Celebrating 50 Years of Life


January 13, 2020

Written by Mary Beth Sheleman, Administrative Assistant

Driving to work one day, in 2017, I realized I was about to turn 50. At that point, I quickly grasped how much I have not experienced yet. I decided to change that.

First, I made a bucket list of the fifty things I had never done. The list included:

  • Jumping out of a plane
  • Shooting a gun
  • Riding a motorcycle
  • Visiting any Arizona landmarks

Once my list was complete, I decided to make the next year (my 50th year) an adventure and fill it with things that I love. I searched for Arizona landmarks…places to complete my experiences. I also incorporated my love of cooking with positively impacting MRA’s workplace culture. One of the items on my list was to cook 50 meals for my co-workers over the course of the year. It was not a simple task; however, I found that cooking for my colleagues was a unique way to bring people together. Seeing them enjoy eating each meal, and the comradery that grew from team members all meeting in the kitchen to spend their break together, was touching. Each week, I would reveal the meal I prepared by sending out an email stating, “Celebrating my 50th year of life, please enjoy lunch [or breakfast]”.

A few of the meals I made from scratch were lasagna, jambalaya, and gumbo. One of my favorite meals was when I did Thanksgiving in June; little known fact, you can’t find a turkey in June! Instead, I settled for turkey breast. Sorry, dark meat lovers! Another hit was the ice cream bar. I brought in different ice cream flavors, cones, toppings, and sprinkles. It was quite the spread. Nothing better during an Arizona summer than an ice cream bar!

I am happy to share the recipes of a few of the crowd favorites. See below.

Chicken & Stuffing Casserole

4 cups cooked, diced chicken*

1 – 10.5 oz can of cream of mushroom soup*

1 – 10.5 oz can of cream of chicken soup*

1 cup milk

1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, melted

1 – 8 oz package dry stuffing mix, about 3-3/4 cups*

*Campbell’s Healthy Request and Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing Mix

*Shortcut: use cooked rotisserie or purchased cooked chicken


  1. Preheat oven to 350F and then spray 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk condensed soups and milk together. Stir in cooked chicken.
  3. Pour chicken mixture into prepared baking dish.
  4. In a separate bowl, pour melted butter over dry stuffing mix. Gently stir until all of the stuffing mix is coated with butter. Sprinkle over chicken mixture.
  5. Cover with foil. Bake, covered, at 350F for 20-30 minutes.
  6. Remove foil and check to see the color of the stuffing.
  7. Bake for an additional 10-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Slow Cooker Jambalaya

1 – 14.5-oz can diced tomatoes                                  1 – 14.5 oz can beef broth

1 – 8-oz can tomato paste                                           2 bay leaves

2 teaspoons dried basil                                               1-1/2 teaspoons dried oregano

1/2 tsp Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning               1/2 tsp Tabasco sauce

1/2 tsp salt                                                                   1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper                                              1/4 tsp black pepper

1 medium onion, chopped                                          1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped

2 celery ribs, chopped                                                4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb andouille sausage or kielbasa, cut into slices     2 chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch pieces

1/2 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined                           1-1/2 cup white rice

1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley


  1. Combine diced tomatoes, beef broth, tomato paste, bay leaves, basil, oregano, Creole seasoning, Tabasco sauce, salt, Worcestershire sauce, cayenne pepper, and black pepper in a 6-quart slow cooker and stir.
  2. Add onion, green pepper, celery, garlic, sausage, and chicken. Stir to combine.
  3. Cover crock pot and cook on LOW 4 to 5 hours.
  4. Set a larger strainer/sieve over a large bowl and pour about 75% of liquid in the crock pot through strainer. You should have about 3 cups to cook the rice in. Add water to get 3 cups if necessary.
  1. Return all solids to crock pot. Stir in parsley and shrimp. Cover crock pot and cook on LOW 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the 3 cups of liquid to a boil. Stir in rice and cook according to package directions.
  3. Add cooked rice to slow cooker and mix in. Serve.
Celebrating my 50th birthday, was the catalyst for creating a positive culture in the office.

Besides cooking 50 meals over 12 months for over 50 people, my planning for trips and adventures also generated unique experiences with my colleagues. My goal sharing resulted in discussions with team members on how to best plan, storytelling of their experiences, and collaboration on how we replicate the activity as a firm. I received encouragement and support from my colleagues, which helped me stay the course, continue to book my adventures, and document my meals so they could make them at home. Due to me sharing my life goals, it encouraged other team members to join in and create more friendships throughout the firm.

Although I enjoyed numerous items on my bucket list, my favorites were the Skywalk and ziplining at Grand Canyon, volunteering at a women’s shelter in the valley, and jumping out of an airplane.

The bucket list is done!

I am blessed here at MRA with the leadership that allows me to share my love for cooking with my co-workers and a culture that encourages me to reach my goals.

This year (my 51st year), I continue to cook for my co-workers because I enjoy it. Why not treat your hardworking staff and colleagues with homecooked meal once a week or once a month? Everyone can use a little impromptu social time. It doesn’t have to be big or expensive; a simple platter of cookies or goodies goes a long way to generating an afternoon break where team members collaborate while sharing their favorite foods.

Written By

Mark Feldman

Mary Beth Sheleman

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