The Last Time

I’m watching the boys in the backyard as they sniff along the fence line. Johnny Rose marked six-months-old yesterday. Ben is a protective bugger at age 3.

It’s Thanksgiving Eve. I’ve shut down work for the day.

The sun floods my office, and I should be out in it. Instead, I find myself scanning my uncle’s Facebook page for pictures and a sign. Any sign.

On Saturday, November 20, he passed away. Unexpectedly.

I was on the Peloton when mom called. “I’ll call you back.” I texted.

“NO” she replied.

I got off the bike. Took off my shoes. Went to the kitchen and sat on a step stool and stared into the emptiness.

I did that thing we all do: quickly recall the last time we spoke. The last interaction. The unknown last that will linger. The unknown last was picking up meds – a quick run over to the house in the middle of a workday – a true sin in my Type-A soul.

Who knew it would have been the last?

Stan and my aunt were together a little over 18 years – I know this because when they met Fran became Amma to Riley, which is Stan’s last name. It’s how I’ve marked their lives together. “I have a granddaughter Riley,” I recall Fran saying.

This isn’t mean to be an obituary. There will be greater writers to bring to light Stan’s life. And I put forth no illusion of a greater relationship than what we had. Fate blessed me with the opportunity to spend more time with him recently. Thank you, Fate.

We should all be so lucky. We should all be so blessed.

In these quiet moments after work and before errands, I find my eyes drifting to the yard, my heart drifting to sadness, and my mind drifting back to the question “What does it mean?” What is what? What is it? What is meaning?

My body is still as these question storm around me.

I’m naive to think answers will come.

Life promises no predictability; only death. If grief is the price of love, death is the price of life.

We are fools to think we have any of it figured out. We are fools to not seek the answers.

My uncle Stan enjoyed talking politics and current events, cooking hearty meals in the Instapot, and listening to stories. But beyond that, he loved his family and especially his grandchildren.

And perhaps that’s the answer.

Talk about what fills your mind.

Do what fills your soul.

Love who fills your life.

As the holiday season comes rushing toward us, I wish for you peace. I wish for you love.

But mostly I’ll wish this time won’t be our “last” time.

How It Happened – And I’m So Grateful It Did

Remember February 2020? It was the last time we were free to live and move and explore. It was the end of innocence. We freely went to the store, office, on planes – all of it. Can we all just agree that none of us want to read (or write) about the obvious changes that the last 14 months brought? Good. I will skip it.

As a certified coach, I support people as they slay change. This last two months I became my best client. And because I was so good as a client, I want to share with you the tips that kept me sane as I sold, packed, and moved on my own.

  1. Make a list. Every. Day. Make. a. List. Actually make a two-month list. Let’s face it – lists are more of a “I’m in control” mechanism than anything. For me, I’m a list-aholic. They keep my anxiety in check. When I decided to sell the house, I knew what to expect in terms of emotions – I knew there would be plenty of them. I also knew that you have to cancel utilities, hire movers and cleaners, pack, donate, and still live/work/play whilst all this is happening. Thanks to my Commit 30 notebook, I listed out everything that needed to be done and plotted the course. By doing small things daily, I am happy to say the move brought minimal stress.
  2. People will save you from yourself. I have a friend, let’s call her Beth. She’s a rock with mom genes who rocks mom jeans. She knows me well and could see trouble coming when I tried to carry too much on my own. When things got really chaotic at the end she offered me dinner, a place to stay, and her presence. I typically would not accept help (get over it, Allison). But I did and because of her help and support through the last few days of moving – not to mention the three years before – I was able to have peace about my decision. Get yourself a Beth. But you can’t have mine. This is where I would insert a selfie of Beth and I looking cute, but I don’t have one – not because we aren’t cute, but because with some relationships you don’t need a picture. Because they live in your heart always.
  3. Despite your planning things will go haywire. On Monday of the move, I took Ben to daycare. Only to be told daycare was closed due to a respiratory infection. It’d be closed for two weeks. Like COVID for dogs, I guess. Ben was to go to daycare Monday (movers), Tuesday (cleaners), and Wednesday (closing). Ben became besties with the movers, avoided the cleaners, and did good on his own at Beth’s house. Yes, things change. But if you keep a focus on the bigger picture, all that little stuff doesn’t matter. Like can I tell you how annoyed I get with Pam when she’s upset her veil rips (The Office)? That’s not what matters on your wedding day. It matters that you’re getting married. Keep your eyes on the horizon. That’s where you’re going.
  4. Know that everything changes and feeling pass. I sit here today, back in a town I left seven years ago and four years before that. But this is where I belong. My strongest network exists here in Huntsville. In the two weeks since I’ve been back I’ve reconnected with friends – it feels like no time has slipped between us. Lunches, wine on the porch, dog dates, dinners, and great conversations are the indicators I needed. On my first Sunday home, I left a friend’s house – let’s call her Ashley – and said to myself, “I made the right choice.” While we change – we as people – when you have relationships that are so grounded and strong that bond doesn’t change. Sitting with these amazing people over the last two weeks brought to me great resolve. I am home. These are my people. This is where I belong.

