Friday, April 14, 2017

Remembering Easter Holidays Past

Easter morning on my grandparents' porch, circa 1965ish.
LONG before I ever envisioned any of the escapades from The 52/52 Project, which are detailed in my upcoming book "Finding My Badass Self," I played the Easter Bunny for two years at Toledo's Southwyck Mall. 
Although hundreds of photographs from that seventies gig are probably lying faded and forgotten in boxes of old family photos across Northwest Ohio, I do not possess a single one to share. 
Pure gold, buried deep in someone's basement.

What I do have is this much earlier photo of my two sisters and me, resplendent in our straw Easter bonnets and patent leather shoes. My cute, photogenic sisters are to the right. I'm the chubby goof on the left. Some things never, ever change.
What's your favorite Easter, Passover, or holiday story? Any fun or embarrassing photos to share? What in the world do you think I am holding here? (I'm almost afraid to know.)

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Days of Birth

Today would have been my dad's eightieth birthday. Here he is with my mom on one of the happiest days of his life: the birth of his first grandchild (my oldest son).

He died nine months later, a week after he turned fifty-three. After all he'd done for me in his relatively short life, I was happy I had been able to provide him with that final gift.

This afternoon, Ringo the Wonder Retriever and I walked to the cemetery. I blew my dad a kiss and told him we missed him.

As I walked back home in the snow, I could almost hear him beside me, whistling a tune.

Who do you miss?

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Available for Pre-Order Now!

Six months to its Aug. 15 release date, but "Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares" is now available for pre-order!

I am giddy.

A few early reviews:

“Sherry Stanfa-Stanley's book is a riot! At fifty-two, she spent the year re-creating herself and reimagining the possibilities of life, to the delight and enlightenment of those who cheered from the sidelines. Forget the bucket list: This book is a barrel of laughs. Honest, revealing, and warm-hearted, Stanfa-Stanley gives her readers a whole new way to put ‘life’ into midlife crisis.”
—Gina Barreca, syndicated columnist and author of Not That I’m Bitter and If You Lean In, Will Men Just Look Down Your Blouse?

“Kiss your comfort zone good-bye! Sherry Stanfa-Stanley challenges herself on the eve of her fifty-second birthday to shake up the status quo of a middle-age life. In fifty-two chapters, you can live vicariously or, better yet, get motivated to get out there. Stanfa-Stanley is funny, real, maybe a little crazy, and totally wonderful.”
—Betsy Lerner, author of The Bridge Ladies and The Forest for the Trees

“Sherry Stanfa-Stanley is funny, and smart, and brave. If you love funny, smart, brave writing, you will love this book. She does things I would never dream of doing, and tells the stories of her unusual adventures in a very entertaining, and always honest style. Enjoy!”
—Cathryn Michon, screenwriter of A Dog’s Purpose

“Stanfa-Stanley faces the terrifying reality of midlife inertia with courage and spontaneity, humor and humility, proving that life is either a bucket list full of someday or a reality full of right f*cking now. Her story is bold, touching, and relatable. You will laugh and cringe as she takes fifty-two first steps toward embracing no less than the life she always knew she was capable of living.”
—Nicole Knepper, MA, LCPC, clinical therapist/gerontologist and author of Moms Who Drink and Swear

“Most people crave a settled life of comfort and safety. Not Sherry Stanfa-Stanley. Finding My Badass Self is a compulsively readable, hilarious account of Stanfa-Stanley’s adventures in middle age, her story of becoming a woman of bravery, style, and substance.”
—Jessica Lahey, author of The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed

And, my favorite:
“I suppose I should have spent a night in the convent with you and the Sisters, instead of going to the nude beach with you.”
 —Gloria Stanfa, my mother

You can pre-order here:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Friday, February 3, 2017

City of Stars

Life Lesson #2,017: It pays to be a tad crazy.

Without that reputation, I surely wouldn’t have been the first person an old high school friend, Jim Ronda, would think of asking to accompany him and his wife, Debbie, to the red carpet for the Screen Actors Guild awards.

I reconnected with Jim a few years back through Facebook and The 52/52 Project. Two weeks ago, as the winning auction bidder on four tickets to the SAG red carpet, he concluded he needed to invite someone spontaneous and “crazy enough to say screw it”: someone who would drop everything and fly out from Toledo to Los Angeles on the drop of a dime.

And so, obviously, I figured I must.

My son, Kyle—who had moved just the prior week from Milwaukee to Cincinnati—requested a couple days off his brand new job and left behind his still unpacked boxes to join us. In my family, the nut doesn’t fall far from the tree.

Our whirlwind long weekend in LA is worthy of a multi-page story, but the SAG red carpet—the impetus for our trip—was one incredible experience in itself.

Jim told us that front-row bleacher seats went for around $1,500 a pair. The rest of the auctioned seats, like ours, were first-come, first-served. Somehow, we managed to land in the front row anyway. Thank you, Jim. And thank YOU, fate and fortune.

From a fabulous vantage point, we experienced two sensory-overloaded hours of celebrity excitement.
Who did we see? Given my fairly limited viewing of popular TV shows, I didn’t recognize some folks until they were pointed out. And with the mob that gradually formed in the venue, we had a tough time picking out everyone in the crowd. Where do you focus your eyes, when anyone in front of you could be someone amazing?

