It's the Final Countdown

If you have football family blood running through your veins I’d bet anything you understand this musical reference. If you don’t, let me help you. This song pays homage to the final week of summer vacation for the man of our house. He goes by husband and dad in our home. but in one week’s time he’ll be answering to Coach pretty much all the time. Please take a moment to listen to this perfect little ditty.

See, this is the last week of his summer hiatus before he returns to his job as a full-time football coach. So for all intents and purposes, this week marks the end of summertime for our family as a complete unit. 

Check your calendar, it’s a thing people! I should know because this year marks my 27th final countdown. Yet each year it somehow sneaks up on me. Usually it’s the comments that get me, “You know, this weekend is probably the last time I’ll be able to go out for dinner until next year.” Or, “We better do that this week. You know this is my last week, right?” Or, “This’ll be the last time I take out the garbage.” It may sound like am taking literary liberties here, but I promise you that I’m not.

Why it catches me off guard is a conundrum. I see the fall-scented candles starting to line the shelves at the mall. I can smell the extra cinnamon in the air at our local coffee shop. I am sure the other morning walking our dog I felt a slight chill in the air. Oh, and of course I noticed our 2019-2020 season schedule was released the other day. But, it’s amazing how our family can get caught up in the new norm of having him around full time. We jam pack this special time with our treasured family vacation. Often we road trip to visit family and friends. We try to start and complete a few projects around our home with his help. In other words, we get comfortable having him back around the house. So I suppose it is a good thing it still catches me off guard. 

2019 family vacation to Cabo San Lucas

2019 family vacation to Cabo San Lucas

Our week began innocently enough tuning into the 2019 Wimbledon Championship Men’s Singles match. What was to be a backdrop to our lazy Sunday morning turned into a match of historic proportions and a 4-hour, 57-minute commitment. You should know I am a one sport gal. My heart only has room for one sport and I choose football—more specifically the Philadelphia Eagles. After all, they graciously employ my husband and in turn provide us a wonderful home and life we truly love. The Philadelphia Eagles organization is an extension of our family and so all of my heart is fully committed to them. 

Oh how I empathize with Mirka Federer during her husband’s match

Oh how I empathize with Mirka Federer during her husband’s match

But, this tennis match ambushed me. The camera panned the crowd and settled on the players family members. In a nano second I felt their stress, angst and sense of helplessness run amuck in my body. Moms desperately kissing good luck charms hanging from their necks. Wives running their hands through their coiffed hair and picking apart their manicured fingernails. My heart raced and my anxiety increased and I morphed into my emotionally vested sport watching self. I pounded the countertop, cheered emphatically for my guy and fist pumped the sky. In other words, I was all in. My husband was literally stunned. While I was thoroughly engrossed on the match my husband was focused on me. In 27 years of marriage he had never seen this side of me before. You may be wondering how in the world this is possible. Because he is always on the field coaching and I am always either in the stands or at home watching when my Incredible Hulk persona takes over me. Lucky for us both, I look really good in green.

And I can relate to the original HULK-Bill Bixby

And I can relate to the original HULK-Bill Bixby

So, as this countdown week creeps closer to zero I took a quiet moment alone to listen to my heart and assess the season ahead. I am hopeful yet cautious. I am excited for the promise of what is possible. I am indeed rejuvenated and ready to tackle another football season. I am prepared. And in the background I hear, “Allison, can you cut my hair today? It’s my last one for awhile, so let’s cut it very short.”

XOXO,

A little thing you should know: I truly hope all my fellow coaches’ wives have stored enough rays of sunshine and wonderful memories for their family to last the long, always exhausting and emotionally draining upcoming season. May you have more wins than losses, smiles than frowns and cheers than jeers!

Choosing the Path to Positivity

A few weeks back I found myself stuck. Not between a rock and a hard place but literally stuck. Like I actually felt a moment of panic and thought I might need to call for help.

The day started out like any other day, attending a 6 am Gfit Women (Group Fitness for Women) class in my hometown of Media, Pennsylvania. I’ve been a struggling member since January. Yep, another one of my classic “this is the year I finally get myself in shape” New Year Resolutions. Each class is approximately 36 minutes of, what I consider, torture: cardio, weight training, strength and endurance. That translates to endless burpees, box jumps, lifting weights, running and jumping rope, just to name a few. All hellish.

Some of the badass Gfit Women getting it done with synchronized burpees!

