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My Mom Village Pledge

Chili's and Lady Antebellum Partner for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Back in 2002, seven Memphis area Chili's restaurants put out crayons and coloring pages featuring chili peppers, and asked diners for a buck to color a chili pepper, with all the proceeds going to their beacon of hope- St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. Together, those seven locations raised $14,000 that year. Just a few years later in 2006, Chili's became a corporate sponsor of St. Jude, pledging to raise a whooping $50 million dollars over a 10 year period. Not surprisingly, the place that made chips, queso, and Presidente Margaritas famous, hit the $54 million donation mark in just seven years. That's a whole lot of sizzlin' fajitas.

In honor of the partnership, a state-of-the-art-building was named the Chili's Care Center. Completed in November 2007, the center houses the bone marrow transplant inpatient floor, the Department of Radiological Sciences, inpatient activity areas and research laboratories. The center provides St. Jude kids with more sophisticated diagnostic imaging technologies and more precise radiation therapy.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and Chili's Restaurants, along with country music sensation Lady Antebellum, are working together to celebrate Chilis' 13th year of raising money for St. Jude, as well as awareness of pediatric cancer and encouraging restaurant guests to join the cause.

"The Create-A-Pepper for St. Jude campaign is our favorite time of the year, and I'm honored to be a part of an amazing team of people who are raising funds so St. Jude can focus on what matters most - finding cures and saving children." said Wyman Roberts, CEO and president of Brinker International and president of Chili's Grill & Bar. And Lady Antebellum's Hillary Scott agrees, "St. Jude has always been an organization that we are quick to jump in and support. As a band and as parents, we love the work they do for kids fighting really tough stuff like cancer. It's something really close to our hearts and we're excited to be part of what Chili's is doing to help advocate for these kids and their families."

This month, the Create-A-Pepper campaign and Donate Profits Day on September 14, a day in which Chili's donates 100% of net profits to St. Jude, will highlight Chili's fundraising and awareness efforts. In addition, restaurant guests will have the opportunity to learn more about St. Jude and donate right at their table using the Ziosk tabletop technology. Patrons who use Chili's loyalty program,  My Chili's Rewards, can earn bonus point with their donations, and for the first time Chili's restaurants in Canada will be participating. Finally, with Instagram's new donate feature, make a donation right from the Chili's Instagram page.

Today, the Chili's and St. Jude partnership thrives because of their mutual goal of putting an end to childhood cancer. It's because of partnerships like this that no family ever receives a bill from St. Jude for treatment, travel, housing, or food because all a family should have to worry about is helping their child live.

A New Mother's September 11 Memory


14 years ago on the morning of September 11,  at 8:40 a.m. I was standing in my Florida kitchen making cinnamon rolls. I had a 3 year old and 22 month old underfoot, yanking on my pajamas bottoms for attention, and flinging tupperware out of kitchen cabinets. 

The Today Show was on TV. 

How odd. A small commuter plane has flown into the side of one of the World Trade Center buildings.

I kept rolling out the dough, sprinkling brown sugar and slathering butter on top, then pushed up the sides and pinched the seams. It was one of the first times I ever made cinnamon rolls from scratch, and I was eager to have moms at playgroup that morning indulge in my efforts. It wasn't even in the oven yet and the smell was overwhelmingly sweet and utterly divine. 

It was almost fall. 

A second plane hits the other building. How odd, I thought again.

I pause from slicing the rolled dough, bend down and pick up the baby, and walk towards the TV. I am anxious to turn up the volume and hear the good, simple explanation for these coincidences.

It is not simple. 

It is not good.

It is horror. 

Lumps form in my throat, my heart begins to race. I call my husband at work and beg him to get near a TV and then come right home.

The little ones are giggling, pulling hair and pushing trains, totally oblivious. Completely and innocently oblivious to the world they are now living in. A very different world. A world that at 8:40 a.m. was spinning ordinarily around, was filled with humdrum workdays and carpools,  cups of coffee swallowed on commutes, afternoon grocery stops, and husbands and wives kissing goodbye in doorways and saying to each other,  “See you at dinner.” 

 My first thoughts, after the shock, the terror, the fear, was only this….

What kind of world did I just bring kids into?  

What kind of life will these little boys have? 

What have I done? My God What. Have. I. Done.

I went on to bring two more sons into this world.  By choice. By the choice that you and I and every other mother out there makes every day. We choose faith, hope, and love.

I choose it every day. I choose it even when I don’t want to, even when it feels like the hardest thing to do,  I still choose it. I choose it even when the news feeds, the media, the stories of grief, sadness, despair, tragedy, illness, and death spill into my mind, and images play on repeat over and over again, and I want to quit.

