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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Happy 100!

June 28th, 2011 would have been just another Tuesday.

But something changed in me that Tuesday.  On that summer afternoon, I found the courage to start this blog, to write my very first post and publish it on the internet.  I had the intention of using my blog to keep in touch with my college friends who had since moved back home, and my high school friends who were in every corner of the United States.  I had been through a lot during the years leading up to June 28th, and though I had always kept a journal, this was different.  This was broadcasting my vulnerabilities.  Blogging meant communicating with strangers, that anyone could see what I had written and that I was exposed for the world to see. -- Something I had ABSOLUTELY NOT been okay with up until this point.

It's funny when I think about it.  I had spent so much time keeping my emotions and my thoughts a secret.  I was a very emotional athlete... and person in general.  I felt so deeply (still do), and though I had all of those feelings overwhelming me, I never wanted to talk about it.  I was always afraid of talking.  Writing though, writing was different.

I kept a journal through some very difficult times in my life.  But it was always very private.  I'm not ashamed to admit that I had an eating disorder, I'm also not ashamed to admit that I sought help for it.  I was depressed, anxiety ridden and anorexic.  A solid combination for NO MORE GYMNASTICS.  And that's exactly what I got.  I had a team doctor, an athletic trainer, a counselor, a therapist and a dietician working with my coaching staff and my roommates to keep tabs on me during all hours of the day.  I was never alone... and gone were the days when I would just write about my feelings, I had to talk.  I was also not allowed to do gymnastics.  I remember begging to practice for weeks... and finally giving in to the realization that no gymnastics was not a punishment... it was my reality.

My passion is helping these little girls have confidence
in themselves, and watching them create themselves.
Shortly after I started my blog, I came across a group on Twitter called, Team True Beauty.  This non-profit organization was started by girls my age to promote their tag line, "It's the size of your heart, not your waistline that matters."  I quickly started advocating for them, writing about them, promoting their posts on Twitter and Facebook, and keeping in touch with some of their members.  I even shared my story with them in the most open and ridiculously honest letter, thanking them for their support and for giving me the courage to finally share my struggles.

I then blogged about Team True Beauty and "spoke" openly for the first time about everything I had been through.  I heard from several people after that, thanking me for my honesty, congratulating me on my strength, and I was amazed at how many people had similar stories or people who had found their strength by hearing me share what I had been through.  It was an amazing feeling... and a new confidence was born.

My fears dwindled then, as I began to write more and more.  I had this faith in the written word.  I had always loved quotes, poetry and lyrics... and this was my way of deciphering them.  Taking the wisdom and words of someone great and dissecting their meaning so as to understand them better and grow in faith and knowledge; that was my purpose.  That was how I was going to navigate through life.

Christian rock star, Jamie Grace, paid tribute to OUR
Avery on her new album!  She is with me Averyday!
Then, last fall, I hit a wall with my writing.  One of my little gymnasts, a beautiful, amazing, spirited child of God, went home to be with Jesus long before any of us thought necessary.  When we lost Avery, I lost my way.  I couldn't eat.  I couldn't sleep.  I couldn't think.  How the hell was I supposed to write?  I will never forget thinking, "I am not old enough or mature enough to handle this."  It would be almost two months before I could even attempt to decipher what had just happened.  When I did, when I finally sat down to write about our God Girl, I found more comfort than I ever thought possible.  Don't get me wrong, I wasn't cured or anything.  I continued to mourn, and to this day, I think about her always... but there was something about communicating what I was going through that seemed to help me connect to so many people.

Over the past couple of years I've written about friends who inspire me, family members who encourage me, celebrities who stand up for what they believe in, songs with lyrics to remember, quotes to start your day with, bible verses to heal a broken heart and anything else you can possibly think of.  There is so much healing in the written word, so many things to learn, so many ideas to explore, and so much love to share.  That is what this blog is about.

