more passionately than I do right now, in THIS moment.

xoxox,

A.

Blame it on the Son[Shine]

We have a little joke around our house these days: blame it all on SonShine…he’s gone to college and not here to defend himself.  Of course, he knows we are only teasing.

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I miss him…he misses torturing his baby sister.

And yet, we also have a saying around our house: all jokes are rooted in truth.

Therefore, it only makes sense to blame my perfectly precious SonShine for the fact that I have cooked dinner at home this semester precisely ONE time.

YIKES!

Here’s the deal, though…I have done spectacularly well with his leaving home and moving into the dorms at TU.  I give him oodles of space, I never nag about schoolwork, and I don’t even “lecture” when all my maternal instincts go on full-alert sending me signals that perhaps I should simply remind him of the basics (Rule #1, slow down when you drive, be extra aware when out and about, etc…).

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I love that he loves college.  I love seeing his smiling face when I am on campus.  I love watching him thrive in his environment.  I love that he has found his place.  I love when he calls me out of the blue just to talk.

And yet, I miss him being at home.

I miss him most at dinnertime, and without realizing it, I just quit creating dinnertime.

Angel Girl eats anything, I eat everything, and Coach is rarely home to eat at all – at least before 9 pm.

But my SonShine, he is picky.  He likes what he likes, he loves what he loves, and that’s about it.  He is by definition finicky and difficult and has zero intention of branching out, broadening his horizons, nor expanding his palette.

He is also the very biggest, most enthusiastic fan of my cooking.  He will take my home-cooking over absolutely anything else.  As long as it’s one of my recipes and prepared by my hands, he’s all over it.  He digs into what he likes; he devours what he loves.  And he eats and eats until he absolutely cannot eat anymore.

For a crazy, southern momma like myself, there is no greater display of love!

I treasure that.  And I miss that.

And since he is not here to relish in my cooking, I just kinda stopped.

But my hard-working Coach and my beautiful Angel Girl deserve a little mothering, too, so I am climbing back on the horse and jumping back into the game…

First step: take my own advice:  plan a month of meals.

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It’s a [tiny] bit sad to start by filling in all the nights that I won’t need to cook due to other engagements and obligations.  One can see how transitioning from “dinner every night mom” to “mom who doesn’t cook” was so effortless!  But after all the fun stuff is penciled in, I am still left with at least three nights a week to take care of my crew.

Last night was Night #1:

Nana’s Chicken Spaghetti.

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My theory on this recipe is that – like all the very best recipes – it stands the test of time and taste because it is easy to make, scrumptious to eat, and plenty filling.  I received the recipe from my mother-in-law when Coach and I got married almost 22 years ago.  I have also seen it nearly character-for-character in Ree Drummond’s first cookbook which leads me to believe that it has been present at many a Texas/Oklahoma church potluck over the past 100 or so years.  Needless to say, one can never go wrong with a recipe that has found a long life on the Church of Christ cookbook circuit!!

 Ingredients:

  1. 2 cups (or 2 cans) chopped, cooked chicken
  2. 1 c. chopped celery
  3. 1 bell pepper, chopped
  4. 2 cans cream of mushroom soup
  5. 1 can chicken broth
  6. 4 oz. chopped pimentos
  7. 12 oz. spaghetti cooked in broth
  8. grated cheese (original recipe says Velveeta melts best)
  9. salt and pepper

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Instructions:

  • Saute celery, bell pepper, and onion in a small amount of oil.

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  • Mix with soup.
  • Add chicken, pimentos, and spaghetti.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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  • Place in 9×13 pan.

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  • Sprinkle with grated cheese.
  • Bake at 350 degrees until cheese melts.

I served Nana’s Chicken Spaghetti with fresh, steamed green beans and garlic toast.

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I am happy to report that there were no complaints, so I suppose my cooking skills are still intact.

We did not, however, eat at the usual dinner table.  It stays set for 4, and I am no where near ready to remove a place setting.

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Luckily, the game table is less than 10 feet away and serves our purposes just fine.

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Baby steps, I reckon.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS: Tonight is Layered Enchiladas…another family favorite, so I’m batting 1000 🙂

Day 18

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It is said that “sharing is caring” but I believe that to be backwards…I believe that caring about something means that you share it with others.

If you have a phenomenal dinner out, you can’t wait to tell your friends to go there, too.

If you get the best haircut (and color, of course!), you give your stylist’s info to all your friends so they can feel fabulous as well.

And if you feel called to help further a cause, a positive, uplifting, hope-building cause, you share that opportunity with the world so that they, too, may be positive, uplifting, and hope-building.  After all, the reward of gifting is in the giving!

It’s Day 2 of the Montgomery Family $10,000 Challenge, and we are on Day 18 of our Countdown to the Walk to End ALZ here in Tulsa.  Coach and I have pledged to match $10,000 in Walk donations that are given this week.  We started our campaign yesterday, which just happened to be Nana’s birthday (THE Sandra Jean for whom our family walks), and it ends on Sunday which just happens to be Grandparents Day.

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To help us reach our $10,000 goal, please take a moment today to share your Walk Page on social media:

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Your Walk Participant Center has all the tools you need, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to me; I’d love to help!

If you are not a Walk Participant but would still like to help, please consider supporting our family and Team Sandra Jean by clicking one of these links to our family’s donation pages:

Coach

Me

SonShine

Angel Girl

Thank you for caring!

And thank you for sharing!!

