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Monday, December 31, 2012

True Believers

Happy New Years, All!  I am writing you tonight with a resolution to WRITE MORE in 2013!!! That is one of many resolutions, and if accomplished, I think it will help me tackle the rest of my resolutions as well.  Writing has been such a positive way for me to look at life.  A way for me to dissect my life, and appreciate every tiny piece of it.  This year brought so many positive things and wonderful people into my life and I am so grateful.  But it also dealt it's fair share of hardships and challenges... and though the mountains may not be fun to climb, the view from the top is truly magnificent.  (I'll send you a picture when I get there)  I have learned a lot this year, but there are a few lessons that stick out tremendously...

Love True- It's how I sign all of my blogs.  To me, loving yourself is the truest form of love.  It's absolutely impossible to share love with others if you can't share it with yourself.  Be a good friend to yourself, and you'll be a great friend to others.

Say I love you- Whether it is to your family, your friends, your significant others, it doesn't matter. Tell the people around you that you care about them.  Life is too short to let things go unsaid.

"We are ONE before our God in Heaven"- A line from my favorite Darius Rucker song.  It has been a kind of anthem for me recently...

We are one before our God in Heaven
We are one road when the going gets rough
We are one now and forever
We are one name, one life, one flame

This year, I said goodbye to a sweet angel who showed me how precious our God is.  She brought me even closer to some very important people in my life as we tried to heal each other.  She proved that the love of family and friends can save a person.  She proved that God has a place for everyone.  And she proved that we are all ONE family in God's eyes.  That's a lesson I'm going to take with me every single day.

Darius Rucker- "True Believers"

Church bells ringing on our wedding day
Climbed in that limo and rode away
Guess you'll always hear some people say
They're never gonna make it.

We settled in and we settled down
In this quiet little seaside town
You were the rock I built my world around
And life won't ever break it

We are one heartbeat in the darkness
We are one lasting answered prayer
We are one unbroken promise
We are two, True Believers

It wasn't easy getting here today
Sometimes you stumbled or I lost my way
But every roadblock was a chance to say;
Take my hand I'm here beside you.

We worked and made it through the toughest parts
Now every days another chance to start, 
To look around and see that where we are
Is where we were trying to get to

We are one heartbeat in the darkness
We are one lasting answered prayer
We are one unbroken promise
We are two, True Believers

We are one before our God in Heaven
We are one road when the going gets rough
We are one now and forever
We are one name, one life, one flame

We are one heartbeat in the darkness
We are one lasting answered prayer
We are one unbroken promise
and We are two, True Believers

We are two, True Believers



Happy 2013 Everyone!  I wish you a year full of blessings, laughter and beautiful views from the top! ;-)

Love True,

Allison

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Guardian Angel

Do you believe in Angels?  I do.  I have to.  I mean, I always have, but not in the same way I do now.

If anyone is wondering why it's been so long since I've written, it's because I've been trying to figure out how.  A terrible, horrific and heartbreaking thing happened... and I've spent almost two months trying to find the words to express how I feel about it.  It's not just how I feel about it, it's how everyone close to me feels about it.  I need to do her justice.  I need everyone to understand how special she was.  So here is my best effort at explaining her and her amazing heart... my angel, Avery.

I met Avery two summers ago at gymnastics camp.  She was a tiny little thing, full of energy and SO in love with gymnastics.  She was only 9, and lucky for me, staying in the dorm room next to me.  I remember Avery was a little home sick, and she spent a lot of time in my room, talking about her family, camp and her roommate.  She was afraid of storms.  There was a big storm one night, and I remember speaking with her mom on the phone.  The conversation went a little like, "Yeah, she'll be fine.  If you think she's okay, I'm not coming to get her."  Most often, when I had to talk to Mom's on the phone late at night the conversation would go, "I'M ON MY WAY! I'll be there in an hour!"  Looking back, this was a glimpse into the amazing family, their faith in each other... and a ridiculously amazing mother who taught her children to be strong, independent people.
Letter from the Tooth Fairy to Avery, July 2011

Avery came to both weeks of camp that year.  She was what I would call a recreational gymnast.  Not quite good enough to compete, but that didn't matter because gymnastics was FUN.  She acted as though she was training for the Olympics... and that my friends, is a coaches' dream.  Through out her two weeks at camp Avery made a ton of friends... mostly college students. :) She loved the Warhawks so much, and if she wasn't hanging out in my dorm room, she was hanging out in a different coaches' room.  When she lost a tooth at camp, one of my girls decided it was NOT okay for that child to miss out on the tooth fairy.  So the tooth fairy visited Avery at camp.  My GOD, was she elated that morning!  I thank God now, for the good-hearted, Emily Gillis, who made sure to take care of her.  She made that little girl so happy that day... and those are great moments to remember.  We had a raffle for a free week of camp that year, and Avery won it.  It was the icing on the cake of those two weeks.  We had all fallen in love with her, and everyone was thrilled that it was Avery that would be coming again next year.

That September I embarked upon a journey that would completely change my life.  I started a recreational gymnastics program for the community.  It was small at first, and I taught almost of the classes myself.  Some of the classes only had one kid in them.  One of those classes was an Advanced Beginner class on Tuesday nights... my one student was Avery.  The first week, I could barely get Avery to say six words.  A couple of weeks into class, I couldn't get her to stop talking!  We would sit up on the balcony while she stretched, looking down at the collegiate athletes practicing below, and Avery would tell me everything and anything about her day, her sister, her clogging team, ANYTHING!  She was so spunky and in love with life. Oh, and she needed to know everything about the gymnastics team.  She knew all of the girls by name, picked out her favorite floor routine, and needed to know why "so and so" wasn't practicing that day, or how "so and so's" ankle was healing.  Some days I'd completely forget I was talking to a 10 year old.  And some days we would stretch for WAY longer than we should have... simply because we had gotten lost in a conversation about how the meet went that weekend.  It was so funny to me how much she cared about the big girls.  She worked so hard at practice, and in October, I made her the gymnast of the month, and posted this picture in the gym newsletter.
Gymnast of the Month, October 2011

Now I know, that's just how Avery was.  She cared so deeply... for anyone she could possibly care for.