Some of the badass Gfit Women getting it done with synchronized burpees!

But this particular day I almost mostly kept up with the Jones’, or should I say sort of kept up with the badasses. They are the girls who always go the fastest, are the strongest and look the best in their gear. For heavens sake, they even sweat pretty. I handled the running, increased my weights and didn't die. I left there feeling pretty darn proud, if I don’t say so myself.

Perfect day, too, since we were leaving for our family vacation the next morning. So I be-bopped through the rest of my day, enjoying endless loads of laundry, picking up dry cleaning, running into Trader Joe’s for plane snacks and picking up cash at the bank. I even broke another personal best record for running errands, so with the extra free time I pulled into the mall.

I busted through the front doors like Clint Eastwood. I strutted towards the bathing suit section with my imaginary chains dangling and guns blazing. The scene resembled a war zone, with items strewn every which direction. Bathing suit parts littered for what seemed like miles. Clearly I was not alone in my annual battle to find the perfect bathing suit. So I took a deep breath, womaned up and began the search and rescue.

You get the picture, right?

You get the picture, right?

In search of exactly what, you might be wondering? A bathing suit that would compliment my newly cocky attitude, of course. I picked through the rubble until my hands ached and hangers were dangling from every appendage. I swaggered to the dressing room with my loot.

Somewhere in between a tankini top and a beautiful coral one piece I lost my perspective. I got caught up in a tankini two sizes too small. I allowed my cocky attitude to get the very best of me. There I stood in the middle of a rundown dressing room sweating bullets trying to wrangle myself out of this swimsuit straight jacket. I think I burned more calories in that dressing room than I had working out. As my Apple watch exercise app was soaring I felt my self esteem plummet.

I will spare you the ugly details but suffice it to say it was a super ugly life altering moment for me. Once free from bondage I splayed out on the half bench and caught my breath, thanked my angels and re-evaluated. What if I really had to call for help? Were there cameras in this dressing room recording my private fiasco? Are those actual paper cuts under my armpits from the size labels? This was a personal crossroads moment for me. Shall I tear myself down or build myself up?

This time I chose positivity and made the day a trifecta of personal bests! My takeaway was I am stronger and healthier than I have been maybe in my lifetime. I am fortunate to have a group of girls who inspire, encourage and support me. So I picked myself up off that bench and continued my search for a bathing suit that fit perfectly and honored all my efforts, progress and even my sassy attitude too.

On family vacation at The Resort at Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas.

On family vacation at The Resort at Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas.

she wore an itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot tankini,

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Moral: Celebrate and honor all your accomplishments, both big and small.

A little thing you should know: I am a mad packer. I rarely, if ever, check luggage when flying. I learned my impressive skills from my father who claimed to learn them while serving in the army. It’s a matter of rolling and tucking, which come to think of it, sort of is the same kind of method as doing a reverse burpee. Too bad we don’t pack luggage in exercise class, I would crush every single one of those badass girls.

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A Pocketful of Hope

A few months ago my husband and I went on a sunshine getaway for a few days to a favorite hotel of ours. It is quietly tucked in between two happening towns on the beach, alongside a boardwalk with a pool to boot. No need for a car rental as it’s just fifteen minutes from a major airport and within walking distance of some great restaurants. Just what the doctor ordered- rest and relaxation.

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Unfortunately, even on restful vacations sleeping eludes me. Truth is, I’ve always been more of an early bird kind of gal anyways. The lure of getting a jumpstart on the day has always been too strong for me to ignore. It is my personal quiet time to gather my thoughts, list goals and make a schedule for the day ahead. #mykindofgameplanning

So, I brewed a meek cup of hotel room coffee and sat on our balcony. It was dark but I could hear the waves and make out boat lights twinkling in the distance. I also managed to find a star or two before they all disappeared into the early morning sky. I started spotting beachcombers busy waving metal detectors left to right in search of treasures. Off in the distance I could see a photographer desperately capturing a family of five in the fleeting golden hour. It was clear shell seekers were arriving too. I needed to get down there and share in the cache.

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Half an hour later, with a proper cup of coffee in one hand and my husband’s hand in the other, I too was walking the beach. The sun was up but the crowds were not. As we plodded along I searched for my favorites; worn-down beach glass and heart shaped shells. Off in the far distance I spotted my competition-an older woman shelling, too.