With love and hugs,

Ashli

The Host(ess) with the Most(est)

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The countdown is on; the big day is near.
Not sure what to do? Look here, look here!

Only 30 days left – that’s all that remain.
To throw in the towel would be such a shame. 

So follow me now.
I will show you just how,

To make your mark.
Will you, too, be at the park,

Or on a bike, or in a book?
You could even use a rook.

Maybe perhaps you’ll be set at a table.
You can do it, you can…you are really quite able.

I need your help, I need your heart.
Working together, if we all do our part,

We’ll make a world without this disease:
A world so lovely, like a soft, summer breeze.

So empower your brain, that you’re blessed is so healthy,
(And feel free to invite all your friends that are wealthy).

Plan a party, start the talk…
It’s time to gear up and go fund this Walk!

Poetry skills (or lack thereof) aside, we are officially one month away from the Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s.  To help us get from here to there in the most successful, most team-building, most fund-raising way possible, I (with the help of my brilliantly creative designer/assistant/niece…my precious Clara Belle) have created a 30 Day Countdown that will keep us on task to finish strong.

Day 30:  Be a host(ess) with the most(est) by planning an event to promote your Walk efforts.

This can be a quiet dinner party with a few friends or a rip-roaring backyard BBQ for everyone you know.  This can be a poker night with the guys, a Bunco night with the girls, or maybe a chess tournament for all.  This can be a Girls’ Night Out, a kids’ night in, or a guys’ trip to the ballpark.  You can organize a bike ride (bicycles and motorcycles are both a blast!)…maybe a lemonade stand with the littles, a cooking class for the moms, or a crawfish boil by the dads.  What about coffee or brunch, high tea with scones, gathering at the Botanical Gardens, your favorite museum, or a cute boutique just to browse with your besties?

The ideas are endless, and no matter what you choose, you cannot – you will not – go wrong!  Simply pick an activity that you enjoy, and invite a few [dozen?] people to join you.  Be sure to say up front that your fabulously planned, super awesome event is in support of your Walk to End ALZ efforts.  Never be shy to tell your guests that this is a fundraiser…be open and honest about your goals both financial and long-term when speaking about your passion and partnership to end ALZ.  Invite your guests to join you in every step of this Walk season:  your “pre-party” event, your fundraising campaign, and the 1.5 mile stroll that we will enjoy on September 23rd.

Dedicate yourself to being a lifelong Walker, and encourage others to do the same.

Remember…

  • People don’t know what we need or want unless we tell them.
  • Every donation – be it $5 or $5,000,000 – is a tremendous help.
  • Those we love also love to support us just as we strive to be there for them.
  • Happiness and fun are contagious, and people are happy to join in to have fun.
  • Together we can find the first survivor; we can end Alzheimer’s Disease.

Hopefully, your brain is storming, the pinballs are bouncing, and the ideas are bursting.

And you might be wondering about me, what I am doing to be a host(ess) with the most(est)…

Well, I am equally parts excited and terrified to invite you all to Yoga with Momma Monty in Centennial Park on Saturday, September 2nd from 9:30-11 am.

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This donation-based class is my first time to teach yoga publicly.  I usually lead my football boys and my coaches’ wives in practice, and as I recently shared on social media, my normal classes cause minimal anxiety as I know those people already love me (or at least they are already stuck with me).  This is much different, potentially much larger, and it is certainly a much bigger test of my skills as a yoga instructor.  But this will also be a ton of fun and is totally worth the worry.  Yoga with Momma Monty in the park is open to any level of fitness, all ages, everyone is invited, and I hope many will come!

Coach, SonShine, Angel Girl, and I will be setting up tables to help guests register for the Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s, donate to TEAM SANDRA JEAN, purchase t-shirts for our 3rd Annual Alzheimer’s Awareness Game vs New Mexico, and pick up general information about services and programs offered by the Oklahoma Chapter of the Alzheimer’s Association (and which are free to the more than 63,000 Oklahomans fighting ALZ and the more than 230,000 unpaid caregivers in OK who struggle and suffer alongside them).

We will also provide ice cold water, so all you need to bring is a towel or mat, your family and friends, and your checkbook 😉

I’d love to see you there, and I would especially love to hear about your special event or dinner or ride or tournament or gathering to meet my Day 30 challenge to launch your Walk season by becoming a host(ess) with the most(est)!!

With love and hugs,

Ashli

Walk Wednesday: WALK THIS WAY!

I haven’t written a “Walk Wednesday” blog in a while, and I have consciously tried to give you all a tiny break from me after spending all of June beating everyone over the head with my Kickoff Carnival fun…

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And as you can see above, it was a ton of fun.

BUT, now it is time to get in gear, so I am holding no punches back, putting my bossy pants on, and telling you EXACTLY what I need for YOU to do:

  1. Click right here:  TEAM SANDRA JEAN
  2. Scroll half way down the page and click the golden “Join Our Team” button
  3. JOIN TEAM SANDRA JEAN

That’s it, folks.

That is all I am asking.

For today.

With love and hugs,

Ashli

PS: There is no cost to join our team (or start your own), you can join the team even if you are not able to attend our Walk in Tulsa on September 23rd, and all fundraising efforts are optional and totally up to you.  We – Coach, Cannon, Maci, and I – simply want you on our team.  We want your partnership.  And we want TEAM SANDRA JEAN to be a force to be reckoned with as we fight for a world without Alzheimer’s Disease.

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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!)

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