Flash forward almost a year exactly...

I was in class with my students Thursday, October 25th while they were listening to a guest presenter when I got a text message from a mom of one of the kids in my program.  "I just sent you a terrible email."  Is all it said.  Naturally, I was concerned by this, but never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed what I was about to find when I checked my email on my phone.

It was a link to a news article.  With text in the message body reading, "Rumor is, they were coming home from gymnastics."  My heart dropped instantly, and I left the room as I waited for the article to load on my phone.  There it was in black and white... no names, no confirmation of who it was or what they were doing... but an eleven year old from Delavan, WI died in a car accident on highway 89 around 6:15pm Wednesday night.  A sixteen year old was driving the vehicle and suffered minor injuries, another teen was airlifted to the hospital.

It was AVERY.  I just knew it.  My heart instantly knew that the child who had died was our beautiful, beloved, Avery.  She had just turned 11... on October 5th.  I knew that because my birthday is on the 6th... and we had talked about our Birthdays a lot.  There are over 100 kids in my program now, and I have no clue where most of them live... but I knew Avery was from Delavan.  I knew exactly where the location of the crash was by the description... Avery left class on Wednesday just after 6pm.  It would have taken them about 10 minutes to make it to where the report located the accident.  I tried to convince myself that it couldn't have been Avery.  Her mom picks her up right?!  No.  Avery has a sister in high school.  Jadrian... Avery worships her.  She talked about her all the time.  "Oh God"... I thought out loud. I thought I was going to pass out.  There was nothing in that article that told me it was Avery in that car... but I KNEW.  I just knew.

I immediately texted Katie, Avery's coach, asking, "Do you know who picked Avery up from practice last night?" And she didn't.  The girls in her class were all hugging each other and walking out of the gym together... she wasn't sure who went home with who.  "Okay"  I thought... maybe it wasn't her.  But that wasn't enough for me.  I left my class, and ran across the street to our office.  I walked up to the woman who does my registration and said, "I need you to do a search on all of my participants.  Tell me who lives in Delavan right now." She did.  There were 3 names.  One I didn't recognize... someone I haven't coached, but was too young anyway.  The other was one of my little girls, who is 11, does not have a sister and doesn't practice on Wednesdays.  Then, there was Avery's name.  I almost threw up.

I texted my boss and forwarded her the email I had received.  She tried to calm me down via text, and was unsuccessful.  There was no way I was going to feel better until I knew that Avery was not the child that was extricated from the mangled vehicle on a road I drive so frequently.  When class ended I made my way back to my office, where Jen and Amy (head coach and assistant athletic director- both of whom I am extremely close to) were already trying to reach the county police.  They understood.  They didn't even have to ask.  They knew this was bad... and they were angels.  They didn't want me to assume... though without speaking I knew that they were just as afraid as I was.  Amy put in calls to the Walworth County Police, to a personal friend who had connections, Jen was searching the news on the internet for answers, and I was texting a friend who worked at the high school in Delavan just praying she had heard something.

Nothing.

No one could tell us anything.

And then my friend at the high school texted me back.  She had heard who was in the car.  It was Jadrian driving.  Avery was in the car. They didn't know anything about how the three girls were doing.  She just knew that one had been airlifted to the hospital. She said, "That name sounds familiar... did Avery come to camp?"  and I said "Yes.  I don't think Avery made it." That was all I needed to solidify the reality of the situation.

Avery died that Wednesday.  On her way home from Gymnastics.

A million things ran through my mind that weekend.  How do I tell my girls (the UWW team) who loved her like a little sister.  How do I tell the kids in her class, or her friends from camp.  I kept thinking, "I am not grown up enough and I am not equipped to handle this situation. Lord, please help me."  And then I realized how unbelievably selfish I was being.  "Bridget... oh my."  That sweet mother who just wanted her child to enjoy gymnastics.  She actually came to me just a few weeks before telling me how stressed Avery was about moving up... and Bridget just wanted her to enjoy what she was doing.  What on Earth must she be going through!? Or Jadrian.  My God I just wanted to hug her.  And sweet little Brody.  Avery would come to his class with him and help him through the obstacle course or jump in the pit with him.  She was literally an Angel and that little boy cherished his big sister.  This family didn't deserve this.

I spent that Thursday and Friday in a complete fog.  We were taking our team trip to the Wisconsin Dells, and I honestly couldn't tell you how I got there.  I drove... I know that much.  But it was like I just ended up there.  I don't remember the drive at all... a little scary... but my brain was somewhere else.  And my heart was broken.  I arrived early.  About an hour before everyone else. I wandered around the resort, got a coffee, and sat in silence in the lobby watching all of the happy families getting ready for the water park, or the arcade.  Knowing that Bridget was going through hell.

And then, she called me.  It was a number I didn't recognize... but something in me said, "get ready."  The next three minutes of my life are going to be imprinted in my brain forever.  A completely unwavering voice was on the other end.  Not what I expected.  "Hi Allison, this is Bridget, Avery's mom."  I don't know what I expected, but it wasn't what I got.  She proceeded to tell me about the accident, and that Avery didn't make it.  Everything I already knew.  And then she invited me and the team to the services.  She said she completely understood if we couldn't come... and I cut her off.  "I'll be there.  Jen will be there.  And whoever else can come will be there... I am so sorry."

What the hell do you say to a Mother who just lost a child?!  I was again, feeling completely not old enough to handle what was happening.  When does a person grow up enough to feel in control of a situation like this?  Is one ever truly able to understand this... is there an age limit or a certain point in time when we are filled with an all knowing wisdom and grace?  At 26 I can guarantee you that I don't have it.

Bridget went on to tell me how happy she was that we would be coming... and that was it.  She said she would text me the times and address... and I would see her in 48 hours to say goodbye to that little angel who only a year ago was SO goofy with her curly perm she refused to put in a ponytail.  (Her best birthday present EVER!)