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I picked up my pace to make sure I saw more of the treasures on the beach between us. As we got closer I noticed she seemed disheveled. She had something in her hand to pick up and a dirty bag in the other. I was puzzled why a homeless woman would take shelling so seriously? As our distance shrunk I noticed her gait was off. She moved in an awkward fashion, darting and seemingly off balance. Wow, she wasn't just homeless, but perhaps also drunk. How sad. The competition was off as I assumed we may be actually looking for completely different things?

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I contemplated giving her the leftover change I had from purchasing my cup of coffee. Would she think it rude of me to hand her some loose change and a few dollars? As I was waffling with what to do she was now just a few steps in front of me and I could see her clearly.

It turned out she was not much older than me. In her right hand was a pair of rusty old kitchen tongs and a grocery bag in her left. As I fiddled with the money in my pocket, she bent down to pick up…a discarded old juice box. As she dropped it into her bag so too did my stomach. She was not homeless nor was she drunk. She didn't need my money, judgement or pity. She deserved my respect and gratitude. She was collecting trash scattered all over the shore line left behind by others. I was stunned. She was so focused on her task that she never looked up and I never gave her the proper “thank you” she deserved.

As I walked past her in silence I was overcome with waves of emotions. First up was shame. How disappointed I was in how quickly I judged this kind woman based on a story I concocted. I was so far from being right. How could I have seen one thing and believed another? How many times in my life have I practiced this sort of reckless judging? The next emotional wave was hope. At a time where all bad, scary and horrifying news seems glorified, this small act of kindness I just witnessed felt enormous. She was quietly fighting the good fight. She wasn't picketing, posting on a social media platform nor chanting loud angry words. Clearly this wasn't about recognition, just simply getting the job done and therefore setting a powerful example.

Next thing I knew I spotted a plastic water bottle top like it was a lost treasure and quickly stuffed it into the back pocket of my shorts. With my eyes focused on something new, my pockets and hands quickly filled with garbage as my heart filled too.

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I cannot get that woman out of my mind because she changed my view forever. As sort of a penance for not thanking her and a nod to her greatness, I made myself a promise. Every single time I go to the beach, albeit for a stroll or a full sun-soaking day, I shall take a page from her book. I will bring a happy attitude, a bag to collect trash left behind by others and my solemn promise to never leave anything behind except my footprints and a smile.

Moral: The world is our oyster-if we take proper care of it.

with hope,

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Running on Empty

Ever felt like a jalopy? Worn down, beat up and not running smooth; as if the road is just too much to travel down? Well, perhaps, like myself, you too suffer from ETS-Empty Tank Syndrome. Just like a car, our body’s engine must be maintained and serviced in order to run properly. Each of us have a “tank” to keep filled, “pressures” to balance and a “windshield” to keep clear to see what is ahead. With regular maintenance and attention, a well-oiled machine is able to keep going even when levels run low. But, eventually every engine seizes up when the tanks run dry.

Oscar the Grouch’s Sloppy Jalopy

Oscar the Grouch’s Sloppy Jalopy

My latest ETS episode was triggered with the loss of three very important human beings in a short period of time. Each playing a very different, yet integral part in helping me fulfill my lifelong dream of becoming a published author.

These past many months I‘ve been “driving around” on fumes fearful of breaking down. My “dashboard” was lit up with warning lights just like a car headed for the scrap heap. Instead of handling the situation, I stayed parked in my garage at home. This worked fine for me until my busy time as an author approached. My normal elevated levels of excitement to speak and share my life stories with teachers and students were dangerously low. I could not even muster up an ounce of interest to do my usual presentation slide show, updated to reflect current events that had taken place in my life. It was my fear of falling apart in front of a group of students when instead of using the present tense, I would be using the past that was debilitating me. I shared my fears with a few and desperately clung to their sage advice. But in the end, I knew it would be just me, my heart and my stories alone in front of the crowd.

Left beside the coffee pot the morning of my school presentation…

Left beside the coffee pot the morning of my school presentation…

So as I sputtered along driving to school one morning I practiced the tricky bits of my updated presentation. In the parking lot I concluded my mental pre-game pep talk, gathered myself, my stuff, straightened my back, and put on my big girl panties and walked in. That day I did my best. I was vulnerable, honest and above all-brave. Yes, of course there were tears, but I mostly maneuvered around the bumpiest parts without having to call for roadside assistance.

