It's that time of year...

Today I am repurposing bits of a blog I wrote over three years ago because all of a sudden these words have become relevant again. This past weekend I had the honor of helping my friend move her daughter Alexa into New York University for her freshman year. My personal on-the-job training with my own children in dorm decorating, skillset in hanging all sorts of stuff on walls and understanding the importance of the day made me a perfect fit. My job was to help make her daughter’s home away from home a space they both could feel comfortable and happy about.

allison, janie and alexa move in day.jpg

From the moment I arrived to pack up our cars I could feel it. The unspoken heaviness reminded me all too quickly how emotional and fragile I once felt. Watching all the other families unloading cars, lugging bags up stairs and hanging endless strands of twinkle lights, I could see it in their eyes: People teetering on the edge of losing it.

Alexa's pile of dorm things.jpg

As I guarded our pile of “stuff” on the New York City sidewalk, I saw a dad guarding his daughter’s pile too. “You doing okay?” I asked him. He turned to me and sheepishly shook his head east to west. With tears in my eyes I said, “I’ve done it, I get it, and after the tears slow down life will be okay. More than okay, pretty darn good actually. I am living, breathing proof there is life on the other end.”

allison in alexa dorm.jpg

So as I placed the last photo of her wall collage above her bed, I planned for my escape. My job here was done and it was time for me to leave them to it. Before I left her dorm room, I placed one of my angel coins in her top desk drawer for protection. You know, just in case. 


It's Just Around the Bend My Friends...

I can feel it in the air. If my life had a Weather app it would read something like this: Storm Warning. These next few weeks will be unpredictable. Conditions are perfect for drastic highs and lows. Take time to prepare; gather tissues, hugs and memories. Hunker down, stock your home with favorite foods and activities to last these next few weeks. It should clear out soon.

This Life Advisory should not be a surprise to me. In fact, I’ve been preparing for it for some 20-something years. Actually 45 years if you count the years I dreamt of being a mom. Readying for the day the children I poured my heart and soul into both leave home for college. It seems so cruel we spend their lifetime preparing them to be independent enough to leave us. No more holding hands when crossing the street. No more cutting their food into non-chokable pieces. No more crazy schedules of after-school activities. No more making school lunches.

 My daughter's every day lunch....

My daughter's every day lunch....

I am a little ashamed to admit it, but there were days when I wished for this day. Like the days I never got out of my pajamas because I was just so exhausted from listening to my baby cry while I practiced that Sleep Dr’s technique! Or those other times I hid in the bathroom for a sliver of privacy. I recall desperately craving a shower that lasted long enough to actually be able to shave my legs. For goodness sake, I attended any and all home parties just for some adult conversation.

I have many friends who are ahead of me in the Life curve. I watch them carefully to see how they fare. I ask careful questions and take copious notes. They say I will be fine after the first few weeks. And then there are those who urge me to be patient because this is the necessary step for me to receive grandchildren-- which are apparently the greatest gift in all the land!

I will really be fine, since there really isn't another choice. I am truly happy that all our hard work and life experiences made this moment possible. Our children are ready. They are eager to live independently. See the world. Meet new people. Get an education. Have a crazy good time. All we ask is they be safe. Look both ways before crossing. Choose the best kind of people to keep company with. Listen to their gut. Attend classes and take notes. While walking through campus, LOOK up--not down at your phone. Focus on eating healthy, but eat. Wash their hands often. Please call home. Oh and one last thing--have the time of your lives.

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Moral: Cherish these times- they’ll be grown up before you know it!

One person's trash...

To the rest of the world Wednesday may be Hump Day, but to me, it is Recycling Day!  I love this day. I have been an avid reduce, reuse, repurpose and recycler for more than half my lifetime.  This means I was recycling long before it was either cool or convenient. Some might say I’m a girl ahead of my time.

I am incredibly proud of this part of me. I shared this affinity and belief when I taught kindergarten. We tackled topics like recycling, water conservation, air pollution and the increasing numbers of landfills.  These young people knew to turn off water while brushing their teeth.  They knew it was unconscionable to throw cigarette butts out of car windows.  These five-year-olds toted rinsed out empty cans to school everyday to be recycled. In short, they “got it.”

To this day still, I strive to collect more recycling than trash. I’ve heard people say that they don’t like to recycle because neighbors will get a glimpse into their lives.  Trust me, we don’t pass judgement on all the wine bottles you’ve got, nor for all those flattened boxes of mac and cheese. And my feelings are not hurt one little bit that you clearly had a party and did not invite me!!!

Since my recycling seems to always overflow, I needed to ponder this challenge during our recent kitchen renovation. I thought out loud how cool it would be if I could just make a hole in the kitchen wall and drop our recycling into the bin that is just on the other side in the garage. With the genius help of my contractor, who also just happens to be my brother in law, Voila! This might be the coolest feature in our home because it is functional, unique and encourages EVERYONE to recycle!  

  There is a aluminum chute in the hole that guides all recycling into the bin.

There is a aluminum chute in the hole that guides all recycling into the bin.

Not only do I recycle, but I repurpose.  I can repurpose the heck out of just about anything. I truthfully cannot drive by an old window pane, door or broken down chair without pulling over and rescuing it from impending doom.  Some people like stray cats.  I like stray inanimate objects. In my head I am saving it from filling a garbage dump, but really I am brimming with the excitement of what this newfound treasure might become. That is exactly the moment when the fine line blurs between saving the Earth and hoarding. I often wonder if I might be just one rescued window away from appearing on a reality television show!

  This paper towel holder used to be an ice picker upper back in its day!

This paper towel holder used to be an ice picker upper back in its day!

Moral: It is so rewarding to know that you are doing your part.

with hope,

A little thing I do: I combined my obsession for rescued window panes with my love of chalkboards! At gatherings I ask friends to sign the board! Others are for me to change depending on the season, reason or just because! Just buy whiteboard at your local hardware store to fit within your frame.  If you smile and be kind you’ll even find that they might cut it to size for you! Paint the brown side of the whiteboard with three coats of chalkboard paint - it’s that simple!


  Rescued this treasure covered in dirt with broken glass panes-look at her now!

Rescued this treasure covered in dirt with broken glass panes-look at her now!



Flying the Friendly Skies

My life has an interesting way of seemingly coming together. Is it my positive attitude, supportive cast who lift me up or allow me time to be alone when I need quiet? Or perhaps it is my army of angels who mysteriously work so diligently on my behalf? Even with all that goodness, last week a dear friend carefully inquired about my “lack of sparkle” lately. I found myself verbally stumbling to explain what I had been feeling. I mentioned many things I thought could be attributing to the dullness, but amidst my rambling she helped me realize the real why.

For years, but most recently months, I have focused on everything football, family and life. I handled, managed and organized it all. I worried for everyone because it was my job at the time—but it was not my career. I proudly chose family first and me second, shooing a few of my dreams out of the way. I’ve shared with you before the odd nature of being a parent is to love our children until they are ready to live independently and leave home. I am proud to say I have two well-adjusted children, but therefore lots of alone time too. My accomplishments these days are rearranged spice cabinets, grouted bathroom floors and blogs. I honestly enjoy and am really proud of it all (after all, who can't appreciate having their spices alphabetized?) but, these tasks do not really make me sparkle. It is high time I handle this—for me. So I am dusting off a chapter book that has been waiting patiently in my heart and mind for many, many years. 

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This is an overwhelming challenge for me because my storyline has endless moving parts. Think of it like a jigsaw puzzle. I see the overall picture and subjects, but am left searching for all the edge pieces. I’ve always said I haven't had enough uninterrupted time to focus, but truth is I was afraid of failure so I didn’t make the time. It is clear to me now; never writing this book was ultimately accepting failure. So I’ve added book writing hours to my day like a job. I’ve turned off my phone and turned meditation music on. As my mind clears of daily life it fills with a complex story board and yes, some sparkle too. 