Upon hanging up the phone I stood up, barely made it to the door of the hotel and erupted into tears.  I ran back to my car.  I couldn't be there.  I couldn't sit in that stupid hotel lobby with so many happy families and know what the McCarthy's were going through.  I sat in my car choking on tears until I could pull myself back together.

All I could think about was the conversation that I had had just two weeks ago with Avery's mom about moving up.  I told her she was almost ready... and Bridget didn't care (probably the best gym mom ever).  She just wanted Avery to relax and enjoy her time at the gym.  She didn't think she was very good.  But Avery loved gymnastics... and I knew how much she wanted to move up.  I knew how big her heart was and I wasn't about to let her down.  I told her coaches what she needed to move up and told them to just drill those skills... and if she's close we'll move her up.  I didn't want her to get discouraged and quit.  We needed her to stay with us in our program.  She was that special.  We moved Avery up at the end of the session... and that little girl was so proud.  But in moving up, Avery had to switch practice days... and her Mom couldn't pick her up on Wednesdays.  Cue my guilt.  Should I have kept her in Intermediate?!  I panicked.  If she hadn't moved up, she wouldn't have switched days, and she wouldn't have been in the accident! I have NO clue where that train of thought came from... but it was there... and it was overwhelming.  I still wonder about that...

I can't go in to details about the days that followed. The visitation and the funeral.  The mother who spent so much time comforting everyone else and the beautiful sister who made a point to tell us how much we meant to Avery.  Jen holding on to me tighter than ever, as we sat in the pew at church and listened to the most mesmerizing eulogy given by a mother who had lost nearly everything.  They should really place a picture of Bridget in the dictionary under "strength."  I sat there wishing I could take everyone's pain away.  All I wanted was to see those beautiful eyes and have them give me 'the look' that only Avery could give me.  And those hot pink fingernails...

I didn't coach Avery anymore, but I talked to her that night.  And I am SO UNBELIEVABLY GRATEFUL that I walked over to that class to watch for a while.  Though our last conversation was something silly about her bright pink fingernail polish... I thank God every day that she was the person she was.  That I had the honor and the privilege to know this amazing child... to learn from her and to love her.

Since Avery went home, I've learned so much more about her and her amazing family.  I could never thank her mother enough for allowing her to spend so much time with us and our Warhawk Gymnastics family.  This little girl who loved God SO MUCH, and brought her Bible to gymnastics camp, and spoke in scriptures and just radiated goodness.  That was Avery... she radiated goodness.  Avery who, with her passing taught me how much I love each and every one of the kids I work with.  The little girl who's greatest birthday present this year was a Gatorade water bottle that matched the college girl's water bottles.

"Thank you, Avery"- Level 6, Amanda Kubly
Two of my little GymHawks were competing this year, and I needed to do something for them.  You see, they didn't go to school with Avery, but they hung out at camp together... and 12 year-olds shouldn't have to wonder why their friend isn't coming to practice anymore.  I made them special hair ribbons with Avery's initials on them... and they've worn them for every meet.  They rub her initials before they compete every event.  Before Bars (both have a lot of fear on bars) I always remind them that Avery's best event was bars... and she is with them on every skill.
Keeping Avery close at meets.  

 Now, I am a religious person... but not an overtly religious person.  And I never thought that I would bring God into coaching the way I have.  Avery did that for me.  Thinking of her is when I feel closest to God.  Even though I was mad at Him for a long time... I know that isn't what She would want.  She needs me to keep doing what I'm doing, and I'm going to do that for Her and for all of the other little girls that love gymnastics as much as Avery did.  I wear the ribbon from her funeral at every meet.  Either inside my jacket by my heart... or on my hip, right next to my GymHawks logo.  She was one of my very first GymHawks... and she will always stay close to me.

Avery was special... she still is.  And I think of her every time I step into that gym.  She taught me more about the person that I want to be than anyone I know.  Her wonderfully, amazing mom, has a blog:  Stumbling Towards Perfect I encourage anyone and everyone to read the beautiful words that she has written.  This woman is a gift to the world.  And her struggle is already helping so many people.  -Exactly what her daughter dreamed of doing.  If you'd like to know Avery, that is the best way to know the amazing gift she was to the world.  Her faith, her passion, they live on in her mom's words... and in our Averyday attempts to live life the way She did.  I want to share this beautiful psalm that means a great deal to me now... something I learned from Avery:


Psalm 121:
“I lift my eyes to the hills.
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
Maker of Heaven and earth!”

Thank you, sweet angel for teaching me so much about Faith, Love and His unwavering guidance.    You are always in my heart, my God Girl.  Rest Peacefully knowing your memory lives on each day, and we will never forget your wondrous teachings.  Until we meet again, my friend.   

Coaching our God Girl at Camp in 2011
Love True,
Allison

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Married


My best friends have been married for nearly two months now.  Two months of marriage, and Ashley and Eric are still so in love... not like I had any doubts. I've watched these two yahoos for the past six or seven years acting like elementary school kids teasing each other on the playground or holding hands like they've spend the better part of a century together.  Their love is the definition of true love.  Their love is what the rest of us long for.

Their day was incredible.  The girls met early at the salon to get hair and make up done.  We had breakfast and mimosas... it was awesome!  There is something to be said for a little "girlfriends time" on a woman's special day.  It makes everyone feel a little more at ease to be together!  The wedding, held outside at a gorgeous arboretum was picturesque.  Rose pedals lined the aisle, flowers bloomed in the garden, and the brightness of the pink bridesmaids dresses accented the greenest of green trees and grass.  It was supposed to rain... but it was as if God was smiling down on the two lovebirds, saying, "Do not fear! It will not rain on you as you say your vows!"  It did not rain during the ceremony... though pictures were cut short, and then detoured for a bit while the heavens opened up and graced us with what could only be described as a small monsoon!  At any rate, the rain did make for some incredibly cool pictures!  Plus, I hear that it is good luck to have rain on your wedding day!  With the amount of water that fell, I'd have to say Ash and Eric will be a very lucky couple! =)

We made it to the reception just as the sun was beginning to emerge.  The wedding party jumped on to golf carts and cruised around the course to take some unbelievable pictures. I couldn't get over how beautiful it had become outside.  It was a truly magical experience to see the day (the weather) change from uncertainty, to rain, to pure and definite beauty. It was definitely a sign of good things to come!