May you find peace as you walk through life. May you know you’re not alone. May you answer the call of help when you need it the most. May you understand that you are amazing.

A Year of Quasi Isolation

A Year of Quasi Isolation

It’s very typical of me to start all my writing with a “here we are” paragraph. Here we are in time. Here we are in a place. It’s my habit, my style. I’m attached to providing the reader with an idea of where I am so we can start on a somewhat common understanding.

Today we’re starting at this place:

  • It’s been almost a year since I worked in an office.
  • It’s been 10 months since I returned to Alabama from Seattle.
  • It’s been three months (?) since I ate at a restaurant.
  • It’s been two months since Poncho died.
  • It’s been one month since I played tennis – and two years since I played on a team.
  • It’s been one week since you looked at me, cocked your head to the side and said you’re angry.

I keep reading articles about how the isolation is impacting people. I understand their stories. I am their story. My story of the pandemic includes a loss of income, an increase of 15 pounds, loneliness, fear, desperation, hope, hopelessness. It’s very typical.

Hold up. Let’s stop. Let me be honest. I don’t read the articles. I read the headline and think, “Yep, that rings true.”

Here’s some more truth. I continually restart “projects”. I don’t mean the kind with glue and a purpose. I mean like, “Oh, it’s Monday – and the start of a new month – let’s commit to writing.”

Come Wednesday, I’ve forgotten the grand declaration.

I think what I’m trying to say is that it’s getting really hard to keep motivated at this part.

This is the part in the race, hike, trek, etc. where you’re so far from the start line that you can’t turn back. But the finish line keeps moving farther away. Because the finish line keeps moving, I’ve made a major life decision – to sell my dream house and find somewhere closer to friends.

To say I love this house is an understatement. It’s the most beautiful place I’ve lived. I decorated it meticulously. I picked the neighborhood, the flooring, and the plants I dropped $5,000 into a custom closet.

But now, I can’t afford it. Actually – that’s a lie. I can afford it. But paying the mortgage means no extras.

There’s also the issue of the neighborhood. It hid its secrets well. But during the recent election season they flew their flags (and still do) for a man I perceive as pure evil.

It’s also six miles from the vet, the closest grocery store.

This year of quasi-isolation has taught me the value of relationships. I don’t know where I’ll land. I’m looking at spending some time in North Alabama, where my friendships and networks are the strongest. I’ll hold on buying anything until I’m certain it’s where I’ll live the rest of my life. I’m not interested in starting over from scratch in a new town.

This year has also taught me that I’m adaptable. I will hustle and make it work. But honestly, I’d much rather do it with friends by my side. So that’s why I’m selling – why I’m trading in my custom home for the unknown.

Yes, I can make it on my own. But I don’t want to anymore.

February – Welcome.

It’s a a rather blustery morning as February 2021 rolls into existence. Mercury is also rolling – backwards. So that gives us all pause; by “all” I mean us sensitive types (raises hand, points finger at self). Let’s get on with it.