This book requires quite a bit of air travel research on my part and as my life would have it my husband and I flew to Memphis this past weekend for a former football player’s wedding. So I stayed in the present on this trip, taking copious notes of every little and big thing. I watched shuttle drivers, TSA pre-check guards, bathroom lines, ticket counter workers, flight attendants and, of course, passengers too. As soon as I was seated and buckled in I jotted down this note. It appeared to me that many of the workers seemed pretty unhappy. 

allison writing on a plane.jpg

What happened next can only be believed if you trust me. The flight attendant came on the speaker, “Will the couple who hung their garment bag in first class please hit their call button.” That was us! My immediate embarrassment was followed by panic. I hit the button and as the flight attendant came down the aisle everyone craned their head to watch. She said, “Do you have any other bags?” I nodded in panic and she replied, “Get them and follow me please!” Holy Cow, we are being escorted off this plane!

I anxiously arrived at the front of the plane and the attendant smiled, “Please be our guests in first class.” After I doled out big hugs to the flight attendants and yes, pilots, too, I kept thinking "WHY?" A flight attendant giggled, “We all agreed you were newlyweds and wanted to make your flight with us extra special.” Once we stopped laughing, we fessed up to 25 years of marriage, but added we’re indeed on our way to a wedding. But I am convinced they experienced the glow of my newly returned sparkle. And so, in Allison fashion, I spent the next two-plus hours asking endless questions and furiously working from the comfort of a first-class seat with my groom by my side.

Allison in cockpit.jpg

Moral: It’s said if you put what you want out into the atmosphere it has a much better chance of becoming your reality. 

with sparkles,

allison's signature.jpg

A little thing you should know: Over 15 years ago I purchased what I thought was a new suitcase. Inside one of the many zippered compartments I discovered an old plastic bag with important documents and two handwritten love letters. For years I have failed to locate this woman until a few weeks ago. At first she was rightly suspicious, followed quickly by shock and lastly with questions. I know those feelings well. That old plastic bag filled with a bit of story for me is finally on it’s way back home to her. More of this story to follow...pinky promise!


The Perfect Storm

One wouldn't think writing a blog about attending Super Bowl LII would be difficult for someone like myself, but it has been. Writing seven hundred words about my experience felt incredibly braggadocious, and that's something that is far from the sort of thing I am comfortable with. Of course it was a great time. Some might call it a chance of a lifetime. Regardless, at this point, it somehow seemed pretty unimportant.

Allison's Super Bowl moment with Jeff.jpg

This was turning into a full blown writers block, so I looked up the concept "block" and ironically enough the football definition of block appeared, and just like that I was off and running! Since my husband is the offensive line coach for the (humble brag) Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles, it seemed appropriate for me to break down my interpretation of the role of the Offensive Line. OK, here goes: A minimum of five guys bend down in front of the quarterback who barks a pretty complicated set of calls, often times being changed at the line of scrimmage, whilst a minimum of five very large and angry guys whose sole responsibility is to disrupt this one play and distract them are ready to pounce from the other side. These offensive linemen must remain poised, calm and prepared for that split second moment when they come off the ball, protect their quarterback, make large openings for running backs to run through or clear routes for receivers and tight ends to execute one play with synchronized precision. JUST ONE PLAY. Here’s the simple truth: synchronizing anything, be it a meal for ten or coming up with a blocking scheme for third and long is super challenging! Add to it 70,000 fans screaming their brains out and a city desperate for a Super Bowl win and I don’t know about you, but that blows my mind. Nothing can go wrong, right?


And that’s just one position! Now add the serious adversity of team leaders getting injured and being out for the rest of the season. Followed immediately with endless outside noise telling them they didn't stand a chance at winning the game, each and every single week. Sports Broadcasters reported about the Perfect Storm of disaster for the Philadelphia Eagles to anyone who would listen. But not this group of men. They were determined to play for each other, to step up when their team needed them most. This team epitomized the saying, “There is no I in team.” Philadelphia’s Eagles quickly became America’s Under Dogs. 

So now I am certain you can appreciate why during game weeks I surrounded myself in a safe zone where I speak little of the game. I gather all my good luck charms, follow all my regular routines and attempt to stay grounded and not get caught up in the hype that threatens to swallow me whole. I teeter in a state of neutrality; not too high and not too low.

good luck charms.jpg

However, when Retired Naval Petty Officer, 1st Class, Generald Wilson began singing the "Star Spangled Banner” at the NFC Championship game on January 21, 2018, I sensed something very special was in the air that night. I rarely allow my feelings to leak out but that night they did. When the Philadelphia fans filled that stadium to maximum capacity with not just their presence, but with love and belief in their team you could feel the current change. Present Eagles fans were rallying their towels and it looked as if hundreds of doves were hovering over the “Linc." The love was palpable and I couldn’t stop the tears thinking each Eagles fan of present was waving their towel in honor of an Eagles fan of past. A perfect storm was indeed brewing in Philadelphia and we rode that wave all the way to Minneapolis.

Our time spent there was filled with kind hearted Minnesotans, a couple really fun events, a few great entertainers, good food and, oh yes, and one hell of a stressful, jam-packed football game that came down to the very last second. I recall the final ball seemingly taking forever to hit the ground. I still feel the painfully long run to the tunnel to get down to the field. Unfortunately in my haste to get to the field I left my phone in my seat. The good news is I was present on that field, bad news is it’s a blur.  But what is crystal clear for me is on February 4, 2018 a team compromised of underdogs won Super Bowl 52. They played their hearts out for the entire game, team and city. And as the game clock ran out Philadelphia had not only won their first Super Bowl, but all fans could finally agree with the naysayers; it was indeed the perfect storm!

Lombardi Trophy.jpg

love your football friend, 

allison's signature.jpg

A little back story thing you should know

Five years ago our football family relocated from the South to the North, moving from the romance of the SEC to the business of the NFL. We switched from Roll Tide Roll to Fly Eagles Fly.

We received the obvious congratulations and high fives. But we also got those head rolling nods, too. “You know they pelted Santa with snowballs, right?” Yes, we had heard that. We were also aware Philadelphia fans had a tendency to be vocal and somewhat disgruntled that they had yet to win a Super Bowl.  But honestly, throwing a snowball at Santa didn’t seem much different to me than the person poisoning the trees at Toomer’s Corner.

Moral:  If I’ve learned anything in this life, it is you cannot judge an entire body of people by the foolish actions of a few.

It's all led to this

I met my husband at a bar in New Haven, Connecticut. As local lore goes, he took one look at me from across the room and knew I was going to be his wife. I took one look at him after he told me he was a football coach and I thought he must be a dumb jock. Instead, I found him to be so personable, charming and good looking. I thought what the heck, we’ll dance. In my defense, I was raised by a single mom and all I knew about football was it was played on Sundays. Oh, and there were two teams and once a year there was a really big game that involved lots of food. Despite my ignorance, six months later he proposed to me in front of my classroom of kindergarteners.

Looking back now, after more than 20-plus years of being a college and pro football wife, I see now I was being heavily recruited. He recognized talent when he saw it; a strong, friendly, outgoing woman. She loved children, wanted a family and had fast muscle twitch fiber. Yes, you read that right! No joke, pretty early on in our dating he threw a clementine at my head and I caught it. Within one year, or season as we refer to calendar time, we were married. 

It wasn’t more than three months into our wedded bliss when my world was turned upside-down. Jeff was offered a job we both decided he could not turn down. He moved one week later and I was left alone for six months to finish out my teaching career, pack up our home, find the perfect new home in a place I knew nothing about, and say goodbye to the life I loved. In fairness he had explained that with his career we might move one day. I might have to leave the town I called home, my friends I grew up with and a job I loved endlessly. Yet in my mind, I thought if he just did his job, and he was such a hard worker, that we would never leave. At last count that was the first of six moves our family has endured. 