Allison speaking to a group of 3rd graders in Chicago

Allison speaking to a group of 3rd graders in Chicago

Once all the books were signed and I said goodbye to my new friends I literally sashayed to my car. The drive home was so different from my morning commute. My tank was full, eyes clear to see the road ahead of me and engine was purring like a kitten. As I cruised down the road I pondered my newfound happiness. My heart felt just as if I’d spent the day with a friend I hadn't seen in a while; how I loved being in her presence, how she made me feel and how invincible I felt by her side.

Allison speaking with a kindergarten class in New Jersey

Allison speaking with a kindergarten class in New Jersey

As the sun set, I realized sharing my stories with teachers and children in a school environment is the equivalent to taking my car in for a complete overhaul. The visit boosted my happiness level and rejuvenated my spirit. I actually felt all tuned up. Seriously, I think I even increased my miles per gallon.

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I’ve always wanted my blog to be an honest platform for me to share my daily life. This latest struggle taught me how empowering it is to refill your own tank. I learned running on empty is exhausting, isolating and an unhealthy place to spend too much time. It’s our personal responsibility to recognize and respect our sadness and then find the courage to replace it with happiness.

Moral: You owe it to yourself to be happy.

Cheers to a full tank,

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A very honest little thing you should know about me: For too many years I determined I was not a therapist-attending kind of person. I’m a pretty private gal and speaking about my emotions for an hour was comparable to a Brazilian Wax. But, when I was recently drowning in sadness I knew it was time to contemplate professional help. When I can’t read without squinting, I go to an optometrist. When my car doesn’t start, I call a mechanic. So, you’ll be proud to know when I wasn’t working right, I found a therapist. And like the calls to the optometrist and the mechanic, I’m sure glad I did.

Make Each Day Matter

He was standing right in front of me, wearing a smart pink sport coat. I could feel his hands on my cheeks, the warmth of his smile on my face as he looked into my eyes and said, “Make each day matter, Kiddo.” As he embraced me with his unmistakable hug I woke up. And just like that, he was gone … again. I took a huge deep breath as tears rolled down my cheeks, yet I felt warmed from his touch. As I lay there crying I heard Cinderella singing, “A dream is a wish your heart makes when you’re fast asleep. In dreams you will lose your heartaches. Whatever you wish for, you keep.”

cinderella 2.png

Keeping this particular visit is just what I intend to do. Because, if you've ever experienced loss, you’re all too aware the pictures, videos, voice messages, texts, and birthday cards can be carefully labeled, stored and revisited for all eternity. But anything new; real visits, conversations and hugs are gone forever. In an instant cherished routines come to a screeching halt. No more lunches, garden walks and talks, weekend getaways or phone calls for me to share with my Uncle Ira. Activities once second nature are now debilitating. Things that brought me joy now bring me to my knees, that is except for tidying. 

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Even the usual comfort I get from writing has failed me. So, other than purging and organizing, I’ve laid quite low these last two months. No, I have not jumped on the new Marie Kondo Method bandwagon, but proudly admit we do have a lot in common. 

The KonMari Method™ encourages tidying by category - not by location - beginning with clothes, then moving on to books, papers, komono (miscellaneous items), and, finally, sentimental items. Keep only those things that speak to the heart, and discard items that no longer spark joy. Thank them for their service – then let them go.

You see, I’ve been coping with my emotions, issues and stresses this way long before Marie Kondo was even born. The act of tidying allows me to throw all of myself into a focused mental, physical and solitary task. Some may believe I am squelching my emotions or burying my head in the sand, but I kindly respond, “Let me explain.”  

The AllisonJo Method of tidying is twofold. Whilst making sense of a messy physical space you quietly handle your messy emotional space too. Though both physically and emotionally draining, the end result is a clear and uncluttered home and heart.

It may appear to the outside world as if I am drowning in a huge pile of things, but I am really wading through my sea of emotions. Sifting through all the lessons Uncle Ira shared with me my entire life. He taught me the importance of doing the right thing even when it is more difficult. He taught me how to make, keep and cherish friendships. He taught me to gift with your whole heart. He shared his amazing knack for entertaining. He developed my love and obsession for gardening and birds. And in his final weeks he taught me how to die. I witnessed how important it is to leave this world a better place by touching the hearts and souls of so many.