But SOME people you couldn’t miss even if you tried. Those TV and movie stars who caused the biggest frenzy among the media and the audience: Viola Davis, Kerry Washington, Meryl Streep, Jeff Bridges, John Lithgow, Denzel, Lily Tomlin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Nicole Kidman and Keith Urban. A few of them, including Meryl and Ryan, made a point of smiling and waving at our group. We reacted as could be expected. We swooned.

Stars we didn’t see being announced on the red carpet, but whom we just happened to spot in the crowd included: Bryan Cranston, Kate Hudson, Jerry O’Connell, Jim Parsons, John Legend, Natalie Portman, and Kyle Chandler (who, even in person, still looks uncannily like my late father).

We were excited to see the synergy among entire casts of a few shows, such as “Game of Thrones,” “Modern Family” (including little Joe, who wore a cape and gazed around in bewilderment), and “Stranger Things.” (The kids in the cast were way too adorable and appeared so thrilled to be there together. I had never seen the show, but remedied that as soon as I returned home.)

Many of the actors made their way over to the red carpet audience to shake hands, sign autographs, and take selfies. Among the friendliest of those I recognized were Modern Family’s Jesse Tyler Ferguson and Eric Stonestreet (who engaged us in conversation and asked where we were from), William Macy, Casey Affleck, Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven from “Stranger Things”), Amy Adams, Sterling K. Brown (Randall from one of my new favorite shows, “This Is Us”), Hugh Grant, Jim Krasinski and Emily Blunt.

I have met my share of famous people and have never been much of a celebrity whore. But I found myself a bit in awe while directly face-to-face with so many of my favorites, including Hugh Grant and John Krasinski (my beloved Jim Halpert from “The Office”). They both used my iPhone to take our photos and were warm, with a sweet, self-deprecating sense of humor.

Perhaps my biggest fan girl moment was spying Matt Smith, the eleventh doctor from “Doctor Who” (and now appearing in “The Crown”), across the room. He was wearing a bowtie, of course, because bowties are cool. Spotting him was such a huge surprise that he was the only person whose sighting prompted me to shout his name. Later, while I was busy waving to Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges—as one does—I totally missed seeing him walk down our row, right in front of me. Probably just as well. I might have embarrassed myself.

For me, a random middle-aged woman from Toledo, sitting along the red carpet at a Hollywood awards show was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I can only imagine how these celebrated actors and actresses felt that night. Because the City of Stars was shining—just for them.

We never know when a relationship through a generous acquaintance, along with serendipity, might combine into a surreal and electrifying experience. Sometimes, that ends in a dream come true.

So, here’s to the fools who dream.

Have you ever been star-struck? 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Sometimes Life Actually Gives to You By Taking Away" --Carrie Fisher


I haven't been so affected by the death of a celebrity since John Lennon's.

Many people will remember Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia, but for me it was her writing, wit, and honesty that always fascinated and inspired me. I've read everything she's written and was fortunate to see her one-woman show, "Wishful Drinking," on stage in 2012. I had hoped to see her on tour for her latest book.

"If my life wasn't funny," she once wrote, "it would just be true, and that is unacceptable."

Thank you, Carrie, for being wise and brilliantly funny, but always true to yourself.

Any favorite Carrie quotes to share? What celebrity losses have hit you hardest? How ready are you to put 2016 behind us?

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Tiny Friends Four-Ever

Riddle me this: What has eight legs and four overactive brains, talks constantly yet doesn't really say much, exists primarily on chicken nuggets and cheddar goldfish, and makes you simultaneously crave both a nap and a grandchild?

A set of quadruplets.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of hanging out again with the Baldwin Quad Squad. I first babysat the quads when they were six months old and then again at eighteen months. Now, they are age three: and they have grown into four bright, delightful, and very busy little people.

Their adorable older sister helped direct me, with her big sister expertise and first-grade know-how. Sure there were a few moments when they made it clear they didn't care to follow my directions. Or when I looked up--searching for a wayward quad--and realized I definitely did NOT have all my ducks in a row,
But after almost three hours of constant conversing, doing artwork, playing games, and trying to convince them I do not have a pet elephant (??), we once again bonded. Before they headed upstairs for their afternoon naps, we hugged, loved on each other, and said goodbye--until the next time.

My two sons are now grown men, and the memories of them as toddlers have grown hazy. Who knows when I will experience the joy of grandchildren. But thanks to a random experience in my 52/52 Project, I hope I'll always have the Quad Squad.

Sometimes serendipity steps into your life in the form of several tiny, smiling faces.

Small children: Adorable? Or carpet-crawling, curtain-climbing rugrats? What's the biggest challenge in your life that still brings you happiness?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Just When I Never Expected They'd Find Brotherly Love

Son #2 was in town for the Thanksgiving holiday and spent an entire evening watching football at his brother's apartment.

Damn right, I believe in miracles.

Sharing one of my favorite stories, a warm one for the holidays: 

Were your childhood sibling relationships--or your own children's relationships--filled with brotherly/sisterly love or of sibling rivalry? What's the best family miracle you've ever experienced? Were these two the most adorable little boys ever, or am I a bit partial?