In the last 25 years we have lived in nine places—each one we’ve called home. We've trained three dogs, raised two children, coached six teams and adopted over 400 players as our sons. As we moved along, we left a path of friends of all ages whose concept of watching football as a fun pastime turned into a stressful job often riddled with emotions and superstitious behavior. It is safe to say that our journey has been filled with enough tears to float Noah’s Ark; happy, sad, anxious, overwhelming, joyous, shocking and yes, sometimes angry ones too. The most recent of those stops for those not familiar was Philadelphia . . . and the Eagles. 

happy nfc championship family.jpg

Tears are filling up my eyes as I sit in the middle of our two children on a plane headed for Minneapolis, Minnesota for Super Bowl LII. When I allow myself to take in the magnitude of this opportunity it seems surreal to my heart and head. All my husbands hard work, endless hours away from home, years of missing most family events, report card meetings, kid’s sporting events and our daily life has led to this. Our choice for me to leave my career and stay at home and take care of our kids, our home and just about everything else has led to this. We are not strangers to big games. My husband spent two seasons at Alabama, which happened to coincide with back-to-back national championships. And then there was last week against the Vikings. All that has led to this. 

on plane heading to SBLII.jpg

To our families who have supported this life dream-this is for you. To all the neighbors who shoveled snow, walked our dogs, decorated our home after a win, helped us pack up, painted our home for resale, mowed our lawn, befriended us, supported us whether we won but especially when we lost-this game is for you. To our friends who continue to stay in touch despite the miles between us-this is for you. For all those people who embraced the “new family” and helped us understand and appreciate the history of a program we knew nothing about-this is for you. For all the football players who came before this team today-this is for you. And to the city of Philadelphia and all that it is and all that we LOVE-this is most especially for you. Like our fans, we hope this will be the first of many trips to the big game. As sports realists, we understand it might be our only one. Soak in every moment. We certainly hope to.

Enjoy your really big game with lots of food,

allison's signature.jpg

A little thing you should know: In December of 2003 our head coach was let go and so started the limbo of who on staff would be retained or let go. Traditionally our football program would send “Santa” to each of the coaches homes for a visit. That year when our 7-year-old son was asked what he wanted he replied, “Santa, all I want for Christmas is for my Dad to get a job.” Sad, happy and truthful tears filled every pair of eyes in that room. 

letter to santa.jpg

The People's Princess

Anything British and my heart skips a beat. Best I can determine my fascination began the day the press began their obsession with Diana Spencer. I fondly recall the first story of a seemingly simple, no frills kind of gal quietly going about her daily life with a smile that would inevitably illuminate our world.

If it was in print, I read it. If it were news, I watched it. The more they reported and photographed Diana the deeper our connection grew. I learned we both grew up in a single parent family, loved being a kindergarten teacher and dreamt of being a mom one day! She was a real Princess and I always wanted to be one!

 Look at who was an Eagles fan too…the similarities just keep tallying up.

Look at who was an Eagles fan too…the similarities just keep tallying up.

Yes, it is true, I grew up dreaming of becoming a Princess. One of my favorite movies was Cinderella because I related to her. She did lots of chores, worked many jobs and never wore the nicest clothes-just like me. We both loved birds, animals and lived life with a glass half-full disposition. I, too, whistled while I worked, believed in fairy godmothers and the power of karma. Beyond all the odds she met a Prince. For me, Cinderella gave me hope one day I too would find my Prince, just like she did…and Diana. 

cinderella reading to the animals.jpg

The day Diana wed Prince Charles I sat glued to our television fascinated with not just the fascinators but the pageantry as well. As I choked down my cup of tea channeling my inner-Brit I felt I was a teensy part of history watching fairy tale become reality. Time passed and Diana gave birth to a future king. A few years later another boy for good measure. I carefully observed her determination to raise those boys to be kind, loving and empathetic men within the confines of the Royal monarchy and the suffocation of the press. 

As the story goes; the boys grew up in the shadows of the castle whilst, her “fairy tale” marriage crumbled on the cover of every tabloid. To endure someone not loving you was difficult enough, but for every ugly detail to be documented for all the public to consume was just too much. But as I shamefully consumed it, I also wished privacy for her. 

Eventually Diana bounced back. She threw herself into helping bring justice for those who could not speak for themselves. She had pep back in her step, her smile and style were better than ever and she found a partner who brought her happiness. It seemed the Princess found her happily ever after until that ill-fated night in Paris-a moment still far too horrible to believe. A life-ending car crash apparently fueled by the unrelenting paparazzi chasing her. 

When I first heard this news my heart drowned in sadness followed almost immediately with a flood of guilt. I read those papers. I searched out those endless pictures, even just to stay connected to her in some way. Diana was proof living a kind life mattered and she affected the world around her one person at a time. Fairy god mother would have been so proud of her as she truly used her powers for good! Princess Diana exemplified the importance of being a great mom with strength, class, style and a sense of humor. I couldn't shake the feeling somehow I had some small part in her untimely and unnecessarily early death. 

As I watched her precious boys walk behind her casket, I felt a motherly instinct to protect them. I cried knowing they lost the one person who always placed their happiness ahead of her own. Who would protect their privacy with such a fierce yet gentle vengeance? Diana would never hug her son’s wives, hold the hand of her future grandchildren or brighten their lives with her smile My heart broke for the loss they felt and the loss they would always have to endure.

diana and her boys .jpg

Then came the news of her crazy, fun-loving youngest son Harry found his Princess, I cheered, felt the pride of a mother and, yes, still felt a touch of guilt too. 

with love,

Princess Allison

Moral: Use your powers for good-always! 

A few little things you should know: I studied abroad in England. I quite enjoy a good cuppa English tea now. I’ll speak to just about anyone with a British accent. I own my own tiara and often wear it around the house. My newest dear friend is a English gal and her name is not Diana. I never married a Prince or lived in a castle; but it’s our happily ever after.

 St. Dunston in -the-East...a destroyed church transformed into a magical garden in the City of London 

St. Dunston in -the-East...a destroyed church transformed into a magical garden in the City of London 

Call me Wing-mom

This blog was written in the sky somewhere between Spain and New York City after I spent a week helping our son make Seville, Spain his new home overseas. One might assume “Wing-mom” refers to a mom who banks sky miles to be with her children. You would be mistaken. Thinking Wing-moms don capes and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Wrong again—though pretty sure they could if necessary.

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Here’s the truth, a Wing-mom supports her child to be their best self. She must be brave enough to encourage and allow their first independent steps and let go of the bike when they’re learning to ride. Her heart soft enough to break when her child’s heart does, but strong enough to heal them both. Wing-mom possesses the strength to fake a thumbs up as her child walks out the door to their first school bus, sleepover, date or drives away in the family car. She documents the “first” of every single thing with a vengeance. Her faith runs deep enough to step back and quietly watch her child make mistakes, yet be there afterwards to help appreciate the tough lessons. In summation, wing-mom is selfless enough to let her child grow up to be independent so they eventually have the courage to fly away from them.

Real Madrid doorway.jpg

Whether your child chooses to land down the road or across the globe the result is the same: They have physically left you. With seven long hours on this plane, I’ve determined this seems the oddest of rewards. You give your heart and soul, every ounce of energy and love you possess, spend so much of your time every single day raising your child to be successfully independent and courageous enough to have them leave? Somehow that doesn’t seem right.