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So, amongst the piles on my closet floor you very well might find me crying for the man who stepped into my life when my real father stepped out. You may mistake my aches from lifting bags of purged stuff, but really it’s my heart aching over losing a man who helped make my dream of becoming a published author a reality.

uncle ira reading reach.jpg

When all is said and done, my closet mirrors my life with a new stark emptiness, but also too, it seems a newfound sense of control. It is time for me to take account of this new space—reorganize, repurpose and yes, seek JOY. What to keep? What to donate or discard? What items I choose to treasure my whole life long? It’s time to determine how the endless void of comfort, encouragement, guidance and love my Uncle Ira gave to me will be filled now that he is gone. He may never be by my side again, but he will forever be in my heart.

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Moral: “Make each day matter.” Uncle Ira

with love from Ira’s niece,

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Not-so-random acts of kindness

A few months back my aunt told me she and my brother created the verb “to allison--being kind to people, particularly those we need something from.” Worried it sounded much like manipulation, I sheepishly asked for clarification. “To Allison not only makes us better people but it really works. It’s meant as a very big compliment.” I’ve been pondering this idea for sometime now and decided to not only own it but share it with you as well.

allison

/al-i-sun/

noun

1. given name of Scottish and English origin meaning noble, kind 

verb

1. the quality or act of being kind, friendly, generous and considerate 

“She allisoned her way through the crowd” 

I don’t know about you, but compliments fuel my fire. They are the gas to my tank and milk to my cookie. I believe my family members were describing how I relate to people. Since this is who I am and the only way I know how to live, it always surprises me people find it so unique.

Still confused? Here’s an example of said behavior. I love recycling. So much so, my recycling bins usually overflow each and every week. During hot summer months I began leaving cold drinks as a thank you to the recycling people! Soon I noticed my empty recycling bins were returned to my house instead of left at the driveway end. 

Me and my recycling friend Willi

Me and my recycling friend Willi

Living this way fills my heart with a warmth I feel spread throughout my body. It might sound a bit Disneyesque, but it’s my truth. I love knowing my mail carriers name so I can invite her to my annual Friendship Brunch. Knowing the names of the people at the gym makes going on those difficult days a bit easier. I thank those who are cleaning public bathrooms I use and buildings I enter. I attempt kindness with every 1-800 phone call I make not because I need something, but because it’s the only way for me. I suppose my life quote could be, “You get more bees with honey.” Except sometimes I'm not trying to "catch" anything. I'm just being me. 

This past September I spent a week working in Warroad, Minnesota. Don’t know where it is? Don’t fault your Geography teacher. It’s a pretty remote community six miles from the Canadian border chock full of kind-hearted people. Warroad aka Hockeytown, USA is home to Marvin Windows and Doors and The Shed; the best antique car showroom in the world.

The owner of The Shed allowed me to take a seat behind the wheel of this beauty!

The owner of The Shed allowed me to take a seat behind the wheel of this beauty!

I spent three days with the staff and students of Warroad Elementary School. My job was to share my book writing experience, my life as an author and co-owning a publishing company. In truth, I shared the triumphs and tribulations of my life and how it created the me I am today. I shared stories of being bullied in second grade on the heels of winning first place in a writing contest. I spoke from my heart about my parents divorce, my complicated relationship with my father, challenges of being a mom, wife and daughter to aging parents. As I shared my raw and deep emotions I implored each person listening to perform kind deeds daily, smile at a stranger, write a letter to someone you love, befriend the new kid, hold the door for the person behind you. Do anything--just be kind

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I share my story with students passionately because their generation is watching us. They quietly overhear our conversations, absorb the evening news, witness our actions all while forming their beliefs. Often times leaving them feeling overwhelmed and helpless. So, now is the time to tip the scales back to a world we can be proud of. Overflow our world with positivity, exercise the common courtesy of listening to our fellow human, keep negativity at a minimum and above all else, CHOOSE KINDNESS.

Hugging is the best way to let someone know they matter.

Hugging is the best way to let someone know they matter.

In hindsight, I suppose I taught students in Warroad how to "allison." To live their lives looking to make new friends, help old ones, and make our world a happier place one kind deed at a time.

