Celebration Spotlight

CELEBRATION SPOTLIGHT - Jennifer Monroe

Celebration Voices - Jennifer Monroe

CELEBRATION SPOTLIGHT – Jennifer Monroe

In the Celebration Spotlight, this week one of National Day Calendar’s first ambassadors joins us. Jennifer Monroe is a Texan with a love for life as big as the state where she lives. This week she shares stories of celebration and how she turns strangers into friends.

National Days

Jennifer: I’m so excited to be here. I originally reached out to National Day Calendar because I was a speech pathologist in a school system and my speech pathology friends were like, “Do they have a speech pathology day?” And I said, “Let me check. Well, there isn’t a day specifically dedicated to it. Let me ask them.” And they asked, “You can do that?” My response was, “Why couldn’t you?” So I did, and they got back to me and said that it was wrapped up in Better Speech and Hearing Month.

That’s what speech pathologists celebrate, and while I was talking to them, they said, “You seem rather enthusiastic about celebrating all these National Days.” And I am. I used to use them, I’m retired now, but I used to use them a lot with my students. It’s such a fun thing to talk about every day. It’s just a fun little quirky thing to throw in there. They said, “We’re starting an ambassador program, and we think you’d be perfect.” I said, “Sign me up!” I’m not sure if I was the first ambassador, but I know I was close to being the first one.

Michele: You were very close to being the first one, if not the first. I don’t remember for sure. But I do remember this conversation, and you are so enthusiastic. It’s not a was thing at all; it’s present tense. You live a Celebrate Every Day lifestyle.

Living Celebrate Every Day

Jennifer: I really do. I am a champion of that motto. It’s internal. And life circumstances led me to fully embrace it even more. For example, in my ambassador profile, it talks about my dad. And he is one of the reasons…I get teary-eyed every time. It has been years that my family has dealt with this, but it’s such a beautiful story because it highlights why celebrating every day is personally important.

So, my dad was a doctor in Dallas and contracted hepatitis through one of his patients. And that was back in the 80s when people didn’t double glove or use a lot of precautions. It was a very scary time for us, and he was going to die unless he had a liver transplant. He got on the liver transplant list, and he had no preferential treatment just because he was a doctor. That transplant list is the way it is. If you’re lucky to get a match, then you are. Really in the nick of time, his doctor told us he probably would have lived three more weeks if the surgery did not happen. So he received a liver from this woman who lived in Brazoria, Texas. We got to meet her family, and they are our heroes to this day.

“If you’re lucky to get a match, then you are. Really in the nick of time, his doctor told us he probably
would have lived three more weeks if the surgery did not happen.” ~Jennifer Monroe
Jennifer Monroe and her Dad
Jennifer with her father Phil Berry

But my dad has always been an enthusiastic and optimistic person, and that quadrupled to a million times over for his appreciation for life. And why every moment is precious and why every day you deserve to celebrate. And celebrate doesn’t have to be some huge elaborate party with confetti. It can just be an attitude. And that’s what I think of it. Just so grateful. Waking up and thinking, “We’re here on this planet. We’ve got family; we’re safe.” Just talking about this going on in Russia and Ukraine and how rough that is right now. I’m just thankful for the little tiny things we have to be grateful for. And I’m sure you’re grateful for, too, in these moments of tragedy. Even when things are the toughest and hardest, I think you don’t have to look too far to find one little thing to be grateful for.

Michele: It can be just a micro-moment that can change the day. That’s why we celebrate every day around here. It’s a lifestyle, a mindset. Sometimes it takes some adjustment for some. I’ve heard stories of people saying this changed their life. So we hear those stories, and that’s what we’re doing, trying to get those stories out there, and you’re one of them. I’m so glad you shared that about your dad. I’m familiar with the transplant process. A family member of ours has gone through it’s like. At that last moment – you said three weeks – that desperation that you almost feel, and then afterward, you feel extremely grateful. It’s powerful.

Shifting gears just a little bit- back in November, you had some exciting stuff going on. Tell me about what you were doing right before Thanksgiving.

And the Host of Our Show

Jennifer: The story starts even before November. Back in April, I saw a casting call for people who are outgoing (check) and who like to tell stories, and as you know, that’s a check. Those were the only two things I knew about it, so I applied. And what it was for was a new game show that was coming out. And when you answer a call like that, it’s very vague because I guess they don’t want you to reveal things too early. So I didn’t know quite what I was getting myself into, and they requested a two-minute recording of me telling my best story—and then telling some quirky fact about myself.