The party was incredible!  The hall was decorated perfectly and the guests were ready to party!  The speeches were eloquently given.  It was hard to keep dry eyes as the father of the bride toasted his little "peanut" on her special day.

There was some great food, amazing cake balls, and even better dancing.  The dance floor was definitely made useful, as the bride and groom cut a rug with all of their closest friends and family.  I'm not sure I've ever seen Ashley smile so big... or Eric dance with such happiness (he's not a dancer, folks).

When I think about the love that Ashley and Eric share, I am at piece.  They are truly meant for each other, and I feel so blessed to have been able to witness their love for each other.  There is a quote I love, that I believe absolutely defines the relationship of the Buol's;  "For it was not into my ear you whispered, but into my heart.  It was not my lips you kissed, but my soul." - Judy Garland

Congratulations to two of my best friends on their wonderful union.  I wish you all the happiness the world has to offer, and so much more!

Now start having babies, so I can spoil them rotten!


I love you both more than I'll ever be able to say!
xoxo,

Love True,
Allison

Monday, September 10, 2012

"Where Were You..." Take 2

One year ago exactly, I wrote about the biggest anniversary that my life has known.  It was the 10th Anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the United States of America.  September 11, 2001 was a day that I will never forget.  I could never forget the way I felt.  The fear that was in the air that day seemed to choke me.  I was trying to figure out the words to say tonight as I think about they day that looms on tomorrow's horizon, eleven years... It's been eleven years since I learned what it truly meant to be an American.  I looked back on my reflection from last year, and had to giggle.  Though it did bring me to tears, to delve into those feelings again, I found humor in the fact that I nearly wrote the exact same thing. Apparently, I'm very set in my feelings about this day, and rather than write them down AGAIN, I figured that since I said it pretty well 365 days ago, I would just share the same sentiments with you again.  So... here is what I thought exactly one year ago... and how I still ache today.


"Where Were You?"

Today marked the tenth anniversary of the day terrorists changed the world for us Americans.  Life as we knew it would never be the same.  As a fourteen year old freshman in high school, I had an idealized opinion of the great nation I was a part of.  Growing up, we were taught the history of the United States; How it was founded as the "New World" then later referred to as the "Promised Land" and the "Land of Opportunity."  All of these names given to a place that people believed in and looked to be a safe haven for families to grow and to prosper.  I remember learning about tragedies in our history like Pearl Harbor and feeling patriotic, knowing that our American people were able to come together to protect everything that our great country stood for.  And I remember September 11, 2001, realizing in one incredibly painful and eye opening moment that I was going to carry this day around with me forever.

I didn't go to school that morning, because I had a dentist appointment.  I was in the car, listening to the radio with my mom when the first plane hit.  I was in the dentist chair, with the radio in the background when the second plane hit.  I remember sitting up in the chair and saying, thinking "one plane could have been and accident... but two?  No way."  I arrived at school before the end of first period.  I remember walking to my Spanish 2 class, down the large, empty hallway feeling confused and completely alone.  Our principle came on the PA system and explained what I had already known, but no one else was aware of yet.  The deserted hallway seemed like a ghost town as every single classroom went silent.  He instructed the teachers to turn on the news, cancel classes for the day... and all we could do was watch.

Most days, I don't really think about that day.  But on a day like today all I can do is remember; the images of the people and debris, crying, and feeling very afraid.

I think that is what we are supposed to do.  Remember the day as it was, teach those who are young what it truly means to be an American... because like the teenagers who felt the Earth shake on December 7th, 1941... we now know what they felt.  The pain and the fear and the patriotism that was overflowing with rage as we tried to make sense of the acts.

I am so proud to be an American.  Words can't describe the feeling in my heart as write this.  It aches for the people who lost their lives, and the families that were destroyed; But it hopes for the future of these families and our Nation as a whole.

I hope everyone was able to take at least one moment today to say a prayer and to give thanks for our lives.  We are protected by an incredible group of men and women who sacrifice each day to keep our country safe.  Thank you to all our service men and women... from the bottom of my heart.

"Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you in the yard with your wife and children
Or working on some stage in L.A.?
Did you stand there in shock at the sight of that black smoke
Risin' against that blue sky?
Did you shout out in anger, in fear for your neighbor
Or did you just sit down and cry?

Did you weep for the children who lost their dear loved ones
And pray for the ones who don't know?
Did you rejoice for the people who walked from the rubble
And sob for the ones left below?
Did you burst out in pride for the red, white and blue
And the heroes who died just doin' what they do?
Did you look up to heaven for some kind of answer
And look at yourself and what really matters?

[Chorus:]
I'm just a singer of simple songs
I'm not a real political man
I watch CNN but I'm not sure I can tell
you the difference in Iraq and Iran
But I know Jesus and I talk to God
And I remember this from when I was young
Faith, hope and love are some good things He gave us
And the greatest is love

Where were you when the world stopped turning on that September day?
Were you teaching a class full of innocent children
Or driving down some cold interstate?
Did you feel guilty 'cause you're a survivor
In a crowded room did you feel alone?
Did you call up your mother and tell her you loved her?
Did you dust off that Bible at home?

Did you open your eyes, hope it never happened
Close your eyes and not go to sleep?
Did you notice the sunset the first time in ages
Or speak to some stranger on the street?
Did you lay down at night and think of tomorrow
Or go out and buy you a gun?
Did you turn off that violent old movie you're watchin'
And turn on "I Love Lucy" reruns?

Did you go to a church and hold hands with some strangers
Did you stand in line and give your own blood?
Did you just stay home and cling tight to your family
Thank God you had somebody to love?


And the greatest is love.
And the greatest is love.

Where were you when the world stopped turning that Septemb
er day?" 

Alan Jackson- "Where Were You When the World Stopped Turning"

Love True-
Allison

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Marilyn Monroe


Recently, I've found some of Marilyn Monroe's words to be very true, and completely relevant to my life!  I have always believed that everything happens for a reason, I've had to.  I think the things we go through in life are just preparing us for what is to come later; making us stronger so we can handle what life may or may not throw our way.  Whether it's a horrible thing or an extraordinary thing that is happening to us, it is leading us to what will come next.  