Moral: Every single act of kindness, no matter how small, has a ripple effect. Let’s start a tsunami.

with kindness and hope, 

A little thing you should know: To help spread kindness a little bit more, Inch by Inch Publications is kindly offering a 20% discount throughout November. All books will be signed and personalized and perfect for having on hand for gift giving (teacher, baby or holidays). A set of four books can be given as one gift or split up into many. Use code word: kindness at inchbyinchbooks.com

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The People's Princess

Two things I love dearly are converging and I felt the need to share it with you. This Sunday (October 28 @ 9:30 am EST) this American football gal will be cheering on her Philadelphia Eagles sitting amongst Brits at Wembley Stadium in London, England. The team I love is playing in a country I am obsessed with. So to honor this once in a lifetime occasion I am reposting a blog I wrote entitled “The People’s Princess”. My heart bursts with excitement one moment, then saddens the next knowing Princess Diana will not be cheering in the stands with her adult sons, their wives and her three grandchildren. But my hope is there will be a shimmering kelly green angel watching from up above.

Most of my lifetime anything British and my heart skips a beat. Best I can remember 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. 

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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.

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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 a royal wave,

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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.

Editor’s Note: This blog was originally posted December 6, 2017.


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

Melancholy State of Mind 

Everything I said to myself last week was in an Eeyore voice. Perhaps it's because we lost our football game in overtime. But I know the drill: look forward not backwards. That philosophy usually works for me, except last week I was invited to travel alongside my husband's team with fellow coaches wives. If you are looking for a strong, independent, empathetic, kindhearted friend who will always have your back I suggest you go find yourself a coaches wife. You run the risk she may move away from you one day, but her friendship is worth that risk. I was surrounded by these wonderful ladies and our trip was just that, wonderful, well until game time. 

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I “ostrich" during away games. Translation: I choose to stay home and busy myself with mundane thoughtless projects while watching the game. There I can be neurotic, emotional, detached, vocal and watch without worry of judgment. I get lost in alphabetizing my spices, scrubbing grout on my hands and knees and purging junk drawers as a distraction. I can mute the TV commentary while celebrating touchdowns and tackles with shameless abandon. Basically, I am free to be my true football self.

But, having just witnessed first hand last week's game day ritual, forgetting this loss was much more challenging. Seeing the players march to their meetings was immense. Watching the buses roll out with a police escort made my stomach plummet. Having to sit among our opponent’s fans, who were mostly polite, was just too much for this girl. I excused myself to use the bathroom and that’s when our offense scored. Being beyond superstitious, I spent the next two quarters there. In the bathroom watching the game on the television so kindly installed for people just like me! I cheered respectfully for my team while dolling out paper towel to those who washed their hands! Yup, you read that right my friends, I will save that for another blog!

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We took the lead in overtime and things were looking up. Up until the other team responded with a touchdown to win the game, putting our team on the wrong side of the win-loss column. If you thought it was difficult for me to watch pregame, imagine post-game. Sitting among a team of people whose every waking second of their working lives is geared towards winning was overwhelming. There was nothing glamorous, exciting or enjoyable about our trip home as I sat quietly among coaches grading game film other than landing safely in Philadelphia.

A few mornings later I again traveled alongside fellow coaches wives, but this time to volunteer with New York City Relief*. Our early morning drive together was again wonderful, until game time. As we arrived at our destination so too did my game day jitters. There on a NY City sidewalk were the people we traveled 2.5 hours to help. Our task was to interact and offer support to our new “friends” in need. In need of soup, dry socks, prayer, advisement, counseling, friendship and conversation. The next four hours we stood shoulder to shoulder with wives from another NFL team helping. Not as two separate teams, but as one team working together toward a common goal. 

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With no bathroom for me to camp out in I determined conversation and friendship was my best option. It took me some time to make my first move, so worried it might seem I was here not to help them but make myself feel better. In the end I corralled up enough courage to sit down beside a “friend.” I looked him in the eyes and said, “Good morning, my name is Allison. How are you doing today?” 

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I am happy to report I left with more friends than I arrived with. We smiled, shared worries, listened to each other, cried, hugged and made connections. I added a slew of new names to the growing list of people I quietly hope for; for good health, for work, for safe shelter, for a lost passport and for wives whose lives also depend on winning—although for the moment losing seemed so very far away.

Moral: It is very difficult to win, but it just might be far more difficult to lose.

*New York City Relief is an organization whose belief is: Together we’re providing the essentials to survive a day…and a pathway for a better tomorrow. www.newyorkcityrelief.org 

A little thing you should know:

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“How can we help you?” “My daughter Destiny’s backpack broke this morning.” And just like that I went shopping with two ladies from the “other” team. We had some cash and a phone rigged with apple pay! First stop was Kmart for some sparkly school supplies. Like little kids spilling our combined money on the counter we had just enough. Next we strolled into Modell’s Sporting Goods for a backpack only to find apple pay wasn't working and now we had no other way to pay. Knowing returning without the backpack was unacceptable for us, we did what people in our world do, we game planned. We recruited a kindhearted manager who personally purchased the backpack while we ordered the same backpack online and shipped it to him! After a few hugs and an hour later we strutted down Seventh Avenue like Charlie’s Angels—with a brand new back pack for Destiny!