Well, the National Day Calendar…well, it’s kind of quirky, but it’s also super fun. So that, to me, is always fun to tell people about because it is so different and unique. So, I led with that, and I think to this day is the reason that I got to have the experience I had. So, for the Jay Leno show, You Bet Your Life. It’s a revamp of an old Groucho Marx show. And they chose me, and I got to go on and compete.

The actual taping was in July, but we had to keep quiet about it until our own show aired. They told us at the time, “We’re not going to be able to tell you when it’s going to air. Be patient.” So, like I said, it started in April and went all the way to the week before Thanksgiving, and then surprise, they emailed me. Your show is coming on tomorrow. I was so excited to finally tell people about it. They loved the National Day Calendar.

“Your show is coming on tomorrow. I was so excited to finally tell people about it. Jay…they loved the National Day Calendar.” Jennifer Monroe

Michele: They did! I’ve seen it. He was hilarious, too. He had some fun with it. If you want to watch that episode, it’s episode 73. You can find it on Tubi. That’s where I found it anyway. It’s so fun to watch. He and Kevin Eubanks are on the show, too. It’s really fun to watch. Jay’s humor is on there, but it’s also a game show. And you did pretty well.

Jennifer: Thank you, thank you. The whole twist of it, and I don’t know that they highlight it so much, but we didn’t know who our partner was going to be until literally five minutes before we walked on that stage. I met the guy as we were walking down the hall. So you don’t know who you’re with, what kind of strengths they have, what kind of trivia knowledge. It’s all such a huge risk, so it’s a lot of fun. They do have a YouTube channel specifically for the show. On that, I think it said it was episode 70. I think it’s called “Bus Racing.” I’m not a bus driver, but…

Michele: They have two contestants at the beginning of the show, and another set on the second half is another pair, right?

Jennifer: Yeah, but Jay even said on there, let’s make this National Risk-Taking Day or something like that because there is a big point where we take a risk. It was a lot, a lot of fun. I don’t think I would have been chosen without the National Day Calendar.

Michele: I love that bit of notation there. It might have been the oomph to get you select.

Calendar Girl

Jennifer: I think it was. They kept calling me the calendar girl when I got there. They’d say, “Oh, there’s the calendar girl.” I’m like, “Okay, I’ll take it!”

Michele: I would, too! Sure, why not. Jay Leno isn’t the only talk show host you have a little bit of experience with, is it?

Jennifer: I’ve done some crazy things in my life. That’s another Celebrate Every Day philosophy and attitude I have. I always think, “Why not try. Why not ask.”

Michele: In your profile on our website, you talk about backstage with David Letterman and striking up a conversation with a stranger.

Jennifer: Yes! So there’s that, and I was on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire with Regis Philbin. The David Letterman story is my sisters, and I went to that show, and Lance Armstrong happened to be a guest on there. It was after his first Tour de France victory. He’s from Texas, and we are. I kind of paid attention to that. I used to do scrapbooks professionally. So, I was a professional archivist. I started thinking, “I bet he has a ton of really cool things he would like to have archived.” After the show, I worked my way backstage and met him and his wife and said, “I think maybe I can help you.” They said, “Sure!” And that turned into a whole other opportunity by making scrapbooks for them. It was a lot of fun. It was a great experience.

Seize the Day

Michele: Seizing the moment. That’s what you were doing.

Jennifer: Seizing the moment for sure.

Michele: I think you do that a lot. It’s a fun way to live and approach life. You’ve probably met a lot of strangers in your life. Is there anything unique or unusual that you’ve experienced because of that?

Jennifer: Well, I use it as a jumping-off point to start a conversation. Sometimes people are scared to do things because they’re not sure what to say. But, my life took a whole turn after I retired from being a speech pathologist. It was a wonderful 25-year career I had. I embraced it and loved it. Loved my students; loved my parents; everybody I worked with was wonderful. But my husband and I were sitting around during Covid like everybody else. He’s still working and has a few more months left before he retires.

On the set of 1883
On the set of 1883

And I thought, “What am I going to with glorious, luxurious gift of time?” So, I started answering more of those casting calls. Now I’ve been doing background work, they call us background artists, doing some commercials and things like that. It’s been so much fun. So when I’ve been on set, I use that (national days) to talk to people. “Hey, did you know it’s National Banana Bread Day? Did you know it was National whatever…” I’ve talked to Sam Eliot and Tim McGraw and Faith Hill and…

Making Magic

Michele: Oh, wow!

