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Posted by on Dec 31, 2017 in Heart Clutter | 0 comments

step one: begin.

step one: begin.

The beginning of a book isn’t comfortable for me. It’s about a hundred pages of debating and negotiating with characters whether or not their credibility is more than perspective.

When I was in first grade, I had to begin a new school shortly after I had begun my old one. It was sort of like wearing both a new shoe and an old one and trying to avoid blisters. I began my day in one reading class, was passed to the next within twenty minutes, then passed to the next after less than ten minutes. It didn’t take the teachers long to figure out I excelled as a reader and that I filed math away in a Stephen King novel.

As a teacher, I have had thirteen first days, thirteen first classes, and thirteen new years. Thirteen days of fresh crayons, sharpened pencils that weren’t yet lost, thirteen days of reciting my expectations. The beginning of a school year is much like the beginning of a book in that the uncomfortableness eases itself into routine and a reliable plot.

As a human, I have had to begin several new beginnings. The beginning of life with a brother. The beginning of life without my great grandmother. The beginning of getting through a day knowing that a good friend never really was. The beginning of forced steps in a direction that didn’t live on a compass. The beginning of life standing up for myself when others tried to strong arm me into making decisions I didn’t want made. Each new beginning began a new direction that sometimes looped back to another, but most of the time forced me to reconcile truth I didn’t want to rely on.

And every year as the end of one story signs off and a new one breaks from a slumber, in between that space, I try to wake up.

I can’t say there’s much about 2017 that I’m particularly sentimental about. Good friends showed their true colors, others forced me to reconcile my own truth and stand up for it, even if reconciliation had consequences, the country in which I pledge my allegiance to each day is divided so deeply that a lot of people don’t even see the problem, and my health issues have certainly given me a run for my money.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m a complete half full girl, and if the glass is half empty, I find a smaller glass. So there was positives. I just had to dig with a smaller shovel.

To those that underestimated me: I think that it reflects on you more than it does me. It’s irritating, but I smile because I’ve already proved you wrong. Just remember that Jesus is meant to be a reflection, not a judgment. To those who supported me no matter what: you are the reason I look forward to a new year. It’s really as simple and as complex as that.

I look forward to new adventures that should’ve been already traveled. I am already wishing I could skip to chapter three and try and figure out the middle of the story first. However, in my faith, in my grounding, in my intimate meditations Jesus tends my heart with, I don’t have to know that the ending is everything I hoped for, everything I dreamed, and everything I need it to be.

And it is starting over, once again. Another first. Another beginning.That’s okay. Sometimes a good do over is exactly what it takes for your true north to sit down, take a breath, and be.

Just because my story isn’t finished doesn’t mean it’s already ended.

It’s just begun.

Cheers to 2018.

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Posted by on Dec 28, 2017 in Everyday Life, Reflections | 0 comments

love in all actuality.

love in all actuality.

When I was little, I was terrified of Santa Claus.

The easiest way to explain my irrational fear is to not explain it at all. Some situations don’t have an answer, but only a question.

My brother, however, took a completely different route to Santa.

At three years old, he entered the living room where my aunt and my mom were still wrapping presents.

He pointed to the wrapping paper.

“Santa has that wrapping paper too!”

How do you spell busted?

If there’s another route, I don’t know if there’s a better one than the one Brad took.

Again. The best way to explain sticky situations to an irrationally smart three year olds is to not explain in the first place.

I guess I jumped ahead of myself. I should explain that Christmas when I was little was split between Buffalo and California. Down the middle. Even Steven. Either we were packed into a car in Texas headed to New York or packed into a car headed to San Diego. If you want to base the trips based on the amount of trouble my brother and I concocted, I guess both of them tie, with the exception that San Diego was a seventeen hour (SEVENTEEN HOUR) car ride with my brother’s feet in my lap. Or in my face. Or somewhere touching me.


Brad and I both enjoyed stopping in El Paso at our halfway point, because the Holiday Inn had an awesome Mexican restaurant AND an indoor pool.