It’s been happening for centuries, yet somehow I find myself surprised. All my mothering life I was the pilot, planner, protector, cook, driver, organizer, interpreter, leader and decision maker. This past week while traversing the medieval city of Seville, I downshifted gears. I didn’t lead, I followed. I did not interpret, I listened. There was no directing on my part, just support and encouragement. Honestly, I wish I had packed a cape because this was much harder than I anticipated. 

jake in seville alley.jpg

If you know me, you know I like to handle things and make them right. But this trip was different. I needed to take a back seat, be the passenger and go along for the ride. I wanted him to struggle with me close by. I needed to see him get lost in the labyrinth of streets and find his way. I relinquished my need to “do” so he could lead the search for the right apartment in his brand-new city. Many times I bit my lip, but you know what? He not only managed, but thrived. He found his way for the both of us, opened up a bank account and an international phone plan. He found an apartment in a neighborhood he felt fit his needs with two Italians and a French guy, whose only common language amongst them is Spanish as their second language! It will be these memories I am counting on to fortify my heart when worry gets the best of me. 

jake at BBVA.jpg

So as my plane flies further and further away from the little boy who refused to sleep over at a friend’s house his entire childhood, I am confident he will be happy in Seville, Spain. While he masters his command of the Spanish language, teaches English to little ones at a local elementary school and travels, I’ll go back home and throw myself into running The Stoutland Inn, but without the piece of my heart I left with my son in Spain.

jake bienvenidos.jpg

your Wing-mom friend,

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Moral: Time flies as do our children.

A little thing you should know: A few days prior to this trip I shared my worries with my Aunt. “How in the world will I find a clean apartment in a safe neighborhood and make it feel like home in less than one week? I cannot even speak Spanish. I am so worried I will not be able get this done.” Her response was immediate, powerful, and heart changing. “Allison, that is not your job. You are his wingman, his support and safety net in case he should fall.” And she was oh so right… thank you Aunt Nancy!

When you gotta go….

These past few weeks too many people I love have experienced life threatening health scares. So much so that I wondered if my angels were sending me a message. So when my younger and much cooler friend suggested we do a HIIT workout (High Intensity Interval Training) a.k.a (Holy Idiotic Insane Training) I was very hesitant but felt I had better say yes.

We arrived at our gym for an elliptical warm-up, which is honestly more of a full-on sweat-fest for me! Next we gathered our weapons of mass destruction; dumbbells, jump-ropes, kettle bells, medicine balls and a mat. Being the more hip chick, she handled her iPhone app timer and I managed to pull up the torture list on my phone. Of course, being 53 years of age I couldn’t even see this list without my glasses-keeping in mind sweat and glasses never ends well. Just 30 mere seconds into our first bit it was clear I was in over my head. Not only was my chest just about concussing me with each jump but my stomach should have been flagged for illegal motion. (Sorry, couldn’t help the football references) Between holding my chest in place and sucking in my lower half, I almost didn't notice the more severe situation; my bladder. With fear in my eyes, which she may or may not have recognized due to my sweating profusely or her age, I excused myself and “kegeled" my way towards the bathroom.

[key-guh l, kee-]

The name of a pelvic floor muscle and exercise, named after Dr. Kegel who discovered the exercise. These muscles are attached to the pelvic bone and act like a hammock, holding in your pelvic organs. A common function of these muscles is stopping and starting the flow of urine. 

 Now just envision this exercise in a walking position; you see it right?

Now just envision this exercise in a walking position; you see it right?

My sincerest apologies to those who kindly tried to converse with me as I passed-this was no time for small talk. This was game time. My mind was focused with my goal in sight-the bathroom. One slip up and well, there would sure be something to slip up in. And with months of practice makes perfect, my form was spot on. With the pride of a gymnast who just stuck her landing, I barged into the ladies bathroom only to find a LINE five deep! I quickly weighed my options. Could I make it to another bathroom in time? Should I use the men’s bathroom just one door over, which no matter the venue or location, always seems to never have a line? Could I pull the “Can I sneak in front of you, I have an old bladder?” card? I looked at my suspects, and that’s when I noticed this line was comprised of woman who all had my same look upon their face. These woman were my seniors and just finished an early morning Strength for Life Class and most importantly, all deserving of my respect. I resided myself to stay put, practice patience, kegels and enjoy the never disappointing bathroom chatter.  

“That was a close one Penny, almost didn't make it through that class!” “I know, I had to leave in the middle even though I had already gone before it started.” “Helen, at least we are here. You heard about Susan, right?” And there amongst a chatty woman’s bathroom you could hear the slightest gasp from the second stall and our bathroom went silent. 

All of a sudden I was no longer worried about my bladder. I could care less about my “orangutan” boobs. I was here. Albeit, anxiously waiting for my turn to use a public toilet, but I WAS HERE. There was a collective moment of silence amongst us for a woman some of us did not even know. An awareness that even standing in the ladies bathroom line you will find what you didn’t even realize you were waiting for. 

Orangutan in motion.jpg

So with an empty bladder and improved perspective, I said a silent thank you to a woman I will never have the chance to meet, prayers for recuperating loved ones and hurried back to my patiently waiting friend, who may or may not have been worried I’d fallen and couldn't get up.

Moral: It may indeed be true, life places us just where we need to be.

with blatant honesty, 

*names changed out of respect


Pre-season’s not just for the big guys

For fans, the football pre-season can’t come soon enough as it signals a clean slate with endless possibilities. In our home, however, it arrives to a plethora of emotions. When I was newly married and for the first time in my life living far from all my friends and family, being married to a coach meant dinners alone, feeling lonely and well, plain ole’ depressed. Once our kids arrived I was crippled with fear and an overwhelming sense of “How in the world am I going to cope alone?” As the kids got a bit older and missed their daddy something awful, that’s when I packed them up in our Jeep and took “our show” on the road for a much-needed distraction.

That said, I’m proud to report our family has survived over 25 pre-seasons in college and in the NFL. I like to believe we’ve mastered the art of making the very most of our uninterrupted family time. Since a coach has very little vacation time, we traditionally opt to leave our town for summer vacation. The rest of our summer is spent visiting family, cooking meals together and accomplishing, okay maybe just starting, a few projects around our house. When “our coach” begins saying, “You guys know this is my last week at home, right?” “Tonight is our last dinner together.” “I just played my last round of golf until next year.” “I’ll be right back, I’m going to get the car washed one last time.” That’s when we know it’s THE COUNTDOWN, which sometimes feels more like a rocket launch—football is fast approaching.  But when his briefcase is ceremoniously placed on the kitchen island, we know it’s for real. Now, instead of each of us falling to bits, we embrace our own sort of pre-season.

 Enjoying the calm of the off season.

Enjoying the calm of the off season.

My pre-season consists of making certain our lives and those who visit us during the football season run most efficiently. First I must compare each family members’ commitments to our football schedule and then add in those who plan to visit us. Once all the intricacies have been looked at and evaluated, they are “sharpied” onto our family wall calendar. Next up, I make certain our home is in its best shape to handle the rigors of the grueling season ahead. That means tidied, cleaned and organized. I, of course, also set aside time to tweak my own “playbook.” Meals which only mustered a few yards are eliminated and replaced with recipes, if executed properly, that will hopefully get me at least a first down! Each game I must also determine whether to implement man v. zone coverage. If you have ever been responsible for getting others to and from a football game, you understand how challenging and serious this selection is. These days with our children living their own adult lives, often times I must opt for zone coverage, a technique whereby I cover the movements and whereabouts of all our guests at one time. But if any of our children are in attendance, then it’s man-on-man; each of us responsible for only one guest.

minions football .jpg

Last week someone in the neighborhood asked me how my husband was and how he felt pre-season was going. “Good,” I replied. “I know he loves being back with his guys. Basically they study the playbook in their meetings and then practice what they’ve learned on the field. You know, practice until they get it right.” That’s when it hit me—that’s exactly what I do. I was quickly reminded of a scrimmage a few weeks ago. I couldn’t find my “stadium approved bag," so my pockets were bulging with sharpies, lip gloss, car keys and a credit card. I had forgotten cash, sunscreen and aspirin! In other words, had those sports reporters been watching my pre-season performance they’d have most certainly been calling for my head.

So you see, it seems everyone can benefit from pre-season practices to get things right. The opportunity to correct mistakes. Time for practice and mastering your skill to make things perfect. A chance for something that was once uncertain and uncomfortable to become a part of who you are.