Jennifer: National Day Calendar is a great conversation starter.

Michele: So when you start conversations with the name dropping you just did here with Tim McGraw…What days did you celebrate with them or talk to them about?

Jennifer: I get very star-struck, and even though I never run out of words, I was whatever day that was being celebrated. So, I was so lucky that I got to be on 1883, the Yellowstone prequel. They filmed it in Fort Worth, which is really close to my home. I loved it, and we were there for three weeks, so whatever day it was, I would look at that day and mention it.

Michele: That must have been an exciting time. The show was a hit first off.

Jennifer: The show was amazing. The detail, let me tell you. I was walking around in the background by the train by Faith Hill. We had to go fitted for all those 1800s costumes. Every single person is meticulously fitted. And when you walked out on the set, it was like magic, magic! Everywhere there are horses and carriages, and it just took you to a whole other world. It was just easy to imagine you were part of that time.

Michele: So you were an extra or…

Jennifer: Yes. In the first episode, I think I’m in there about 11 different times.

“Everywhere there are horses and carriages, and it just took you to a whole other world.
It was just easy to imagine you were part of that time.” Jennifer Monroe

Michele: I’m going to have to go back and watch it again.

Jennifer: Let me tell you when I say it’s like a split second. There’s one time where you can probably see my face the most. Now, remember, my hair’s all slicked back, bonnet on, no makeup, I look very different. Even my family didn’t recognize me. When Tim McGraw first comes into the town and he’s driving the wagon, and he looks to his right, and he sees the place of ill repute. Across the street from that, he turns the corner, and he looks left, and a friend of mine named Delilah and I are there, and he looks at us for a minute, and so that was my big moment.

Michele: That had to be so fun. You’ll never forget that, that’s for sure.

Jennifer: Never. I read they are renewing it for a second season, but there’s a little bit of talk about it being called 1932, and they’re going to progress the timeline a little bit. Anybody listening, if you have any interest at all, it’s not hard to do. Listen to your local news, and they’ll say, “Hey, if you want to do this, sign up.” It’s a blast. It’s really, really cool to see behind the scenes and how much goes on. I have so much respect for how hard they work.

Michele: I have a friend in Ohio who, when they were filming A League of Their Own in Indiana, and he was an extra. His bit got cut, but he was an extra in of the stand scenes where you see all the fans in the background, and he said it was a fabulous experience. I can’t imagine it being any different for you. And then working with such a popular show, too.

Jennifer: It was fun. There is one coming up next week with Renee Zellweger. She has a new series out called The Thing About Pam. It’s a murder mystery. It was on NBC’s Dateline, and it got so much response that they did a script about it. And she listened to it, and she said that she wanted to play that main character. And she filmed it in Louisiana.

Hokey Pokey with Renee Zellweger
Hokey Pokey with Renee Zellweger

I convinced my sister to seize the day. My sister and my daughter went with me, drove down to New Orleans just for the day, just to do this because it’s so much fun, and I told them, I promise them. We got chosen to do the hokey pokey in a wedding scene with Rene Zellweger. So, she was the sweetest, nicest, most genuine human being. So precious. And that’s always nice when your heroes and these people you have these ideas about live up to your expectations. It comes on March 8th. And super-duper excited about that. We’ll be in that first scene with the hokey pokey with her.

Pick One

Michele: So many fun stories for you to tell. No wonder you’re such a storyteller. I’m going to switch gears again, just a little bit. I’m going to give you a choice of three things. First contact. Name yourself. Or look alike.

Jennifer: Hmmm. Let’s do look alike.

Michele: April 20th is National Look Alike Day. Who do you look like?

Jennifer: Oh my goodness. It would be hard for me to pick, but the two I get the most are Giada De Laurentiis, who is a beautiful celebrity chef. It’s a very big compliment to me, but the irony is I don’t cook at all. And I’m trying to think. There are others people have said before, but Giada De Laurentiis, I would say I’m happy to look like her.

Celebrate Every Day

Michele: Very simply, what does Celebrate Every Day mean to you?

Jennifer: So, what it means to mean is a way of life. It’s an attitude, a philosophy. It’s how you’re going to choose each day. Because you can choose. Every morning you get up, you have a choice. Is this going to be a positive kind of day, or is it going to be a negative kind of day? I’m always going to err on the side of positive.