I applied for a job a couple of months ago.  A big job.  One that would have secured my financial existence, earned me medical and dental insurance, and would have put a huge dent in all of the work I have done for my two gymnastics teams.  This job, though it would have been absolutely terrific for me financially, would have prevented me from really being involved in the things I love most.  

If you couldn't already tell, I did not get this job.  After getting the "We absolutely loved you but..." phone call, I went into a week long (at least) depression.  I was mortified because my livelihood depended on this job.  I was finally at a point where I was willing to do what I had to do (meaning, just about any job on the planet) to pay my rent.  Anyway, once I counted my blessings, and got my head back on straight things started to appear a little more clearly.  

I was able to focus intently on my club gymnastics program, as well as my recruiting responsibilities, which I had been struggling to keep up with.  I had some time to myself in which I spent relaxing, working out, or just enjoying my own company.  It was nice.  Though, it only lasted for about a week when I got a random phone call about another job opportunity!

This job, teaching at the collegiate level, fits perfectly into my schedule.  I am teaching 140 students in six different classes.  I hardly feel grown up enough to be handling this task, but I couldn't feel more blessed.  This job allows me the luxury of maintaining all of my other special privileges- as coaching my gymnasts... ages 17 months all the way to 22 years... is with out a doubt, the most important job I do.  I think I'm going to love teaching though, as I've been doing it since I was 16, just in a different capacity.  I've already found a new level of patience, and serenity with this position.  I know it is, without a doubt, the better of the two job prospects I had this summer.  With that, I will share some of Marilyn's fearless words, 

“I believe that everything happens for a reason. People change so that you can learn to let go, things go wrong so that you appreciate them when they're right, you believe lies so you eventually learn to trust no one but yourself, and sometimes good things fall apart so better things can fall together.”

-Marilyn Monroe

EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON.  Believe it, embrace it, and live it.  

Love True,

Allison

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

"Anything is possible"

"If you feel stuck where you are, you're mistaken. Anything is possible, when you engage the power of your imagination." 

This quote by Ralph Marston is so true to my life right now, as I'm sure it is to many others.  I haven't quite found the words to describe the last month of my life (probably why I haven't written at all)... but this seemed all too relevant. 

That's kind of it for tonight!  Sorry to bum y'all out... but I think that quote kind of says it all.  If there's one thing I know about life, it's that life is all about the journey.  Sometimes the journey doesn't move as quickly as we'd like, from one low to the next high, but I know that one day we'll all look back and wish life had moved a little more slowly.  So on that note, I'm going to enjoy where I am at this exact moment.  I'm going to pour myself a glass of wine, and think of all of the things in my life that I am truly grateful for.  

And I recommend you do the same... red wine and all! ;)

Love True,

Allison

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thank You, Mom

The Olympics are in full swing, and the country is sitting, waiting, watching for team USA to bring home as many medals as possible in all of the various sports.  It is such a magnificent time that occurs every four years that truly brings this country together.  One of the highlights of the Olympics is always the Gymnastics competition; a sport that completely eludes most individuals, but is nothing but comfort to me.  I have sat on my couch for the past 5 days, watching opening ceremonies, and every gymnastics (and many other sports) competition that has aired, each day finding myself in tears.  I don't know what it is about this sport that draws out so much emotion, but day after day, the tears continue to flow.  Though the gymnastics itself get's me all kinds of emotional, the commercials, this year, have been doing a damn good job soliciting my tears.

P&G has had a series of commercials featuring different athletes and their moms titled "Thank you, Mom."  These images are so raw and so touching that I have no doubt that a former athlete must have directed them all.  There is something about an athlete's relationship with his or her mother that only makes sense to them.  All of the early morning wake ups, driving to and from practice, shelling out money for this uniform, or that competition fee, private lessons, and team practices, specially cooked dinner well after the family has eaten, spending entire weekends cooped up in a gym or on a field, counseling sessions when we all wanted to quit (and let's be serious, we all did.), countless doctors appointments, casts, surgeries, rehab and doubting ourselves; EVERYTHING was made easier knowing that one person was there, one person didn't really care if you took first, one person unconditionally loved you and supported you and only wanted to see you enjoy the thing you loved most.  

Okay, I know I'm dreaming when I think that every kid must have had a mom as great as mine, but honestly, it saddens me to think otherwise.  I know not every mom would have been okay with second, or third, or tenth place, or not qualifying to nationals, or even wanting to quit the sport she had sacrificed so much for me to do.  I also know that not every mom would let their kid go back to a sport that ravaged their body into two reconstructive surgeries, because I wasn't ready to let it go.  

My amazing Mom and I at the last meet of my collegiate career.
My Mom was with out a doubt, the definition of a great mom.  She still is.  I have no idea where I would be without her and everything she has done for me.  She has taught me kindness, compassion, strength, perseverance and courage... all things that I needed to be a good athlete, but more importantly, all things that I still need to be a good person.  I would share her with the world if I could, because I think that every kid deserves to have a mom like mine.  

I've posted two of the Proctor and Gamble videos that truly touched me.  Although, I invite you all to head to the P&G website and check out all of their "Raising an Olympian" videos.  They are truly inspiring.  I love the "kids" video, but I truly adore the second one.  I think it speaks so true to what Moms do each day.  Thanks to my amazing mom (and spectacular dad!) for allowing me to chase my dreams in the sport that I love so much.  They have even supported my goals to be a great coach!  Nothing has been easy, but I guess nothing that is worth it ever is!  I learned that from my wonderful, inspiring and loving parents- and I am very much looking forward to the day I can share this love with my own kids!  Thanks, Mom (and Dad!) I love you both more than words will ever say!


Love True,
Allison

Monday, July 9, 2012

ONE YEAR!!

