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.

IMG_1786.JPG.jpeg

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

FullSizeRender.jpg-5.jpeg

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.

FullSizeRender.jpg-4.jpeg

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.

FullSizeRender.jpg-6.jpeg

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.

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!!

14680936_1102124296575490_8939535430583851231_o

A Beautiful Sea of Purple

MawMaw and SonShine

MawMaw and SonShine

Angel Girl and Momma

Angel Girl and her Momma

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

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

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

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

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

img_1760

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

ASHLI:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[PAUSE FOR AUDIENCE CHEERS]

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

[APPLAUSE/CHEERS]

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

We can’t wait to see you all there!

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

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

  tugether-back

In love and hugs on a Wonderful Wednesday,

Ashli

Wednesday Awareness: Tulsa People October “Volunteer Spotlight”

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

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

img_6995

img_6907

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

img_7007

img_7066

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

img_7008

img_7017

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

tp-october-2016-jpeg

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

2016 Tulsa Walk to End Alzheimer’s Questions

Years involved in the Alzheimer’s Association: 2 years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

With love and hugs,

Ashli

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

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.

84f33fb99c99b4756b2bce7476a3ac14

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.

4fb830e95ca19ce686d21495f45b47de

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

donna-mamma-multitasking_600x398

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 😉

cj_kbciueaaegrf