I’m not saying it’s easy because it’s not. I mean, you’re not naturally always going to have a…things go wrong. Things happen all the time, but there’s always a silver lining in that. And if you can just make that little switch and look around, there has to be something I’m grateful for today. And that’s it. That’s one reason National Day Calendar is so much fun. Because they have a gamut of really little fun quirky things and these huge serious things. I think it’s so wonderful that the National Day Calendar includes serious topics. They deserve so much recognition and so much thought. And it’s kind of hard to go, “Happy National…” and then have a hard topic attached to it. It’s so much more meaningful, and I love that the National Day Calendar does not shy away from very big important issues.

“Every morning you get up, you have a choice. Is this going to be a positive kind of day, or is it going to be a negative kind of day? I’m always going to err on the side of positive.” ~ Jennifer Monroe

Michele: We provide educational information and links to find support, and I think that’s very valuable. It’s a strong part of our mission, and I’m glad you pointed that out.

What advice would you give to somebody who wanted to start Celebrating Every Day?

Jennifer: Gosh. It’s not hard to do. Just jump in and do it. You don’t have to overthink any of it. Look around. Find something you’re excited about and just celebrate it. It doesn’t even have to be the official national day of that, but it is fun. You just take a minute and go to the National Day Calendar website. I love clicking on Today’s National Day. What’s coming up. I’m a person who likes to plan ahead. Always be excited about the future. If you feel a national day is a bit too much, there are national weeks national months. You can pick one thing for the whole month and celebrate that. I promise you there is something for everyone.

Michele: There is something for everyone on the website. You don’t have to be a foodie or somebody who cooks a lot. You could be somebody with an outdoor interest and find something that will be worthy of celebrating.

More locally, you’re a Texan. Are there festivals or something you’d recommend people check out?

McKinney, Texas

Jennifer: Oh my gosh, yes. I live in this darling, charming historic town called McKinney, Texas. It’s a little bit north of Dallas with an idyllic town square. Anyone who comes to visit says this is like you’re living in a Hallmark movie. People are so kind, so nice. And they are very active in all their celebrations. They just did; it’s so cute. They called it Krewe of Barkus. It’s a dog parade.

And then they have Arts in Bloom which is a really neat celebration of all our local artists, but it’s tied into spring. They do a St. Patrick’s Day walk, and they do a Valentine’s Walk where they do chocolates and wine. It’s a very active, vibrant community.

They do Home for the Holidays, a huge Christmas theme, and our home was chosen to be on the Home Tour this past Christmas, which was wonderful in theory. I was so excited about it, and then it dawned on me, “Oh my gosh, we have to get this house ready for people to walk through it.” But it was fun. We upped our decorating game. Our community is really big on celebrating, which makes it really fun.

Michele: It sounds like a great place to visit and explore. Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you wished I had?

Meeting Strangers

Jennifer: No, but I think there is something I’d like to share. This goes back to one of my storytelling things, and I’ll try to be listener-friendly. I read a book called Unbroken back when it came out. And it was a national bestseller. I’m a huge reader, but this isn’t a normal genre I’d read, but because there was so much buzz about it, I read it. It was about this wonderful, amazing man. He was a veteran of World War II. There were just so many things about him that I was inspired by, and I thought, “Man, I’d love to meet him.” And so I called him. He was a 94-year-old man at the time, and he was so gracious and kind.

Jennifer and Louis Zamperini
Jennifer and Louis Zamperini

I told him I was so amazed by his story, amazed by his philosophy, by his attitude in life. And he said, “Thank you.” Before we hung up, I said, “You know, our birthdays are one day apart. I think we should celebrate our birthdays together.” He said, “Yes.” So I flew out to Los Angeles to meet him in person. And we spent a whole afternoon together. He was also an Olympic champion as well, so he had carried the torch in the Olympics. At his home, he has all of these torches.

So I got to hold all those, take pictures with them. His story is amazing. Angelina Jolie did a movie about him. And he lived to be 96 years old. And we became really good friends. Every week we’d talk on the phone. That’s the best example of why you should not overthink things. He could have not answered the phone. He could have told me no, which would have been fine, and I would have respected it. But look what happened? He said yes.

Michele: It’s a way of making connections, making friendships where you wouldn’t expect to. I expect that’s something you do a lot. You’ve enriched your life with new friends everywhere you go by talking to strangers Celebrating Every Day, and telling your story as well.

Jennifer: It’s a natural thing for me and my family. Life’s precious. Enjoy it. Embrace it. And share that joy with other people.

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