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Hello my name is...

I wrote this blog a bit ago in the cafeteria of our local hospital. I was not the patient, but the “waiter”-waiting for word on my person. My name tag read Visitor, but that was just part of my true role.

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Hello my name is … Traffic Cop. 

While my person is under the care of a team of trained professionals my job was to remain calm despite the crazy thoughts running rampant through my mind. Though we discussed our chosen destination, this particular road is new to us, filled with unknowns. Will this road have loads of traffic? Any potholes? Might this road be dark and scary or well lit? Will we get lost? So, similarly to a New York City traffic cop during rush hour; I spent the next few hours redirecting negative thoughts left, pertinent information right, slowing down the anxious ones and reassuring the scared. I reminded myself to take slow and steady breaths to help keep me laser focused on the road ahead.

Hello my name is … Hotline. 

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I am my person’s information hotline to the outside world. Being a girl born in the 60’s I feel more like one of those telephone operators crisscrossing telephone lines on a board. For you Godfather aficionados, I am the informant. I chose my words wisely making certain my updates are efficient and informative. I determine what is shared and what is best left private. I balance being present while juggling typos, confusing emojis and a draining cell phone battery. 

Hello my name is … Agent.

Throughout the wait I am wheeling and dealing. I strike deals with the angels up above to secure a successful surgery. In my first hour I promise to floss everyday (sorry, but I honestly don't). The second hour I barter a powerful trade; I promise to drink eight glasses of water a day if the surgery is a success. By the third hour I am in a full panic and searching for kind deed opportunities because I fully and completely believe in the power of good karma. #canibuyyouacupofcoffee?

Hello my name is … Hoover Dam.

The Hoover Dam in Nevada.

The Hoover Dam in Nevada.

The most challenging role for me is managing the tears. I am personally not a fan of tears rolling down MY cheeks but oddly respect them on others. Yet as the “waiter” the water faucet is at the ready. In my mind, those salty drops reveal a vulnerability, a crack if you will. In order for me to remain strong I Must. Not. Crack. My throat shares my philosophy implementing a burning sensation that helps hold the tears back. My eyes open wide as dam reinforcements.

Hello my name is … Florence Nightingale

And when the wait is over and news has been dispersed I don my white cap and play nursemaid. I watch numbers on screens like my life depends on it. I fill water pitchers. I fluff pillows and adjust bed angles. I smile a lot. I wash my hands even more. I take copious notes as the endless doctors parade through our room leaving a slew of information in their wake. I spend my night(s) in a reclining chair. 

Goodbye my name is … Lady Luck

Upon discharge, my person and I know we are some of the lucky ones, departing in much better shape than we arrived. As we gratefully walk past the visitors desk, I carefully peeled my tattered name tag off my wrinkled shirt and said with a smile, ”Thank you, but I am no longer in need of this.” 

Patiently, 

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A little thing you should know: I am not a waiting room kind of gal. If I must wait in hospital, I prefer the cafeteria. There, instead of silence, muffled tears and angst, I sit amongst people moving about their daily life; albeit working or waiting.

What a treasure- great great granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin!!!!

What a treasure- great great granddaughter of Benjamin Franklin!!!!

But when I can sit still no more, I walk the corridors of the hospital like I’m training for a marathon. Whether it is a patient being wheeled past or a couple nervously entering the hospital, I smile and say hello. I slow to appreciate displayed pieces of art and read historical dedication plaques. This last visit I even struck up a lovely conversation with a nurse. We agreed walking was a great way to keep my mind occupied and distracted from worrying about my person. I thanked her for the encouragement and for doing such an important job. Much later that evening I woke up to find a nurse quietly snuck in our hospital room for my person’s vitals. As she left she whispered in my ear, “Your person is doing great.”

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.

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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.

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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.”

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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. 

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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.

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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,

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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.

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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?

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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.

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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!

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love your football friend, 

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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. 

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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. 

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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,

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.

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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. 

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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. 

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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.

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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.