Moral: “It’s not the will to win, but the will to prepare to win that makes the difference.” Bear Bryant, legendary football coach at the University of Alabama

with football love, 

A little thing I wish to all my football friends near and far: May your families visit often. May new friends fill the immense void of those left behind. May positive fans silence the negative ones. And may your season be filled with more wins than losses.

pre-season five family.jpg

Role Reversal

If you don’t know my daughter, trust me when I tell you she’s pretty spectacular. So when her Spring Break 2017 plans fell through with girlfriends and she asked me if we could go somewhere together my heart nearly burst with happiness. “Come on, it’ll be so much fun to hang out together mom!” Of course I was aware I was second fiddle, but tell me a struggling empty-nesting mom who wouldn’t jump at the chance to vacation with their daughter!

She researched potential destinations with a fervor I hoped she utilized at college and determined Antigua was a perfect location for a mother-daughter Spring Break. Affordable non-stop flight, gorgeous beaches and all the beautiful pictures we could take. After all, if it isn’t photographed, then it didn’t happen, right? 

Well it happened alright! Other than a five-hour flight delay, our week in Antigua was absolutely delightful. Each morning we started our day with our very own pot of freshly brewed coffee and a personally prepared breakfast. The hours we spent at the infinity pool atop a mountainous resort were peaceful, breathtaking and filled with endless hummingbirds flitting from flower to flower. It was surreal.

 Saw millions of hummingbirds but only few captured with my iPhone.

Saw millions of hummingbirds but only few captured with my iPhone.

Her research secured us a boat ride to a private beach where we shelled, hiked, bird watched and kayaked through mangroves. But the “piece de resistance” was the day we lounged on a canopied daybed perched alongside the turquoise ocean for an entire day. It was so peaceful in fact I determined this must be what my heaven will be like.

 Lunch at Sheer Rocks.

Lunch at Sheer Rocks.

As wonderful as the activities and accommodations were, I knew the most treasured part of this trip would always be this uninterrupted time with my daughter. There were no friends, televisions, classes, jobs and limited wifi … in other words, mostly just us.

 In an open-aired Jeep on our way to the beach.

In an open-aired Jeep on our way to the beach.

We were inseparable, just as it used to be. Yet, this trip was very different. I no longer had to hold her hand in the airport, pack her suitcase or carefully watch her by the pool. She was not on my hip or in a highchair at dinner but sitting across from me sharing laughs and a drink. That baby girl was the one who grabbed my hand to get me across the street safely. She planned the trip, packed the travel snacks, sunscreen and downloaded the final episodes of Gilmore Girls for us to watch on the plane. 

 Waiting out our flight delay with an episode of Gilmore Girls.

Waiting out our flight delay with an episode of Gilmore Girls.

I am not sure when she became a woman, but she sure has. I watched her communicate with strangers and navigate an island we had never been to before. Somehow the line between mother and daughter smudged, as she was doing more of the handling and I was doing more of the following. As comforting as it was seeing her be so successfully independent, my heart cracked a tiny bit.  My role as her mom was changing—for me, a sign of things to come.

Just a few weeks later I went to visit my mom in Florida while I was in town for an author event. We were both looking so forward to spending time together alone, something our lives just didn’t allow us to do much of anymore. We shopped, sat by the pool, chatted endlessly without interruption, watched our favorite television show together and shared dinners. At some point during those five days I caught myself placing my arm around her shoulder as we were walking through the parking lot. I was immediately reminded of how my daughter grabbed my hand. 

And there it was … a moment I’m so grateful did not slip right past me. The parallels were strikingly similar. My role as daughter was changing too. I help my mom not because she is incapable, but because of my love for her. Her role as my mom will never be in jeopardy, it just changes.

Moral: Consider yourself fortunate to experience time marching by, because it means you have time.

A few little things if you are contemplating a trip to Antigua: Sugar Ridge was our hotel, Antigua Paddles was the company we chose for our boating excursion and our day in heaven was spent at Sheer Rocks. Feel free to send questions our way.

Onward and Upward

This past weekend we traveled to watch our son graduate from the University of Alabama. As our plane barreled down the runway for take-off so too did my mind. Where has the time gone? How am I old enough to have a child who is about to graduate college? When did that little boy getting on the big yellow school bus become a young man? Where will his diploma lead him? What is next for his life? STOP! Get hold of yourself Allison, have you forgotten he’s a football kid. 

Football Kid: noun. A child whose father’s football coaching career often means relocating the family many, many times.

 Father and son celebrating after a big football win!

Father and son celebrating after a big football win!

Yes, football kids may struggle when you ask them where “home” is, but their foundation is rock solid. As a football mom you may think me jaded, but I am steadfast in knowing football kids adapt to new environments, comfortably carry on conversations with complete strangers, are incredibly friendly, uniquely empathetic, have an innate ability to maneuver any new city with ease, and usually eager to try new activities and cuisine. They fully understand the importance of a good handshake, eye contact, a handwritten note and sportsmanship. They can work a room, read people, disregard naysayers, take the high road and see the glass half full. Skills learned before they took their first step.

When it comes to friendships they are careful to find a person who is genuine and can be trusted to stand by their side when there is more losing than winning. Those friendships are respected, treasured and often survive no matter how far away the next move takes them.

 Hockey teammates in 2004

Hockey teammates in 2004

 Four state moves later and still friends in 2017

Four state moves later and still friends in 2017

Football kids take their cue from their parents, understanding you are either the “welcomer” or “welcomee”. Hence, the bond amongst football kids and their families is a tight one. They don’t think twice when the name on their emergency form is another football kid’s mom who they hardly know, but innately trust. They know what it’s like to step onto a school bus full of kids who’ve known each other all their life or to eat alone in the lunchroom. “I know what you’re going though; I’ll be your friend and I’ve got your back”, should be their creed.

 That scary first day of school!

That scary first day of school!

So for us this trip is sort of a twofer; we get to see our son graduate and “go back home!”. As many football families do, when moving from job to job, often times a kid is left behind. It’s not that we forgot to pack ‘em up, it’s just they've chosen to stay back and begin their own life right there. In our case, we moved to Philadelphia and our son stayed for college, which was far from a comfortable scenario for us. Knowing we had football family and true friends in town made it so I could close my eyes at night and sleep, sort of.

As a football family mom I’ve always felt rather guilty about moving our kids so much. Worried they would never feel they had a childhood “home.” Sad they wouldn’t have a neighborhood of people who could share tales about watching them grow up. But I have learned when football people and those trusted friends do gather back up after many years; wives hug, husbands share tales, years melt away and “kids” reminisce about their childhood days. Our kids may not have one neighborhood who watched them grow up, they are blessed with many. 

So maybe there is no reason for me to panic after all. We‘ve given him the childhood, support and tools to confidently walk across that stage and receive his diploma. He will win some, he may lose some and he may have to move on some- but he has a slew of people all over the place cheering him on! You’ve got this Jake!

 Proud mother and son moment!

Proud mother and son moment!

Moral: Distance only strengthens true friendships. 

with proud love, 

allison's signature.jpg

A little thing you should know: Like a fox, football people have a keen sense.  We can walk into a crowded room and quickly sniff out a weasel or locate the good soul. Once we find a true person with a genuine kind heart who loves us for who we are and not our football ticket hookup, those are the ones that always have a home in our heart.

Shake my head

I live by the philosophy that if I have nothing nice to say … I say nothing. This clearly does not apply to my head shake. Look up head shake in the dictionary, you’ll likely find a picture of me shaking my head left to right. I do it a lot, so as not to allow my truly honest and sometimes judgmental thoughts to slip out.

Being somewhat of a neurotic traveler I arrive at the airport with plenty of time for boarding and people watching. Nowadays I just see tops of heads looking down at their electronic device. Gone are the days of friendly dialogue with a stranger. You’ll never know if you and that stranger have a person or place in common. No chance of a stranger sharing a thought or story with you that might change the course of your life. Shake my head.