To a kid, that’s basically all the currency you need.

My grandfather loved traditions. That’s probably why I can’t seem to live without them. He always had a jar full of coins for my brother and I to count and to keep. He always let us climb into bed with him, and he’d name his big toes, Moe and Joe, and they’d talk to us in funny voices.

He was both the most amazing and the only grandfather I ever knew. He was also the best. Patience undisputed, the heart of gold, and the love of family so profound that it lit up his face and poured through his hugs and his smiles.

My brother and I always slept in the den on a pull out couch. Platinum in kid speak. My grandmother had beautiful porcelain dolls and crystal figurines in her china cabinet, and I would stare at them for hours on end. She took great pride in her trinkets, so much so that she even started me a collection of porcelain dolls.

In the other direction, I had my Great Grandma and my Grandma Fran. Brad and I slept in the attic bedroom with no insulation, but we’d sleep under ten blankets cocooned in artificial chrysalis. There was this mysterious closet door that was locked with a key that had been long lost. You can’t even begin to imagine the adventures we had imagining what lied behind the door. Years later as we cleaned out my grandmother’s house, I was disappointed that indeed it was just stuff and not Narnia behind that door. It didn’t seem to matter, though. The wardrobe was just storage too to someone who didn’t look hard enough.

So Christmas to me is now a plane ride away in Buffalo. Grandmothers are not negotiable, as my grandparents are long passed. Christmas to me is a remembrance, a sacred joy, a pocket of hope, the understanding that lies just beyond understanding.

I sat in Christmas Mass this past Sunday evening, staring at the manger. All I could think about was the magic, the hope, the love, the redemption that lied in that manger. Joseph, you see, was a carpenter, which in those days also meant stone mason. Jesus was probably born in a cave structure or stone structure of some sort. Not necessarily a barn.

And you know, if you think about it long enough, Christmas is God’s most splendid work. It loads kids in cars, wise men on camels, a homeless couple on a donkey, heading for shelter. It gathers. It burns bright joy to those who are lost and abandoned.

I would daresay that the birth of Jesus is and was and will always be God’s greatest gift.

The wonder of a pull out couch, the awe of watching Baby Jesus head down the aisle at Christmas Mass, the goosebumps as advent candles are lit, the mystique of a Christmas tree-these traditions keep my loved ones with me and they keep them alive.

My grandmother and I at Christmas Mass

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Posted by on Dec 13, 2017 in Everyday Life, Heart Clutter, Reflections | 0 comments

a smorgasbord of self.

You know, teaching is a fine balance of keeping yourself together and keeping the kids from falling apart. Especially in the throes of December, Testing Season (the months of April and beginning of May, which is basically dead to all educators), and the end of May, the keeping together and falling apart situations are harder and harder to correlate.

The morning I put up my class Christmas tree, I allowed each of my kids to hang an ornament, and in doing so, I relived a bit of my childhood with each placement of ornament. Each kid had a different process: some stuck it up and walked back to their seats, while others carefully pondered the layout of the branches in correlation with other hung ornaments to decide where their ornament should go. Present Allison sat with Past Allison and watched. Present Allison watched Past Allison carefully open a box of ornaments that were a smorgasbord of McDonald’s collectibles and Baby’s First Christmas. Past Allison gleefully stood next to her brother, with Shasta the dachshund underfoot, hanging each ornament with careful childlike precision.

In other words, we hung all of our ornaments in one central location and my mom had to spread them out after we walked away.

Perhaps it’s a bit self serving the fact I keep a class Christmas tree, but I like to think it’s keeping memories from being boxed up and actually breathing, being thought about, being considered.

It’s just a tradition the kids and I have latched onto, and for the time being, it’s here to stay. I think Past Allison approves.

