Hosting A Super Bowl Party? Make it a Game. Day. Give. Back. Party for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

Chips and dip? Check. Big screen TV? Check. A Super Bowl party that gives back? Of course!

This February 7, while the country watches the 50th anniversary of the National Football League’s biggest day, you have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children fighting some of the most devastating illnesses by hosting a Game. Day. Give Back. party for St. Jude. 

St. Jude patient Kayla

By joining the brothers of Omega Psi Phi National Fraternity, you can turn your tailgate or Super Bowl watch party into a party with a purpose during the big game, because no matter which team you are rooting for to take home the Lombardi Trophy,  we can all root for a cure. Founded at Howard University in 1911, and the first predominantly African-American fraternity to be founded at a historically black university, Omega Psi Phi is proud to be the National Volunteer partner for St. Jude Game Day. Give. Back.

The mission of St. Jude  is to advance cures, and means of prevention, for pediatric catastrophic diseases through research and treatment. Consistent with the vision of our founder Danny Thomas, no child is denied treatment based on race, religion or a family's ability to pay. Treatments invented at St. Jude have helped push the overall childhood cancer survival rate from 20% to more than 80% since it opened more than 50 years ago.

In addition, St. Jude has one of the largest pediatric Sickle Cell  programs in the country. They treat children with Sickle Cell disease from birth through age 18. Sickle cell disease is the most common inherited blood disorder in the United States, affecting about 100,000 Americans.
It can occur in all races but is most common in African-Americans and Hispanics. About one out of 500 African-American babies born in the US has sickle cell disease.

Setting up your Game. Day. Give Back. party is simple. First, visit St. Jude Game Day to sign up to host a party. Then, set up your fundraising page in just a few steps. Finally, simply invite your family and friends to your in person or virtual Super Bowl watch party, and let the fundraising and football playing begin!  St. Jude will be rewarding the top fundraising Game Day parties some tail gate prizes like coolers and bluetooth speakers. 

What a great way to enjoy the world’s biggest great game, and at the same time make an amazing difference in the lives of families battling childhood cancer and Sickle Cell disease.  So make your game day worthy of the most epic of end zone dances, and sign up to host a Game. Day. Give Back. Party. 

The Perspective Slap

A few days after Christmas, I got a perspective slap. If you’ve ever had one, you know what I’m talking about. They come out of nowhere, smack you out of your “woe is me” state, and leave you a more humble and grateful person. I got mine, strangely enough, in the parking lot of a Big Lots store.

I was there to see what was on clearance, and was looking specifically for a set of snowman ornaments that I had seen before Christmas, but had told myself I could wait until they were half off after the holidays. I had left a house full of grumpy kids in a post Christmas funk, and was  relieved to get out for a few hours, albeit it was an unexciting trip to a discount store, but still. I was out!

I strolled slowly down the aisles, shocked at how ravaged they looked, and disappointed when I realized I was too late in my efforts, and would not find what I came here for. Well, I thought, I suppose next Christmas my house won’t look as holiday perfect as (insert any of my friend’s names here) house. I grumbled on the inside, and then went about the business of doing no fun maintenance shopping; toilet paper, dish soap, laundry detergent, floor cleaner, furniture polish.  All if it needed, none of it “fun,” and as the contents of my cart reminded me of what events the rest of my day would hold, I grumbled on the inside. 

More cleaning of the damn house.

As I left the store and headed out to parking lot, I noticed a large white van parked right next to my car. Large white vans, the suspicious kind with no windows and large loading type doors in the pack, trigger a tingle in my spine. Too many after school specials in the 80s about female abduction, and one too many Dateline episodes had put me on edge. Closer to my car, I picked up my pace, and then paused when I saw the back door swing open, and a man and young boy spill out. Father and son it appeared, and they were cheerily talking as the dad grabbed a reusable shopping bag from the back of the bag and started to fill it. I got into my car, shut the door, and sat for a few minutes, curious as to what was taking place.