Hello Friends!
I hope you are all doing splendidly on this lovely Monday morning!  I am posting today from under the big blue sky in my parent's back yard.  This week called for a little rest and relaxation, as I wrapped up the third session of my new gymnastics program.  The summer seems to be flying by as 9 weeks of gymnastics are now over, and I am looking forward to the next two weeks of Warhawk Gymnastics camp, followed by what is sure to be a magical wedding between two of my dearest friends.

Though things have been incredibly hectic over the past few months, I wanted to at least acknowledge the one year anniversary of my journey on this blog.  June 28th, 2011 was my first blog entry.  I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support over the past year.  Whether you just stumbled upon this blog, or have been with me since the beginning, I am so grateful for the messages, the comments and the encouragement you have shown me.

Everyone has dreams, and I cherish the support you have shown me on my way to achieving mine.  Words will never be able to express how grateful I am to each one of you.  There is no quote today... All I can say is thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Love True,
Allison

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Dove

Hello Friends!
I apologize for being MIA for a while! Sometimes life just catches up with me, and I put this blog on hold.  Funny, though... because writing to you all is exactly what I need when life gets to be too hectic!  I recently saw a commercial on TV that brought me to tears, and I wanted to share it with you all.

Dove Self-Esteem "Growing Up"

Dove is an organization I have admired for years for their Campaign for Real Beauty.  Instead of focusing on "anti wrinkle" creams, or "anti aging" serums, Dove is devoted to encouraging a healthy body image, and promoting self-esteem to young women.  Dove actually has workshops dedicated to helping girls see themselves as beautiful.  In a study they conducted, only 4% of women around the world considered themselves to be beautiful. 4%??? That means that 96% of the women on this planet are wishing and hoping to change something about themselves.  I am completely horrified at that statistic.  Thank goodness for organizations like Dove, who are taking steps to change the way society interprets beauty.

It is so important to spread positive messages to women of all ages.  To inspire them to be themselves, to create themselves and empower themselves.  Maybe this video touched a piece of my heart because of the little gymnasts and athletes involved.  But maybe it just reminded me of the little girl I used to be.


This little Allison to the left sure did feel beautiful!  I have been so lucky to have strong women in my life who helped to do for me what Dove is doing for girls all over the world.  I think it's time to spread the wealth.

Day 28: Tell someone she is beautiful.  Share Dove's message and reach out to someone.  Start a chain reaction... and put a smile on someone's face!

Love True,

Allison


Guess who only uses Dove products!?>>>>>> THIS GIRL! I am a very proud Dove consumer... and I hope to join in their campaign for real beauty!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Skewed Vision

I got angry today.  I'm not the type of person that gets angry easily, but let me explain what happened this morning.

I came home from teaching my morning class (I teach a parent-tot gymnastics class... and yes, it's as cute as it sounds) and began to get ready for the rest of my day.  A habit I've developed while living alone is to have the TV on for background noise.  I never feel completely by myself with the TV on.  Anyway, cue background noise, and me at my computer... when I hear a conversation about body image.  Naturally, my curiosity spikes and I tune in to what is being said.  A talk show was discussing a "look better naked" issue of a magazine.  Apparently, several celebrities posed nude for this particular magazine issue.  Included in the issue, the celebrities talk about their own "body issues" and what they have struggled with.  The hosts of said talk show mocked these celebrities asking, "what body issues?" They went on to discuss how they don't think that the average woman would benefit from reading this article, because all of the celebrities pictured are very thin.  One of the talk show hosts said she wanted to see "a woman like me! But nobody wants to see me naked!"  Who says that is true?! And, why do these hosts automatically think that skinny people can't have body issues!

First of all, yes, these women are beautiful... you can't argue that Heidi Klum, Maria Menunos and Debra Messing aren't gorgeous.  However, who are you to say that they didn't struggle the way you have.  Sure, you may think they are beautiful, but body image is an INTERNAL thing.  Just because a person is overweight, or underweight, or has scars or pimples, doesn't mean they hate themselves... it doesn't mean they are happy either.  It doesn't mean anything... except that they are overweight or underweight or have scars or have pimples.  Just because a woman smiles doesn't mean she is happy... and just because a woman cries doesn't mean she hates herself.  Appearance is just that... APPEARANCE, and life isn't always what it appears to be.  I really despise judgement.  And I'm not going to judge the women who said these things, because who knows what they deal with internally on a daily basis... not me.  I would never assume anything about them.  But I would hope that they could learn to do the same someday.  That is what frustrates me.  Can we all just show a little compassion for one another regardless of size, beauty, or celebrity?  We have been objectified long enough, and conversations like the one I saw on TV today are only adding to the confusion in the media.  Stop assuming things about people, and start standing up for women.  Not fat women, not thin, JUST WOMEN!  We can make this change if we want to... we just need to start speaking out!

Day 27: If something irks you the wrong way... don't be afraid to speak out.  Don't hold your tongue... "you must be the change you wish to see in the world." -Mahatma Ghandi

Love True,
-Allison

Friday, April 13, 2012

Change

It has been 21 days since my team changed history.  My last blog was written just hours before the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Warhawk Gymnastics team won it's first ever National Championship.  I have waited three weeks to write this entry... in part because the celebration only ended yesterday... but also, because I have been so overwhelmed with pride, I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find the words to do it justice.

Before I came to Whitewater, the team struggled to win meets.  After I came to Whitewater, the team struggled to win meets.  It was an uphill battle from the beginning, but my teammates and I had incredible leaders.  Our coaches were fearless in pushing us to our limits, sometimes past them, but all in an effort to create a family that could depend on one another, and believed in each other.  In 2007 we participated in our first ever national championship and placed 4th.  We didn't qualify for that meet, we hosted it, and as the host team earned an automatic bid.  Placing 4th proved to us that we belonged there.  We were a team on the verge of breaking through a wall that felt 7 miles high.

In 2008, we qualified for Nationals by placing 2nd at our Regional meet.  A significant dent in the wall was  established.  This was the highest Whitewater had ever placed at the Regional meet, and the first time to ever qualify to the national championship.  It was a huge deal for us!

In 2009, we dug a little deeper into that wall qualifying for the second year in a row.  Only this time, we made a huge statement.  Whitewater came away with a third place trophy that year, as well as the National Coach of the year.  Everyone knew it... we were well on our way.