Another part of Keeping Together is Segmenting Self. It’s been two weeks since I’ve found out I’m gluten intolerant (well, really wheat, but to be wheat free means to be gluten free), and it’s amazing the differences I already feel: my feet are no longer swollen, my stomach isn’t so bloated, and my face seems less swollen. Perhaps I’m imagining but perhaps I’m just awakening. Gluten Free Allison on Three Inhalers would be name I’d run with. For two years, I’ve told my doctor I have had trouble breathing and she dismissed me, just to finally go to a specialist and find out I’ve been putting out 53% of the air I should be putting out for the past two years. So much for Keeping Together. Maybe I should edit that to Pasting Together. Some friends have made fun of the changes I’ve put into play, or the specialists I’ve seen that walk down a different path to a different drummer. To them I say, when your doctor tells you, Sorry, there’s nothing I can do for your debilitating health issues, you do whatever possible to help yourself. And that’s okay with me if they doubt or if they roll their eyes, because I know myself and I know my own body and I know my own tolerance. Being told “sorry” isn’t good enough for me. There’s always an answer, you just have to look harder to find it.

So that Segmented Self is healing herself day by day. Survival Self is surviving the fleeting days of December until Christmas break. Spiritual Self is finding peace in the craziest of places. And Past Self is enjoying the Christmas tree.

I guess that’s a pretty good rate of survival after all. 🙂

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Posted by on Dec 12, 2017 in Devotions, Everyday Life, Reflections | 0 comments

understand me.

I once was invited to a birthday party for a fellow girl scout. It was what I dreaded: a swim party, which meant the inevitable swimsuit.

I loved this friend, and I wanted to be with my friends. So of course I went.

But I just couldn’t do it. I sauntered to the side and just grazed on the snacks instead of getting in the water. Even when I was little, crowds were exhausting.

Her sister happened to see me to the side so she came over and sat with me. There was something about her that just seemed apparent. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. As we talked, I could see more clearly that this girl was struggling. Hard. Deeply. Painfully. Raw. Struggle. And I could tell that she too was exhausted.

I never said anything to her about it. I might have been too young to really realize exactly what I was noticing, but I was observant enough to notice. You see, I’m also a glorified people watcher. Years of sitting in the stands of Ranger Stadium watching people interact with people, people doing what people do. I found it so much more fascinating than a ball being thrown around. And when you’re a watcher, you figure out responses and triggers and feelings that rely on being incognito to the unaware. I would watch two people argue. I couldn’t hear a word they said, but I could in my own mind, figure out who was right and who needed to apologize. Or maybe in my mind neither were right and they just needed to let it go. It’s weird, I know, but it’s just that I notice differently than normal people.

Years later, I just so happened to stumble across her blog. Literally. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular but I found something that I had forgotten I had noticed.

And oh, oh, my heart.

I was right.

She was struggling.

You see, her story isn’t mine to tell, so I will only go as deep as her blog has already gone. She married a man, became a teacher. She also developed a drinking habit, because the life she was living she knew was a lie. I assume she took alcohol the way that I take a deep breath: to forget. She finally caught some air, divorced her husband, and found a love in yoga and in another woman. The story she tells will break your heart and make you remember why you’re a human.

It’s interesting that our lives intersected for just a brief stop sign and I find it funny that of all of the things I’ve forgotten, I remember that small conversation we had at a pool party. Present Allison would love to go back and give Past Allison insight, words, and gumption to offer this girl hope. Yet I think in that we intersected just enough so that my heart would recognize that I wasn’t the only one who struggled.

Being aware is more than just being perceptive. It’s about careful consideration of the human heart and all of its facets, of which I am no expert, but I do notice its strange ways of opening up to awareness. She probably has no idea that I figured out anything about her, or maybe she does, or maybe she did and she forgot. It would all make sense.

I see it as this. In a book I read, a king had just died and the son was about to become king. The king’s faithful, loyal servant was explaining to the son his role to his father and what that role meant to the son. The servant told the son the understood the king. In the ancient sense of the word. The literal meaning. He stood under the king and supported him in the ways that the king didn’t even know that he wanted or needed or even knew he was.