Speaking of airports, how about those people who just stop walking, right in the middle of the terminal. Rolling bags just come to a screeching halt! Is it time to have traffic lights for the walkways in all terminals? Have some awareness and respect for your fellow travelers, most of whom are looking down at their device and unaware they are about to walk straight into your backside. Shake my head.

So I can’t be called a gym rat by any stretch, but I sure am going a whole bunch more these days. I am amazed at the number of cars that jockey, rush, beep and circle for the closest spots. Or the people who get so annoyed that the automatic door openers are not working. I mean, aren’t we going to the gym to exercise? Shake my head.

Yes that’s bad, but it’s “the talk” that really does me in. If anyone is looking for a coach, it seems there is an endless supply at my gym who believe they are more than qualified. But one “gentlemen” in particular always seems to be within my earshot. It’s an evil combination—loud voice combined with an obsession to hear himself speak. But sir, I don’t care who should have been drafted, the play you would have called or any other bunk that spews from your mouth. Thanks to you not only do I have whiplash, but may be hard of hearing soon from upping the volume on my earbuds just to drown you out! Shake my head.

Speaking of strangers, I will never forget the time my kids and I were outside our Michigan home and a “person” tossed a pretty full cup of soda out their truck window. My kids mouths hung open and turned to me. As luck would have it the truck pulled into a neighbor’s driveway, so I went to work. I carefully picked up the cup and walked towards the truck. “Excuse me, I believe this dropped from your car. [LONG DRAMATIC PAUSE] I thought you might want your drink back.” He looked at me baffled and slowly said “Thank you?” I turned with a smile and strutted back towards my kids whose mouths were still hung open! Shake my head.

I was taught one should always pick up after themselves, and their pets. Many winters ago the snow melted and beside my mailbox was an entire winter’s worth of someone else’s dog poop uncovered. It was beyond disgusting, but had to be handled so my young children didn’t happen into it. So I plugged my nose, donned rubber gloves, picked up three full grocery bags of  &^%$ and devised a plan. I drove a stake in the same spot, tied the bags to it with a sign that read, “FOUND: SOMEONE ELSE’S DOG POOP!” My husband thought it would end up on our front step on fire, but miraculously no drama … those bags vanished within an hour. Shake my head.

Yeah, I’ve never been a fan of real life drama, but do appreciate a gripping television show. Yesterday a few of my friends were discussing the most recent storyline of their favorite television drama and how it felt a bit hokey. I chimed in “It’s television girls!” Then it occurred to me; television dramas seem more realistic these days than reality television does.  And if I very carefully go one step further; it seems our nightly news shows seem a bit more reality TV than factual reporting. Shake my head.

Your head-shaking friend,

A little thing I do: I refuse to eat cookies these days because of their high calorie count but will inhale an entire bag of chocolate rice cakes. Shake my head.

A friend never to be forgotten

This past summer I traveled solo for a wedding in Lawrence, Kansas. Fully expecting gals in blue gingham dresses, tumbleweeds and tornadic weather, I was pleasantly surprised to find beautiful blue skies, delicious food and a super cool downtown. Of course a schooled coach's wife must visit the local college campus, ‘cause one never knows, right? The Jayhawks campus was spectacular too; a beautiful mix of old and new architecture with endless green space. Seriously, who knew?

This was a wedding I just knew I could not miss since the groom’s mother was one of my very dearest friends. I first “met” her over the phone soon after I got engaged to my football coaching husband. He handed me the phone and said, “You’ll just love her!” I will never forget many things she said to me over the course of our friendship, including our first conversation, “You DO know Allison, being married to a football coach takes a strong and independent woman. You will be alone a lot, but you will always have me.” I knew her all of four minutes and already she promised me her lifetime of alliance and support. Between you and me, I thought she was half crazy! Who does that? Why was her husband never home? Must be she was a bad wife or something? 

It wasn’t until much later in our friendship I shared those very thoughts with her. I can still hear her loud, hysterical laughter 26 years later. I miss that laugh and her lifetime of promised support. I just really miss her. After an incredibly brave and long fight with breast cancer, she left us and in her place is a mighty void. During those final weeks she shared one of her deepest fears with me—that she would be forgotten. We cried and I promised her that was never going to happen. It simply was not an option.

 Me stealing a moment with my friend!

Me stealing a moment with my friend!

I’ve clearly kept my promise because I still cry when I think of her. As her football coaching son’s wedding approached I could not shake how sad I was she would not help handle all the planning, be there to dance with her son or share words of wisdom with her new daughter-in-law. So I decided that I would tuck her in my heart as my “plus-one.” After all, it was she who said, “I would never be alone.” Her presence would make me stronger, less prone to tearful outbursts.  But then her son and his fiancee asked me to be a part of their ceremonial Seven Blessings*, and the tears began.

*Seven Blessings

An adaptation of a Jewish tradition from ancient teachings. The couple pairs seven chosen people with seven words they love. These people have about one minute during the ceremony to share their thoughts and wishes with the couple pertaining to their word. 

My word was kindness. This sweet couple not only gift-wrapped the perfect word for me but the chance to keep a promise to my dear friend. It was her single act of kindness so many years ago that created a friendship capable of surviving countless moves, states, time zones and teams. This was my chance to share this story and reassure his new bride that though she will be alone a lot, she will always have me! After all, we are now football family.

 Me stealing a moment with the groom!

Me stealing a moment with the groom!

As you might expect, their wedding weekend was filled with tears of all kinds. Their ceremony and the Seven Blessings were emotional, heartfelt, truthful, genuine and from the deepest part of each person’s heart. Not sure if it was that, in conjunction with the setting, food and unseasonably warm weather but though my friend was nowhere to be seen, she was far from forgotten.

with kindness,

A little thing you should know: At a football family wedding, six degrees of separation is more like two degrees. I saw people we’ve rivaled and others we’ve coached alongside. I hugged old friends, then turned around and hugged brand new ones. Every one of these people are my extended football family. We are one. We understand. We “get" our lifestyle. They “got” exactly why I was solo! We all appreciate how uncertain our life can be. But that day, we were all on the same team; celebrating, cheering, supporting and remembering.

If you need a place to make a donation to help find a cure for cancer so it stops stealing our loved ones from us … It's with kindness that I share this link to my daughter’s Relay for Life team page at college!


Call me Roomba

Roomba: (noun); A robotic vacuum cleaner

Yup, that is correct, I unknowingly vacuumed up or ate just about anything edible in my path in a robotic-like manner. For some time I believed there was a ghost in my home. Empty bags of chips were found in the trash and sleeves of crackers suddenly empty. That sneaky ghost would demolish a block of cheese without me even knowing. Once, I purchased a pretty big bag of dark chocolate coconut bark (because we all know dark chocolate is healthy) and that damn ghost ate the entire bag. As it turns out, no ghost--it was me the whole time! Hence, call me Roomba.

Of course I should have seen this coming. “Should" being the operative word. Now it is like I am rewatching my home movie in slow motion. First my jeans were tight. After making certain they were not my daughter’s, I then assumed I must have accidentally run them through the dryer. Some time after, I began avoiding pictures. Even an appointment with my friend/hair stylist didn’t fix that! The final straw came when my go-to baggy comfy sweats were, well, let’s just say they were NO LONGER COMFY! No I didn’t need a scale. I knew what had happened … I had been roomba-ing!

Roomab-ing: (verb); To walk through life inhaling or consuming food without any awareness or concern of consequences.

This realization made me so sad. But being sad and or depressed always comes with a sense of woe is me. You feel entitled to those feelings and others empathize with you. BUT when it occurs to you that it was you wreaking havoc on yourself, you are responsible for your own sadness. That my friends is what they call a game-changer. I did this to my own self. I, me … the gal who is supposed to be on my side. My friend, my true confidante. The person who knows all my most inner-secrets. The one who knows how much I wanted to fit into that pair of jeans in the back of my closet. How could she?