2010, brought a monumental accomplishment.  The Warhawks won their first ever conference and regional championship.  The wall was coming down around us.  I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment on that day.  Again, we placed third at Nationals.

We took another step forward in 2011, as we captured another conference championship.  This time, inching closer to the ultimate goal.  We placed second at the National Championship.  This was my first year in a new role.  I had always been a gymnast, a teammate and a friend.  Now, I was a coach.  It was a strange sense of pride... one I had not felt before, but incredibly satisfying.  The little team that could... was proving in fact, that they would.

This year things went a little different.  For the first time in 5 years, we weren't sure if we had what it took to go all the way.  We struggled a lot during the season, with injuries and illness.  So much so, that we were unable to capture our third regional title.  We fell to second at that meet, and an unspoken disappointment was clearly evident among the team and the coaches.  Though the coaches were incredibly proud of what the team had accomplished... it was a small let down after the previous two victories.

The next three weeks were spent completely reinventing the way we coach, and the way we ran practice.  It was obvious there was some concern about what we were doing, and to be completely honest, I had my own reservations.  Not for long, though.  After the first few days I started to see the changes in the girls.  Their attitudes were different, the way they practiced was different.  It was as if every turn they were taking, they were imagining competing on the national stage.  BINGO.  That is exactly what we were hoping for.  I never doubted these girls for a second, but I was completely baffled by what some of them were capable of.  In one entire week of practice, two of the girls only fell of the beam once.

Going to nationals, I felt an incredible calm.  As I stood listening to the national anthem, praying for guidance, support and confidence for my girls, I could feel the magic that was about to happen.  I was right.  From the very first routine, they proved that NO WALL was too high for UW-Whitewater.  No one was going to put limits on what they were able to do.  One after another, they continued to soar through their routines, adding to the electricity that could be felt throughout the entire arena.  Sure, there were mistakes, but it was the way they rallied each time... never letting down, never placing blame, only encouragement in its purest form.  There was no way we couldn't win.

By the time we made it to our final rotation it was a matter of 0.15 that separated first and second place.  We had to be as perfect as possible on vault... and that had not even come close to happening for us this year.  It was like someone said to them... Fly... just fly.  Because that's exactly what they did.  Each girl got up and did THE BEST they had done all year.  Have you ever heard of peaking at the right time??  Meet the UW-Whitewater vaulters.  The crowd was on fire... literally.  Our fans were "starting the fire" before each vaulter started her sprint down the runway.  Everyone else in the arena knew just how close it was... and every person was sitting on the edge of their seats, watching, waiting.

As soon as the last vaulter landed, the crowd went nuts.  The team was so fired up, they probably could have competed all over again.  After we finished our post-vault huddle I stepped out into the hallway and burst into tears.  Happy tears.  Tears that had been waiting 7 years to fall.  I felt so incredibly blessed in that moment... and I had no idea we had won.  In my heart... I knew that no matter what, I could not have been more proud to be a part of this program.  In my head... I was trying to calculate whether on not we pulled it off.

We did.  We actually tied.  And that felt just as good.  Watching the girls hear their names called for first place is something I will never forget.  EVER.  We returned to Whitewater with a Team National Championship, an individual National Championship, 11 All- Americans and 3 Academic All- Americans.  Whitewater was proud, and we were proud to be a part of an athletic department that is full of champions. This year, we brought home the 5th National title to UWW, joining Football, Men's Basketball and Men's and Women's Wheelchair basketball.  Yesterday, the Whitewater Fire Department took our team for a memorable ride through town on top of the town fire truck.  Sirens blazing, the whole town stopped to wave at the newest national champions.  It was amazing.

A few years back I fell in love with a song that I felt defined the journey ahead of us.  Three weeks ago, the sound of it brought me to tears.  It is so true to any athlete working year after year towards a goal.  Perseverance and dedication trumps all... regardless of the outcome, because, "in the end, the journey is the destination."

Taylor Swift, "Change"

And it's a sad picture, the final blow hits you
Somebody else gets what you wanted again
You know it's all the same, another time and place
Repeating history and you're getting sick of it

But I believe in whatever you do
And I'll do anything to see it through

Because these things will change, can you feel it now?
These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down
It's a revolution, the time will come for us to finally win

We'll sing hallelujah!
We'll sing hallelujah! Oh

So we've been outnumbered, raided and now cornered
It's hard to fight when the fight ain't fair
We're getting stronger now from things they never found
They might be bigger but we're faster and never scared

You can walk away and say we don't need this
But there's something in your eyes says we can beat this

'Cause these things will change, can you feel it now?
These walls that they put up to hold us back will fall down
It's a revolution, the time will come for us to finally win

We'll sing hallelujah!
We'll sing hallelujah! Oh

Tonight we standed on our knees
To fight for what we worked for all these years
And the battle was long, it's the fight of our lives
Will we stand up champions tonight?

It was the night things changed, can you see it now?
These walls that they put up to hold us back fell down
It's a revolution, throw your hands up, 'cause we never gave in

We'll sing hallelujah!
We sang hallelujah!
Hallelujah!


Love True,
Allison

Friday, March 23, 2012

Warhawk Gymnastics

"One mind, one heart, one chance, one team, one dream..."

That is what our Warhawk Family believes in.  We are one family, training as one team, with ONE dream.  That dream could happen tonight.  The crazy dream that has somehow managed to allude us year after year.  The dream that has guided one Whitewater gymnast after another.  The dream of a national championship.  Whitewater has had several national champions in the sport of gymnastics, three of which I was so proud to witness, and even more proud to call those girls my teammates.  But never, has Whitewater been able to capture the coveted TEAM Championship.

The team has produced some amazing gymnasts, and even more, some amazing people.  People that I feel blessed to call my friends.  And through all of the success of this program we have been building... crafting... creating... believing, that one day, will be our day.  Every person who has been a part of this program whether a gymnast, coach, manager, administrator, or fan has brought another piece to the puzzle that is being assembled.  They've all contributed, tirelessly and without anything in return, and for that I am so grateful.

