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Episode 005 – Chesty Kemper

“Hitting rock bottom” was a memorable line from my guest in this episode of The Fortytellers. He apologetically called that line “a cliché”, which is certainly is not! After battling years of depression, loneliness, debt, and an addiction to gambling, Chesty Kemper spent a long period of time where every day he talked himself out of suicide.

He finally made it through one fateful day where he could have ended his life and instead decided to live. Now what? Chesty began a long period of self-reflection. “Rewiring his brain”, he calls it.

The fifth episode of The Fortytellers is a meditation on life, imperfection, expectations, self-awareness and renewal all at once. Chesty’s story is not much different from that of so many others. People struggle – both publicly and privately – with their lives, careers, relationships, money, direction. It is hard to find the time to reflect on what is important to us and even harder to talk about it in depth with someone else.

In fact, I ran into Chesty, a high school friend, in Las Vegas in the fall of 2015. As I was there with a group of my girlfriends, we chatted only on that fun, lightheaded level that Vegas invites people to do. In this episode however we dig deep. Now in his forties, Chesty looks at his past with maturity, wisdom and a clearer sense of purpose about where he is now and how he fits into the world.

Fittingly, Chesty and I struggled with some technical issues during this recording and the sound quality ebbs and flows more than I would have liked. And yet… if you listen past the imperfect sound of this episode, you will hear a compelling story that makes you think of your own story too. Perfect in all its imperfections.


Show Notes & Links:

Episode 004 – Lora Budd

Who would have thought that sneaking out of your parents’ house on a snowy winter night and running across a major interstate freeway might not be a great idea? Perhaps the only thing that provokes more anxiety is having to tell your parents about it. Unless, of course, you are in your forties.

The perspective you get in your forties is unlike any other. Let’s not call it “midlife” which seems so structured and final. Our forties are a time for looking backward and looking forward with fresh new eyes and without many of the burdens, stresses, fears and anxieties that followed through life up until now.

In the fourth episode of The Forty Tellers, I talk with my long-time friend Lora Budd. Even though we have known each other since the first grade, our conversation covers ground that neither one of us expected and reveals things that I never knew: things about her life, about our friendship and about the choices we have made over time that define who we are.

After growing up in Olympia, Washington, Lora joined the United States Air Force and found herself working at the Pentagon at the rank of Second Lieutenant. She talks about lunching with military generals, meeting her husband, losing a pregnancy, and returning back to Olympia shortly before 9/11.

Now Lora is in her forties, well-established in the software industry with her and her husband’s business, and raising three children. She sits in her Olympia home with birds chirping happily outside as she talks with surprising candor about monitoring her kids’ access to social media and telling them with complete frankness about the risk and realities of adolescent life in the post-iPhone world.

Did Lora’s past experience inform her parenting style? Clearly. How will it influence her kids? We may never know, at least until they reach their forties too.



Episode 003 – Mike Heath

This is our normal.

“The one that got away” is how I jokingly refer to my guest in this episode, as he and I briefly dated in high school. Coming out as gay at the age of 27, Mike Heath has had a journey that is at once compelling, courageous, ordinary, normal, American.

In this third installment of The Fortytellers, we hear Mike’s story pick up from where we left off after high school: The growing relationship with Chris, now his husband, and the nail-biting and emotional journey that started with their desire to have kids and led them through their decision to work with a surrogate and welcome into the world their beautiful twins, Sean and Maggie.

Mike tells his story with such clarity and honesty that it is easy to forget the groundbreaking history of two dads raising twins that were born in collaboration with a surrogate. While news outlets and social media elsewhere are noisily drilling on the political and cultural impacts of what it means to be a family, Mike’s refreshing story deals with the far more normal, more immediate – and far more important – realities of daily life.

Juggling parents’ work schedules, changing diapers, cleaning up spills, choosing a kid-friendly neighborhood for them to grow up in: This is the daily living of Mike and Chris’ new family and it is no different than the life, stresses, and joys of my own family or those of so many other families we all know.

The impacts of family life can take anyone’s breath away, and you may be transported through your own life as you hear Mike’s story about balancing his joys and stresses – perhaps not always gracefully but always with humanity and the vulnerability that comes to any parent who sees past the dirty diapers, rashes, and ear-piercing baby cries, and has a vision of the family life they dreamed of.

This is the true joy of parenthood, of kids, of making our own normal life. Mike and Chris’ story show how families are what you make them, how much you treasure them, and how so joyfully normal everything really is.






Show Notes & Links

A Letter to Two Dads by Shawn

The Kid by Dan Savage

Belly Buds


Episode 002 – Nyla Fritz

In the second episode of The Fortytellers, I talk with Nyla Fritz, whom I first met in college. Nyla is now the principal of a middle school near Seattle. As a teacher, I know the kind of special person who thrives in a middle school, whether a teacher or a principal, and I know the unique needs and character and joy that middle school kids bring.

Much of Nyla’s teaching career – in fact, much of her life – was irreversibly impacted by the death of her younger brother, who lost his life in a school shooting 20 years ago at the age of 14. A student brought a gun to class and started firing. The teacher also died. Another teacher, next door, physically stopped the shooter. He is a hero, to Nyla and to all of the community, and yet he, also, is forever affected by this trauma.

The school shooting created in Nyla a passion for issues related to gun violence in schools and she has plenty to say about it. Nyla believes that gun-related issues go beyond the easy-answer political solutions that are flying across the airwaves and through the halls of politics. Even with her well-formed views on the subject, she is open to having the conversation with anyone. In fact, she urges that we all have that conversation.

Listen as we talk about how Nyla reflects on entering her 40’s, how her current perspective informs her new, healthy view of her personal relationships and how, for the first time in 20 years, she is hopeful.

Show Notes & Links

Alliance for Gun Responsibility

Moms Demand Action

Sandy Hook Promise



Episode 001 – Allison Kripp

In this episode we chat with Allison Kripp, owner of The Den Salon and the current Mrs. Long Beach 2016. Allison and I go back many year to when I first lived on my own in the Camden Harbor View Apartments in downtown Long Beach. We affectionately called it “Camden University” because it felt like a college dorm, despite that most of its residents were working adults in the “real world”. I was newly on my own and wanting to connect with people.

In this interview, Allison and I remember our fun days in Camden, talk about some great friends we met and reflect on what it means to turn forty. Allison entered into her forties with a full plate of activities and community involvement and she hasn’t stopped since. In our wide-ranging and touching interview, we talk about not only Allison’s life with her work and family, but also about a recent loss she experienced in her family, the kind that we never fully recover from but still allow us to grow in ways we didn’t expect.

“I think I got my heart and soul into learning a lot more about what our community is doing with homelessness and mental health and so many different facets of what’s going on for outreach.”


Show Notes & Links

Justin Rudd – Community Action Team

Beacon For Him

Long Beach Pocket Guide

DLBA Homeless Outreach

Back on My Feet

Friends of Lincoln Park

You can also watch Allison on an episode of 2 Hot Dishes