Recently, I found another group that inspires me.  It is called, I Am That Girl, and they are rooted in promoting and developing the self-worth of young women everywhere!  I LOVE THIS!  The group is on a global mission to change the way that girls see themselves and see each other!  It's genius... seriously!  I just purchased the book, "I Am That Girl," written by the founder of the organization, and though I have only read the foreword, written by one of my biggest celebrity influences, Sophia Bush (seriously, guys, this girl is going to change the world), I CANNOT WAIT to sit down and devour this book.  I plan on writing a great deal about it and the ideas and inspirations I find within the pages.  I also plan on taking every piece of knowledge I obtain and smacking my girls over the head with it!  That is my job as a coach.  Sure, I want to build strong athletes.  But I wouldn't be a good coach if I didn't teach them to value themselves as women... not just gymnasts.  I may not have a global initiative at my hands to help girls discover themselves... but I've got about 200 little girls at my gym that I can help to build their confidence and encourage them to believe in themselves.
This new book is going to help me inspire
DOZENS of little girls (and collegiate athletes!)

I truly am one of the luckiest people on the planet.  I count my blessings every day and I am so thankful for all of the tremendous people in my life who have encouraged my writing and especially stood by me during some of the biggest challenges of my life.  You all know who you are.  You mean the world to me and you have all taught me about the real True Beauty in life.  You have also helped me to realize that I Am That Girl, because I have ambitions and I am no longer afraid to pursue them.

So, thank you, from the bottom of my heart for reading, for encouraging and for loving me for me... and for no other reason.  I, too, love you... for YOU.  Because You are BeYOUtiful both inside and out!  Here's to the next 100 posts!  :)

Love True,
Allison

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

18 years

I have the cutest baby sister in the world!
Disclaimer:
I am about to shamelessly and whole heartedly brag about my little sister and how wonderful she is.  If you do not want to hear about her and how much she rocks at life... you can close out of your browser now.  I will not take any offense.  But seriously... read on... you might be inspired!

My baby sister is turning 18 tomorrow.  EIGHTEEN.  I can't even fathom this.  When I turned 18... she was 8.  EIGHT.

What the heck!?

I remember when my mom told me she was pregnant.  I don't remember this for my other two siblings, because I was too young to understand it.  When I was 8, my mom's friend slipped right in front of me, and I found out there was a baby on the way LONG before I was supposed to.

If I had known what we'd be getting several months later, I am sure that my excitement would have escalated way faster than it did!  Don't get me wrong, I was pumped to get a new little sibling... I was also a little scared, being 8, and confused about why it had to be a secret.

Flash forward 18 years and my baby sister is finishing her senior year of high school, with numerous awards and accolades to her name, a full athletic and academic scholarship for a four year education at a Division-I institution and I am amazed at the woman she has become.

My graduation day and both of my sisters.
Before I go into how great she is at everything, particularly soccer, let me just take a moment to express that my complete and total heartbreak that occurred when she was six and quit gymnastics was unneccesary, and though I thought I was totally justified in mourning over the loss of my "mini me's" devotion to gymnastics... I suppose she chose the right path for herself.

END guilt trip.

Cue bragging now:

Amy, or "Gracie" as I call her, is without a doubt the most dedicated, hard working, passionate, caring, inspiring, loving, compassionate, fearless, motivated and incredible person I know.  She is the type of person who is assigned a project due in three weeks, and starts it that night.  She studies daily for tests that are weeks away.  She runs extra miles after soccer practice.  She goes in to lift weights on her days off of practice.  She gets up early to work out on days off of school.  She goes to church without being asked, and often times will go by herself if no one can go with her.  She tutors friends in math and science.  She teaches soccer to kids with special needs.  She plays with our cousins and neighbors and any small child that walks into her life, and never complains of needing a break.  She spends time with her friends, goes to their games, plays, concerts, recitals, etc to make sure that her friends know they are the most loved friends on the planet.  She plays several sports and is literally the most incredible teammate on the planet.  She has attended more gymnastics meets than any child who is not a gymnast and even now that I'm not competing she continues to ask me how my gymnasts are doing.
Amy and I through my high school years.

Amy and I through HER high school years. 


PROUD would be an understatement.  I am not sure where the time has gone.  When I look back on the last 10 years of her life from 8 to 18, I realize that I missed so much of it.  Six months after she turned 8, I was off to college.  Sure I came home from time to time.  I sent her pictures, called her, and texted/Facebooked with her a lot after she was old enough to have a phone and use the computer.  But it wasn't like I was always there.  I missed concerts and games and school award ceremonies... most recently her National Letter of Intent Signing Day, but in my heart of hearts... I'm hoping that was harder on me than it was on her.  She has SO MANY people who love her and support her and look up to her.  I couldn't have picked better friends for her, and I'm pretty fond of her parents as well.  She grew up in my world... just 10 years later.  Same teachers, same school, same neighborhood... she is just making one hell of a mark on this world we know.