I watched as the dad carefully removed from the back of the van two changes of clothes and two towels, folded them neatly,  added a hairbrush, and stuffed it all into the bag.

They happily headed into the same store I just left and the boy, around age 10, was skipping in, smiling, and making conversation with the man.

It hit me quickly what was going on.

They lived in that van, and they were headed into that store to  bathe and put on clean clothes.

And here I was upset that I didn’t get the snowman ornaments I wanted.

I watched them walk inside, and the man approached the service desk up front to talk to the woman behind it. She nodded, then raised her hand and pointed to the back store. Yes, that is exactly where the bathrooms are, I thought.

I sat in my warm car for a few minutes, trying to process the scene I just witnessed. I am not naive to the fact there is a huge problem with homelessness in this country. I am aware of the sobering statistic that 2.5 million children a year, at some point, are homeless. Years ago while working in a downtown urban library, I spent many days watching the homeless spend their days in the warmth of the shelves, coming first thing in the morning, and leaving when we closed.

It is all around us, yet it had become invisible to me, or was invisible to me, until today.

There was little I could do at that moment. There are bigger things I can do, and have done, to help the homeless in my town, but right now? What was there to do?

I opened my wallet and pulled out a $50 Wal-Mart gift card I had. It was the last of some holiday gift cards my husband had earned from his traveling rewards points program. I sat disgusted for a second with that thought, him traveling in airplanes for work, and being rewarded with shopping cards, while this family is living in a van. It filled me with sadness and embarrassment.

I grabbed a notepad out of my purse, wrote “Merry Christmas” on it, folded the gift card in the paper, then shoved it in the drivers’s side window of the place they called home.

Then I drove home.

As I walked into my front door of my house, to the lingering smell of sugar cookies and pine candles burning, to the hum of  voices on the TV and children laughing, I breathed heavily to brace myself for the perspective slap about to hit me. And it did. Hard.

This is YOUR home, it slapped. The place you couldn’t wait to escape just a hour earlier. This is where you bathe in a tub filled with steaming hot water and foaming bubbles. This is where you have the pleasure of pulling warm clean towels out of a quietly spinning dryer, where your children gather around a kitchen island flooded with baked goods and bubbling casseroles YOUR oven delivers. These are YOUR floors you mop, your closet overflowing with clothes you complain is in disarray, and your coffee table where you kick up your feet at night, covered in a blanket and surrounded by the people who make your life magical. These four walls. They are yours. Don’t ever, ever, take them for granted again.

And then the slap left me as quick as it came.

In the days that have followed, I have thought about the white van and the family in it, and I have prayed for them, and I have prayed for me to have the strength to flex my grateful muscle with more dedication and fortitude than I ever have before. Even now as I sit here in my house and look around at the mess, at the garbage disposal that broke this morning and vomited last night’s taco meat all over my kitchen floor, I will not succumb to feeling disenchanted with this place. For no matter what is in it, or what condition it may be in, it is home. Period. 

It is my family’s home.  

And for that, my gratefulness is on a scale that cannot be measured. 

It is simply  too heavy of a blessing to weigh.

Valentine's Day Cards I Really Should Be Getting

My husband is not a flower sender, or a jewelry giver, or chocolate pusher. And that’s all fine by me, because in my world, putting the laundry away and emptying the dishwasher will get you way more action than a bag of Dove Bars. And he knows this (wink wink.) He does, however, give me the loveliest greeting cards. And I mean cards that say the exact right thing at the exact right time.  The super sappy, three folded, rose and glitter covered Lifetime movie meets Cinderella kind of greeting cards. I have saved every single one of them. With phrases like “I’ve discovered how much it means to be able to share hopes and dreams, good times and bad times…I’ve found the love of my lifetime….with each passing year I love you even more…..” they are the quintessential expression of his love. They remind me that man and wife actually do come way before mom and dad. He was my family before OUR own family came. But after 19 Valentine’s Days and four kids, I have a whole new idea of what kind of cards he could really have been giving me all these years. 