I feel incredibly blessed to be sitting here, writing about a team that I should have left nearly 3 years ago.  An injury that could have caused some incredible anger in me, provided a strange opportunity, that has allowed me to remain a part of the organization that changed my life.  Though the faces have changed from the familiar smiles of the sisters I grew to love (and still do!), the essence of the team, the familial struggles are identical.  Like I said, every person has added something to this team.  The gymnasts who have come and gone have laid the groundwork for the current competitors.  I know, this team would be nowhere without them.

Today the girls are going to take another crack at winning this thing.  As a coach, I have never been more proud of my team.  It took us a while to get here, but they are ready.  They know what it takes, and they know what is at stake.  We are the underdogs today... and that's the perfect place for us to be.  I can't even begin to describe how much faith I have in these girls!

So thank you, to all of the supporters!  Former coaches, parents, fans, administrators and especially the gymnasts that have poured their heart and soul into this team.  I love you all, and I know that you will be with the girls today... here we go!

LET'S GET WEIRD! << crazy warhawk saying this year... it worked for football and basketball... so we'll see how it goes! =)

Love True,
Allison

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chellsie Memmel

A gymnastics hero came by our gym today.  Someone who has done just about all you can do as an athlete.  I met Chellsie Memmel just over 7 years ago, when I came to Whitewater.  This was right around the time she became the World Champion.  I can't even begin to tell you how mesmerized and star struck I was to meet her... the BEST gymnast in the WORLD.  I felt so lucky!  She was quiet, and sweet, and didn't really talk about gymnastics at all.  She was normal, and it was awesome.  Over the next few years I got to know her a little bit; she would come to town and hang out, or come to our meets.  She became less of a celebrity and more of a friend.  Chellsie went on to compete at the Olympics in Beijing in 2008, and came home with a beautiful silver medal.  I remember feeling SO proud to know her, a hero in my sport and in my country.  Today, I was reminded of her good heart and her passion for all things gymnastics.  Out of the goodness of her heart she came to our gym today to surprise the girls.  My team is much younger than I am, and they weren't here when Chellsie came around back in the day.  Needless to say, they were pretty excited, and very honored that she would pay them a visit!  Chellsie watched the girls show their routines on every event at their practice meet tonight, and then spoke to them afterwards.  She gave them the best advice that she could-- given their situation right now.  "It's just another meet.  Don't think of it as Nationals.  It's the same thing you do EVERY DAY!"  Well, it worked for Chel when she won worlds... so I bet it does wonders for the Warhawks!

Thanks so much Chel, from the bottom of my heart!  We will be cheering for you at Trails!!!  Go get it, girl!

Love True,
Allison

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Ralph Marston



I have been searching, desperately, for some words to share with some really amazing people.  People that I care about, and love very much.  I have been trying to find the words to explain to these people how much I care about them, and believe in them.  I've been struggling, because I'm not sure that some of them want to hear it.  Sometimes, when we get so overwhelmed in situations, we tend to shut out all outside encouragement or guidance.  We become completely enveloped in the despair that is the mountain right in front of us that we don't notice the chair lift that could help carry us right to the top.  So, to these individuals that I care about, these friends of mine who have may have doubts, I have borrowed some words from one of my favorite inspirational authors... 
"Every day is an opportunity to make your life the way you want it to be. Anything is possible when you work toward it, one day at a time. Skip a day, and you lose momentum. Try to do it all at once, and you burn out. Steadily, consistently work, making every day count, and you will reach your goals. Today is a chance to grow - to do a little bit more than you did yesterday, a little bit better, a little bit more effectively. Anyone can do a little more, learn a little more, and grow a little more each day. Soon, with consistent effort, those "little bits" add up to major accomplishments. Is there something you want to change? Today is the day to start changing it... Not next Monday or next month - today. You deserve to reach your goals as soon as possible. Control today and you control your life."
        - Ralph Marston 





I think Ralph put it perfectly.  Make every day count, don't slow down, keep believing, and keep striving... your goals are within reach! (I love you, girls!)
Love True,
Allison

Monday, March 5, 2012

Shut Up, Skinny Bitches

" I want to be STRONG, not skinny."


Words can not even begin to express how proud I am of my friend Rachel tonight.  She is one of the strongest people I have ever had the privilege of knowing.  Rachel struggled just like I did, for years and has worked extremely hard on her recovery.  She has been a confidant and support system for me since the first day we realized how much we had in common.  Even though we both had our low points, I think we used each other to help ourselves.  No matter how bad I felt, I could always tell her to be strong... and vice versa.  We never wanted each other to feel the way we felt about ourselves, and I know that she was a huge part of my recovery... and continues to be a powerful source of encouragement for me.  Well, today, Rachel was a guest blogger for the blog, "Shut Up, Skinny Bitches."  If I wasn't proud enough of her all ready, today just totally capped it off.  She is the epitome of Strength, and I smile thinking about just how wonderful of a person she is.  "Strength and Confidence radiate beauty." 

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL, Rachel, Inside and out!

Please check out Rachel's guest blog!


Love True,
Allison

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Letter to Beauty

A while back, I posted about the Team True Beauty Anniversary event and the beautifully honest and incredible speech given by Ambassador Shantel VanSanten.  In her speech, Shantel recited a letter she had written, a letter to Beauty.  It seems like such a simple concept, but really, who actually stops to recognize that we are treating an idea like it's royalty- Giving power over ourselves to something society says is important.  But is it?  A lot of people believe it is, and it's hard to emphasize inner beauty in a world that revolves around magazines, models and cosmetic enhancements.  How do you teach a little girl to believe that she is beautiful when everything around her is telling her otherwise.  This letter to beauty is a perfect statement of how we should approach changing the situation.  And that is exactly what these girls did!!!  This video is a collage of several different young women (True Beauty Supporters) reciting Shantel's letter to beauty.  I was in tears when I heard Shantel recite it...so strong and so truthful, and this just confirms how true her words are.  They have touched so many people, and are contributing to a world wide change.
Thanks again, True Beauty... and Shantel, for your strength and your continued support.

Letter to Beauty

Love True,

Allison