It’s more like; HOW COULD I? Yes, my 53-year-old body did give birth to two amazing, wonderful children. Yes, I spent the good part of last year keeping my dying dog company. I chose to sit on the couch beside him and not go to the gym. I determined that somehow copious amounts of cheese was a way better option than a sleeve of Oreos. Globs of peanut butter on a banana was a perfectly healthy mid-morning snack! I finagled my way into believing all was okay while I was undermining my very own fitness and health. I am to blame.

During that time the things I heard in my head about me were downright brutal and mean. I was bullying my own self and just sitting by and watching. “You are so weak you can’t even manage to drink 2 lousy glasses of water a day.” “How pathetic that you make excuses that you must clean the house instead of going to the gym.” Such a heartbreaking realization for a gal who travels to schools across our country speaking about the despicability of bullying. I was not just a bully but a hypocrite too!!! How could I implore children to be kind to each other when I couldn’t even be nice to myself?

That did it. It was time to stand up to this bully in my head, so I crafted a plan. First I unplugged my Roomba and downloaded a FREE APP on my phone to help track the food I thoughtfully put into my body! Who knew my peanut butter smothered banana was 409 calories? I knew I needed support so along with my gym buddies I also have a small texting friend group. We not only hold each other accountable but send inspiring messages, bits of humor and updates on our REAL LIFE daily struggles and dreams. Of course this plan included the gym again … and not just my beloved Barre class, but new classes and cardio too.

full plate app.jpg

As my bad choices turned to good choices so too did the voice in my head. She was kinder, positive, encouraging and helped me realize that it just might be better if I invest in a trainer rather than a new wardrobe each time my comfy clothes don’t fit. She’s a smart girl that one!

Moral: The best investment one can make is in themselves--the dividends are endless.

Your honest friend,

A little thing I do: When workouts get tough and I feel I can’t go another second, instead of counting I spell the name of someone I love who has inspired me. If they were able to be so brave and overcome such adversity who am I to struggle. You should try it… helps me every single time!

Overflowing with pride

All week … well maybe not all week, I pondered what to blog about. A few good options, but nothing got my juices flowing. Sunday morning rolled around and still nothing. So I decided to pay a few bills. The water bill seemed quite high so I wasted 25 minutes on hold to speak to a real live human on the phone. Within the first few seconds of her answering my call she said, “Yup, sounds like you have a leak.” That’s when the lightbulb went off in my head. I remembered the toilet had been running on and off lately so we would jiggle the handle after each flush.

Now instead of leisurely blogging I was wrangling with plumbing woes. Calling my favorite plumber on a Sunday morning meant a hefty emergency fee tacked on top of the actual repair, and that just goes against my grain. So I donned my big girl panties. Not just for bravery, but they also guaranteed a not so “plumberesque” look! Once I was elbow deep in a tank of clean toilet water and saw the rubber disc at the bottom of the tank was getting caught up on itself, I surmised it was unable to do it’s job. That’s when for the first time in my life I related to a toilet. How? Too many times I just cannot get out of my own way, becoming my own worst enemy. It sometimes helps to takes a deep breath, have a bit of a timeout or share a glass of wine with a friend and I’m good as new. Overflowing with empathy for my toilet, I set out to make this right.

I am fascinated with hardware stores. You’ll find me wandering around the aisles holding items and staring into space brainstorming other uses for them. For example: I found a short roll of paint paper for $2.18 that morphed into my memo board.

A radiator metal cover got a coat of spray paint and became a magnetic board.

This happens at flea markets too. I fell in love with an old chicken feeder for $15.00 and it is my dining room centerpiece … for now.

So back to plumbing … I learned the rubber disc I was replacing is a flapper, which made me giggle. All I could visualize was this disc in a short glittery dress not able to dance. So I appropriately chose a water conscience flapper for $5.59 and rushed it home. It took me all of ten minutes to switch out the flappers only to realize the toilet was still running. Disappointed and frustrated I took to the internet to find the cause. It is one of the things I do love about the internet. After a handful of do-it-yourself youtube videos I was off again. This time though I picked up a Toilet Fill Valve & Flapper Kit for a mere $13.98! 

So long and short, I fixed my running toilet ALL BY MYSELF. I not only saved money (which is always a plus) but I am proud I took care of business and accomplished a task I had never done before. Most of all I was tickled pink I got out of my own way long enough to learn something new, which I then repurposed into this week’s blog. Yay me!

Moral: Empowerment is a very liberating and quite possibly addicting well.

Your plumber friend,

A little thing you should know: I am simply sick, sad and tired about the endless negativity in the news. When I’m sick I take medicine, when I’m sad I am kind. Not because I am wonderful, but because it makes me feel better.  My first dose of kindness occurred yesterday towards a local Elementary School and yup, it’s just what the doctor ordered!

Time to move forward

The onset of 2017 coupled with life marching by has finally gotten me back to blogging. Not that I am counting or anything, but more than two entire months have passed since I plopped down at my computer to share my random thoughts, words and views with you.

I always believed up until now I was the kind of writer who was emotionally inspired. One who wrote to understand, grapple with, contemplate life and the world around me. Yet, it seems when it comes to very strong emotions, I am rendered wordless. This misdiagnosis should not come as a surprise to me as it is not a new thing. Not many years ago I was so certain I was lactose intolerant I went without dairy for years. As it turns out, the reason I was feeling sick after each bowl of cereal was not due to milk, but an apparent sensitivity to wheat. Who knew? Maybe it’s time I leave the diagnosing to the professionals?

My heightened emotions of the last few months stem from the loss of our family dog, Cornell, to Cancer. Even writing this makes me fight back tears. He was so intricately woven into our family fabric that the empty hole was overwhelming to stitch up. Our family was broken, sad and apparently not very good at hiding our emotions. Even the people at my husband’s office were aware. You may recall my husband is a coach for the Philadelphia Eagles, which makes us a football family. A family whose lives revolve around a football schedule and the win-loss column. A family who struggles to place everything on hold until the season comes to an end, including the death of a family pup. So our plan was to get through the football season and then figure out life.

Apparently, others had a different plan, and by others I mean my husband’s entire stable of offensive linemen. After a position meeting a few weeks ago they placed a crate on his desk and said, “Hope this helps put your family back together, Coach. Merry Christmas!” Inside that cage was a 3.5-month-old Shi-poo puppy. Yes, you read that right, a dog! Not only did they all chip in and buy us a dog, but a dog that modestly resembled our beloved Cornell. They researched for weeks, located a breeder, picked him out and cared for him until our children were home from college. And with that kind-hearted and sentimental gift we became a family of five again.

 picture thanks to "Aunkie"

picture thanks to "Aunkie"

I know what you are thinking, as we had those exact thoughts. “How could you give us a dog?” “Who does that?” “Is this some kind of a White Elephant gift exchange?” However that was quickly followed with the overwhelming awareness of how much these linemen must love Jeff and our family to give us this puppy. We knew saying, “Thanks, but no thanks!” would never cross our lips.

Our family was not only unprepared, but stunned. I was not ready to love again. I was still looking in my rear-view mirror. I was embracing the sadness, succumbing to tears and reliving all the memories. The idea of caring for a new dog made me feel like a traitor. The struggle for our family was not going to be potty training but embracing this adorable puppy and therefore becoming vulnerable again. But once we agreed upon the name OL-iver, a nod to the big OL guys who gave him to us, our home began to fill back up with happiness. Now our home has gates, pee-stained rugs, toys scattered about and a little four-legged friend who is trying his darndest to help us ‘look” forward.

 Where's OL-iver? A black furry friend is very challenging to take proper pictures of!

Where's OL-iver? A black furry friend is very challenging to take proper pictures of!