My baby sister is amazing.  She is my hero, and I pray that her goodness continues to radiate towards everyone she meets.  Happy Birthday, Gracie!  I love you more than Mom's pasta salad... ;-)

Love True,
Allison







Friday, February 21, 2014

Sweet Silver Lining

This time of the year is a difficult one for some of the people I care about most.  You see, we are nearing the end of our gymnastics season, and these girls are exhausted, their bodies are in pain and some days, I can just feel their longing and their desperation for some relief.  Don't get me wrong, I know how dedicated they are.  They want to succeed and they want to work hard for it.  Imagine studying for a huge exam... knowing it meant everything to you... so you study for hours a day, everyday trying to prepare for it.  Now imagine that every time you put your pen to paper your hand has shooting pains, or every word you read from that text book causes your head to throb, and yet, you study anyway... and you do this, day in and day out, for hours at a time because you know the outcome will be great.

That is what it is like for a collegiate gymnast who refuses to let her body tell her she can't.  These girls amaze me.  I remember feeling this kind of pain.  I remember going to bed in tears, and waking up feeling worse.  It's an endless cycle for these women in a girl's sport.  There is a responsibility lingering over their heads, "I must push through," or, "the team is depending on me."  Quite the revelation for these athletes who grew up in a sport that celebrates the individual, and in the first moment of their collegiate careers they are struck with the idea that they are no longer competing for themselves.

It is a daunting and sometimes overwhelming idea.  What they do matters for 20 other people... so taking care of themselves is now important.  Being able to compete through injuries is now important, and knowing when to step aside and let someone else step in is now important.  The line between doing what is right for you and what is right for the team is sometimes a hard line to distinguish... and yet, they know... they know the team comes first and they know that all the glory that will come from the sacrifices they have made will pay off, whether they are the one on the balance beam or the one pulling the spring board.
My girls: Leaning on each other... sharing strength.

It's so hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel when you're in pain.  Your body is telling you NO... while your heart is telling you, "one more turn."  It's easy to get downhearted and upset when you are thinking about your dreams... but I am hear to tell you that everything happens for a reason.  There are days when you absolutely will NOT want to believe that... and that's okay.  As long as you can look back on those days and realize that you learned something.  Maybe you pushed yourself too hard that day.... maybe you didn't push yourself hard enough... maybe you had a great day and learned that you can go a little bit further.  Whatever you learned... it will contribute to positive growth in your life.  Whether you are an athlete, a student, a parent or a friend.... you can always learn something about yourself.

This song used to help me through some really difficult times.  I remember thinking, "if I just screw on this smile, no one will know what I'm going through."  Not the healthiest of brain patterns to use.  But I think it does have a great message.  Keep pushing through, keep looking forward and keep believing in that silver lining.

No matter what you are going through, no matter what kind of pressures you feel, you are important, you are valued and you are worthy of happiness.  You need to take care of yourself and know that life is not going to be easy, but you are STRONG, You are BRAVE, and you can make it.

Love True,
Allison

"Sweet Silver Lining"


Well I'm going home
Downhearted and hoping
I'm close to some new beginning
I know there's a reason for everything
That comes and goes


But so many people are looking to me
To be strong and to fight 
But I'm just surviving
And I may be weak but I'm never defeated
And I'll keep believing
In clouds with that sweet silver lining


Most days I try
My best to put on a brave face
But inside
My bones are cold and my heart breaks
But all the while
Something's keeping me safe and alive


But so many people are looking to me
To be strong and to fight 
But I'm just surviving
And I may be weak but I'm never defeated
And I'll keep believing
In clouds with that sweet silver lining

And I won't give up like this
I will be given strength
Now that I've found it 
Nothing can take that away

  But so many people are looking to me
  To be strong and to fight 
  But I'm just surviving
  And I may be weak but I'm never defeated
  And I'll keep believing
  In clouds with that sweet silver lining


  But so many people are looking to me
  To be strong and to fight 
  But I'm just surviving
  And I may be weak but I'm never defeated
  And I'll keep believing
  In clouds with that sweet silver lining