I take this as a gesture of the heart: to stand under someone and truly understand them is a gift that Jesus died to offer us. And we’re not meant to process all of it, or make sense of it all. God is mysterious and his understanding of us is a delicate process full of mystery and intrigue and trust.

So isn’t the least that we can do is to understand each other?

Is it risky? The beaver in Narnia laughed at that question. “Safe? I never said anything about safe. But He is the King, I tell you.” Love is a risk. But it’s a risk we are called to take, charged to accept, and asked to understand.

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Posted by on Dec 11, 2017 in Devotions, Everyday Life, Reflections | 0 comments

skunk the fear.

I read somewhere that everything you’ve ever wanted in life is on the other side of fear.

So that got me thinking. Why does fear play such a vital role in our loves?

Take my two dachshunds for instance. One evening, I let them both out to go potty before bed time, and not even five minutes later, Lucy came scurrying in. She looked like she had seen a ghost. She kept scrambling up to me, and then back out the door, poking her head around the corner to see if I was following her. Lucy kept the charade up until I followed her outside.

And goodness. What a scene to behold outside. Annie was standing about a foot away from the fence, tail raised, ears back, barking with everything she had. And on the other side of that fence, about the same distance away, was her new friend. A skunk.

All at once, visions of Peppy Le Pew eu de par-fum danced in my sense of smell. And yet there was little I could do in the situation because if I stepped closer, I would more than likely wear the skunk’s revenge as well.

Annie didn’t let up. Peppy Le Pew didn’t let up either. As sixty seconds of Battle fell to the ground, the skunk sprayed the tar out of Annie, and sauntered away. Annie, on the other hand, shook off what she could and came flying in my direction, confused and disoriented with what had just taken place.

I bathed in her tomato juice with baking soda, and it tinted her pink. It was nearly 11:00 on a school night, so we stayed pink until the next afternoon when I bathed her in her oatmeal puppy shampoo that washed out the pink.

The funny thing is, if Annie could have a hashtag after that incident, I swear it would read, #noregrets.

Let’s look at how both of my dachshunds approached the same situation. One could argue that Lucy was smart enough to actually have fear. She knew trouble when she saw it and tried to stop the inevitable. I’m sure she tried to get Annie away but Annie wouldn’t have it. Lucy also knew that her mama needed to intervene.

So then there’s Annie. Sweet, brainless, little Annie, who stood her ground against the enemy, and protected her territory at the expense of her smellalicious state of affairs. She certainly took home the trophy for last man standing, but she also didn’t have the fortitude her sister had in recognizing danger. Even if she had, she figured she could bark it away.

When Jesus was crucified, His disciples stowed away in a house. They refused to come out. In a word or a few, they were terrified that something like that could happen to them. In the coming days, Fear controlled them so deeply that even when Jesus revealed Himself to His disciples three separate occasions, His disciples were clueless. They were Lucy. Skeptical. Fearful. Alertful. Afraid to do what needed to be done in fear of real life consequences to themselves.

I’ve always imagined the scene of the Holy Spirit beckoning to these men, as a warm summer breeze would beckon us out to our porches and our backyards. I imagine a voice so tender, so comforting, so undeniable, that their fear collided with resolution and in that collision, faith was born.

On the other side of fear, Peter became the rock of the church. On the other side of fear, Paul wrote such passionate letters to the church that their relevance has outlasted time. And on the other side of fear, these men kept Jesus alive and sought a will greater than their own.

It’s powerful stuff, no question.

And I think that fear is an okay mechanism to keep at bay, no question. But are we truly obeying and reciprocating and proclaiming if we don’t jump over that line in the sand and take the risk? Are we truly living if we shut ourselves away from all of the skunks and persecutors and modern day Pharisees of the world? Are we?

Seems to me faith can’t exist without fear because faith conquers fear.

Seems to me that fear can’t exist without faith because faith is on the other side of that line.

I pray wholeheartedly that you are able to get past the Lucy in you and tap in to just a smudge of Little Annie’s boldness. Whatever it is, however much the moment weighs, I can tell you this: it is nothing compared to the sheer joy of letting it go.

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