Moral: “Time heals nothing unless you move along with it.” Rachel Wochin

Your forward-focused friend,

A little thing you should know: College football season has ended. NFL season has less than one month left so the transitional season continues. Every team is comprised of the obvious players and coaches. But lest not forget the administration, front office, travel, press, social media, equipment, nutrition, trainers and medical personnel. Each one of those people have a family of some kind. Those families experience food, home, clothes, education and a comfortable life in part due to working for that team. They all carefully watch the win-loss column, as that is the line in the sand for most football families. I send congratulations and or empathy to those who find themselves too close to that line.

Dear Cornell...

Where are you? I walk in circles aimlessly around our house, searching for you. I spot signs of you everywhere. Your unfinished Dingo bones are scattered about the house. I see your water glass on the coaster beside the couch. Your endless supply of blankets to snuggle up in are at all your happy spots. Your medicine is lined up on the counter. Your treat jar is full. Your leash waits by the front door along with your red plaid lumber jacket. But you, my sweet boy, are nowhere to be found.

 Yup, he really drank ice water from a glass.

Yup, he really drank ice water from a glass.

I drink my morning coffee alone now. I sit here blogging without you nestled up beside me. I’ve been going to sleep much too late since you’re not here begging me to go upstairs. I leave the house with no one to say, “I promise I’ll be right back.” I can stay out for hours now because there is no you for me to take care of.

Remember the Empty Nest fiasco? How you listened to me, followed me around the house while I struggled to keep myself busy? And when I finally sat down you saddled up beside me and placed your head on my lap? Well I owe you an apology buddy. Our home was not empty. Not even close. You were home with me.  Now our home is empty—or at least feels that way. No one to care for, comfort, feed, look after on a day-to-day basis. My goodness Cornell, please tell me you did not get sick to fill my void? That couldn't be, right?

It’s just I feel so lost without you. This house we both loved so is now filled with a deafening silence way too much of the time. My heavy heart feels it could just free fall to the ground. I cry everywhere and at the most unexpected times and you know firsthand what an ugly crier I am. For a quiet little guy often mistaken for a stuffed animal with a pulse, your passing has left an immense empty hole in our lives.

cornell in kitchen.JPG

But don’t worry, Cornell. Everyone knows time does in fact heal. I really don’t want to hear that right now, but I know it is true. It’s just that right now time is a tricky deal. When you were diagnosed we prayed for time. Multiple times a day we took medicine to manage your illness and comfort. Two to three hours of time was about your max before we needed to get outside. Morning was your neediest time so we stopped going to the gym. This last year you and I have been pretty much inseparable. You traveled like a champ to Florida, Maine, your sister’s college, NY City, Upstate New York and weekends at the Jersey Shore. You enjoyed our outings to BJ’s, Lowes, JoAnn Fabrics and Michaels too. And if circumstances were such that I had to leave you at home there were ALWAYS people who loved you and eagerly stepped in to spend time taking care of you. You lived life—and we lived it with you.

 Our last trip to BJ's together!

Our last trip to BJ's together!

You were the most loving and gentle dog, Cornell, which makes it so fitting that kindnesses keep pouring in. Calls, texts, gifts, flowers, Relay for Life donations in your memory, visits, hugs and homemade cookies have not stopped for days from all our friends; near and far. Even the man at the car place delivered our fixed car to our home so I did not have to face the world just yet. It’s so clear you are loved due to the long list of endearing nicknames people gave you. And I don’t know of many dogs who have their own Instagram account @cornellthedog!

 Cornell's many pet names!

Cornell's many pet names!

Sometimes when I cry I think myself so foolish that I have been reduced to rubble because you were after all, “just our dog.” I think of friends who have lost children, husbands and parents and I feel at times like I’m overreacting. I am aware there is deeper sadness than this in our world, but in our world you were family, and in many ways, the best kind of family. You were our unconditional love. Both giving and receiving. You were a therapist, best friend, confidant and companion. You never judged our crazy, but instead just sat quietly by and supported us. Let’s not forget every single move our football family made. You were always there to soften the transition by making our new home feel instantly normal by your presence. And you were a big reason why we were always able to quickly make new friends on the other side.

The other side—that is where you are now. A side that is much too far away from us. You will forever be missed, eternally loved and respectfully treasured.

Moral: Although sick, Cornell lived life to the fullest every day. There is a quote that says, “Live for today, because tomorrow is promised to no one.” The last few months included a lot of “living for today” for which we are grateful.

With a broken heart,

A little thing you should know Cornell: Remember when dad came home late from work you always ran out to greet him and peed on the lawn right beside his parked car? Well a few nights ago for the first time ever, Dad pulled into the driveway and a deer was waiting for him in that very same spot just looking into the window of our home. So grateful for the sign buddy...

 Thanks Julie for the perfect pillow for our perfect guy!

Thanks Julie for the perfect pillow for our perfect guy!

"Leave" your mark

Fall is my most absolute favorite season hands down. The time of year when the temperature starts to dip and boots, sweaters and scarves break out of the closet. The days get shorter. The smell of fireplaces is in the air. Front porches fill with pumpkins as store shelves fill with candy. And of course, football is in full swing.

I spend hours digging holes for bulbs and mums. Our front porch urns get “Autumned” with mums, grasses, pumpkins and Halloween twinkle lights. Scarecrow takes his rightful place beside the red wagon that hauled our kids and candy loot many Halloweens ago. Now that retired wagon full of pumpkins and mums parked in our garden reminds me how times have changed!

Admiring leaves is another one of my very favorite fall pastimes. Yup, I am the one who pulls off the road to take yet another photo of an amazing sugar maple tree. I am oddly fascinated by trees and their leaves. Long gray winters come to an end the moment tiny bright green leaves show themselves. Soon those leaves are the supporting cast for a multitude of flowers, petals and aromas. As the summer gets into full swing, full grown leaves offer us shade protection so we can picnic, nap and read under their canopy. As fall arrives leaf peepers jump in cars across the USA to witness the leaves grand finale of breathtakingly beautiful colors.

 The gorgeous tree just around the corner from my house! Compliments of my neighbor friends Alison and Bill!

The gorgeous tree just around the corner from my house! Compliments of my neighbor friends Alison and Bill!

But raking those beauties is not a job for the faint of heart, especially a person like myself who feels they might struggle with a slight case of OCD. I remember the moment well, as it was a Monday. Not just any Monday—it was a winning Monday. In the football world that translates to the Monday after your team wins their game. Everything is easier on a winning Monday. With my free winning cup of Dunkin Donuts coffee in my hand I began the task of collecting the leaves. I was whistling, singing tunes, filling bags and making headway. Before I knew it the sun was beginning to set and a chill was filling the air. As I turned to collect my tools I noticed the front yard I just spent five hours clearing was already freshly coated with a new layer of leaves.

As I caught myself frantically picking up the freshly fallen leaves one by one it dawned on me. I’ve been here before, sort of. This was so reminiscent of so many other times in my life. I was transported back to those days when my children were young and I attempted to keep our home clean. Or how there was always one more load of laundry, a room to clean or homework assignment to help complete. I stood up in my driveway, stepped away from the leaves and determined there are always going to be days when there will be more leaves to place in your bucket.

It’s those times you need to find perspective and unfortunately I did not need to look too far. Just a couple of weeks ago my neighborhood friend passed away from Brain Cancer. As I sat at his beautiful service amongst his family and friends it was very clear he left this life too soon. He was a kind-hearted, unselfish and happy person. His story was a woeful reminder that any minute our lives can change and we should do our very best to live each day to it’s fullest potential.

So, I am taking a page from my friend and a leaf. I will brighten this world by showing up and being present. I shall support and protect those who live amongst me. I will attempt each day to grow to be my best self.

Moral: When it’s my time to “leave,” may there be a few memories of myself worthy of collecting.

your friend,


A little thing I got my daughter to do for me: If you know anything about me, it’s my love of words. They don every wall, room and mantle in our home. Heck, even our driveway at times has chalked words all over it. This time of year the pumpkins get in on the action too!  

 Thanks Madi for your mad calligraphy skills!

Thanks Madi for your mad calligraphy skills!