I choose faith, hope, and love. 

When society tells me there are people who hate, who discriminate, who torture, who bruise, who burn, who even kill for their cause, I don’t listen. I choose not to listen, not to believe, not to trust, not to accept the negativity. I can’t afford to. I have a hopeful world to provide for my children,  the same one just 14 years ago I questioned. This world. It’s the only one I’ve got. The only one they’ve got. 

It’s a hard thing to not listen. Brutally hard. Some days, just to not sit in a depressive state of "What is wrong with this world?" takes all the energy I can muster. But I have to choose to go on, for if I didn’t, if none of us did, then those lives lost on 9/11 were meaningless. And they are anything but. 

I am a better person than I was at 8:40 a.m. 14 years ago. Though I still often doubt the innocence of this world, and I still sometimes let my mind drift into dark places devoid of hope, I keep choosing faith, hope, and love. I choose it for my kids. 

I still make cinnamon rolls from scratch every once in a while. And every time I find myself pushing the rolling pin over the dough,  I imagine I am flattening out the despair of 14 years ago to give way to rising hope. I inhale the divine aroma and faithfully wait for the magic of the rise, and I know when it’s time, the smell with fill my kitchen with pure wonderfulness. 

And the smell will remind me that I am alive, and that to keep living, I still need to keep choosing three things. 




Kids Headed to College This Fall Were Born in 1997. Process. THAT.

This is the 18th year that Beloit College has released its annual College Mindset List.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with this cultural gem, prepare to feel old, like very, very old. The folks at Beloit have cultivated a list of generational characteristics those entering college this fall all share. For example, having been born circa 1997, these college freshman are also the same age as the release of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (you have permission to gasp), and may think of the turn of last century as the twentieth, not the nineteenth.  The list hopes to give college professors a clear snapshot into the pictures of the lives these 18 year olds grew up in, ultimately helping them to better understand the mindset of the college freshman in their class. 

 I left for college in the fall of 1990, having only ever watched TV on an actual TV, and never having used a cell phone. Johnny Carson was still on every night,  O.J. Simpson was still known only for being a famous running back, and microfiche was the library’s only quasi electronic resource. I carried a word processor the size of a small piece of carry on luggage, a bright yellow Sony Walkman, and a trunk full of Benetton sweaters into my freshman dorm room. This year’s college freshman? Well, here are a few things Beloit College shares about just where they may be coming from;

Since their birth;

1. Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.

2. Google has always been there, in its founding words, “to organize the world's information and make it universally accessible.” 

3. They have never licked a postage stamp.

4. Email has become the new “formal” communication, while texts and tweets remain enclaves for the casual.

5. Four foul-mouthed kids have always been playing in South Park.

6. They have grown up treating Wi-Fi as an entitlement. 

7. The announcement of someone being the “first woman” to hold a position has only impressed their parents.

8. Charlton Heston is recognized for waving a rifle over his head as much as for waving his staff over the Red Sea.

9. Color photos have always adorned the front page of The New York Times.

10. Cell phones have become so ubiquitous in class that teachers don’t know which students are using them to take notes and which ones are planning a party.

11. The Airport in Washington, D.C., has always been Reagan National Airport.

12. Their parents have gone from encouraging them to use the Internet to begging them to get off it.       

13. They have avidly joined Harry Potter, Ron, and Hermione as they built their reading skills through all seven volumes.

14. Attempts at human cloning have never been federally funded but do require FDA approval.

15. Phish Food has always been available from Ben and Jerry.

16. Kyoto has always symbolized inactivity about global climate change.

17. When they were born, cell phone usage was so expensive that families only used their large phones, usually in cars, for emergencies. 

18. The therapeutic use of marijuana has always been legal in a growing number of American states.

19. The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.

20. Teachers have always had to insist that term papers employ sources in addition to those found online. 

21. Playhouse Disney was a place where they could play growing up.

22. Surgeons have always used “super glue” in the operating room.

23. Fifteen nations have always been constructing the International Space Station.

24. The Lion King has always been on Broadway.

25. First Responders have always been heroes.

26. CNN has always been available en EspaƱol.

27. Splenda has always been a sweet option in the U.S.

28. Humans have always had the ability to use implanted radio frequency ID chips—slightly larger than a grain of rice.

29. TV has always been in such high definition that they could see the pores of actors and the grimaces of quarterbacks. 

30. Mr. Jones and Mr. Smith have always been Men in Black, not their next-door neighbors.

31. The proud parents recorded their first steps on camcorders, mounted on their shoulders like bazookas.

32. And among those who have never been alive in their lifetimes are Princess Diana, Notorious B.I.G., Jacques Cousteau, and Mother Teresa.