1. Valentine, Have I Told You Lately You Don’t Need a Shower?

My sweet wife, you are more beautiful (and dirtier) than the day we met, and that’s ok. If you only knew how much not shaving your legs for 10 days straight turns me on. And the ponytails in scrunchies?  Hold. Me. Back. All I know of love, and personal hygiene, begins and ends with you. Now put down that lavender shower gel you sexy beast, because nothing says romance more than smelling like Tilex Mildew Remover. Pretty please can we play “Knock knock, housekeeping” again?  
Happy Valentine’s Day My Love.

2. Valentine,  Sorry I Knocked You Up Again

I really should have believed the “I have a headache” line. Sorry about that. But have I told you lately how attractive you are pregnant? I mean, remember that time we were in the meat department and you threw up in your purse? I have never wanted you more. Or the time you puked in the car on my lap, the couch, the bed, the backyard, the front yard, the bathtub. So may wonderful places and touching memories.  Being with child does wonders for your body. I mean, it’s like puberty all over again if you know what I mean. New bras and all.  You and our love child are the greatest refreshment in my life. And I will stand in that damn refreshment aisle for as long as it takes for you to decide which flavor of Gatorade you can stomach today, because love is lemon lime, grape, or fruit punch. Whatev. I won’t let you down. Thanks for having my baby babies. 
Happy Valentine’s Day My Love.

3. Valentine, Thanks For Not Running Away

My love, mother of our precious children, thank you for always coming back. I know when things get rough you slam doors, yell like a bat out of hell, and peel out of the driveway because you just need to go drink hot coffee alone and buy cookbooks. No matter what,  I always know you will be back, because you left meat out on the counter to defrost.  I know you will come back to me and our kids, because we’ve watched Dateline together for so many years, and you know if you really run away and never come back they always blame the husband. So thank you sweetheart, for keeping me off death row. You can run away for a few hours, a whole day, or a weekend, whenever you need to. I will always be here for you, waiting for my great love to return to me. (But can you please hurry, because the kids are starving and starting to revolt and keep asking when mom is coming back.)  Happy Valentine’s Day My Love

4. My Love, Stop Cleaning. And Cooking. I've Got This.

You are the sun in my day, the wind in my sky, and the person who makes sure we have clean sheets, and for that, I am eternally grateful. For without you, my life was not be worth living, and I would weigh 100 pounds. For man cannot live on Ramen alone, and for as long as we both shall live I will make sure you always have the best cookware and vacuum cleaners. I thank God for sending you to me, because....uh...your lasagna. But I know what real love is. It is me making dinner once a month for you and the kids (ordering pizza) while you take a long, hot bath. I vow to nurture and take care of you and our home (help kids shove all their crap under the bed before our date night) so you can be the woman you really want to be. I’ve got this house cleaning thing under control. Until I leave for work tomorrow. 
Happy Valentine’s Day My Love

5. Don’t Tell My Wife, But You’re Still My Valentine

I discovered true happiness, and house payments,  the day you walked into my life. You, and the woman and mother you have become since having all my sons, amazes me.  Don’t tell that woman, but when I see you, I still see the college girl I fell in love with. Not a weary, yoga pant wearing, grocery hauling,  carpooling, overwhelmed 40-something mom. Nope. I see a 22 year old co-ed. Our  love affair can stand the test of time, bills, teenage angst, little boy disasters, and all around constant family calamity. Thank you for still being my mistress, girlfriend, lover, and a ‘wife’ when you kinda have to be. Like in front of the neighbors. And at PTA meetings. And in church. (It’s even ok if you sweat in the pews a little) Stay sexy momma, and Happy Valentine's Day. 

Almost 20 years ago, I sat alone on Valentine’s Day.  My roommates were primping for their Valentine’s Day dates, while flowers, balloons, and chocolates kept showing up at the door. I remember thinking and praying, “Lord, can you please just send me a bunch of smart, cute, and  funny guys? Just this once?” 

Be careful what you wish for, for God has a wicked sense of humor. I am now happily married with FOUR sons. I gotta say, it’s good to be queen. No flowers and balloons needed.