“Can I give you a little bit of feedback?”

“Feedback” sends my spine into a straight up then shimmy movement. As a solo-practice coach and communicator, I don’t have weekly 1:1s withy my employees or supervisor. Honestly, it’s one of the reasons I stuck out on my own. I found 1:1s and opportunity to stretch for feedback. By that I mean stretch to the bottom of the barrel just to have conversation and exert authority. I never cared for that part of having a job. Probably because of both insecurities and the deep belief that I’m smart.

So, when I got an email stating a recent client submitted feedback, I naturally ignored it for a few hours until my curiosity got the better of me. To my relief my client left glowing feedback (see below). The first thought was about creating Canva quotes and sharing on social media. Then I started to wonder, what is my hesitation toward feedback? Is it insecurity or over confidence realized? Is it because I am the following:

  • Enneagram Type 3
  • Capricorn
  • Middle Child
  • Only Girl
  • Have “Words of Affirmation” as my Love Language
  • Tired
  • ISFJ
  • 47 and unsure what I want to be when I grow up

It’s so easy to get wrapped up in all those facets, isn’t it? But each one reveals a slice of our whole personality. Yes, I hate getting feedback. But I love hearing positive comments. For years I’ve had a “Nice Things People Say” folder. When it started I would print out emails, then I’d do screen shots. Now I share them on social media so that I can look back in a year and think, “Oh, that’s so kind.”

While I enjoy the positive affirmations, what really matters – what the works really is – is standing in your deep truth. I know I’m a good coach. I know I’m a good writer. I know I’m wandering in the darkness right now. But the words above, they help me find the light.

And after all – when it’s all said and done, when the world is silent, when we’re alone in the dark forest, aren’t we all just looking for a little bit of light?

Parting thought:

Jake Turns 10

Jake Ryan Turns 10         

It’s just past 6 p.m. I stare out the back window, keeping an eye on Jake Ryan.  He needs no eye kept on him.  The wooden fence keeps him trapped in the yard. Regardless of this, my maternal instinct keeps me here, watching. He chews on grass, sauntering between grazing sites.  Peace fills the tree-lined, lush green yard.  I wish I could tell him how special this day is. He is at a place not all dogs get to.  He can’t understand.  I know this. But I don’t accept it.

On May 29, 2006, Jake Ryan Gregg came to be.  Nine weeks later he came to me.  For 10 years he’s hiked, ran, played and fetched with the heart of a champion.  He’s seen me through countless heartbreaks, endured many moves and never judged my nakedness. 

Yes, today is a special day – and he’ll never understand.  This causes a break in my heart.  Will our beloved animals every know how much they mean to us?  No. I’m not even going to ask it again in a different format.  No, they will never know.  They know they are fed and housed.  Perhaps that’s all that matters. Perhaps that’s all that matters to them.  But on this day, on Jake Ryan’s tenth birthday, a nagging inside me wants it to matter more.

“You should get a dog,” and acquaintance casually mentioned.  The idea wedged itself into mind and refused to leave.  And so, I got a dog.  A miniature schnauzer – who wouldn’t shed – who would sleep beside me most nights, and never winced when I held him too tight because the pain in me was too much.  He became a big brother, a role he actively resents and cherishes. He spent 18 months as a beach bum, six-days riding across the country, and too many hours away from me.  “Be good. No hookers, no drugs,” I advise each morning as I leave.  So far, he’s obeyed my rules.

Soon he’ll come trotting up the five porch stairs and look at me through the screen door.  I’ll slide it open and before I can get it closed he’ll be in search of a resting place.  His legs tremble after a day of adventures; I limit them now, but couldn’t refuse today.

As he curls himself into a ball, I’ll lie next to him and answer the standard questions:  You are a good boy.  You are loved.  I’ll kiss his nose and thank him.  Perhaps that’s all that matters to me.  It matters that I say these words; these words that fix the breaks in my heart.  I say them and write them.  That will have to be enough. The gift I can give him on his tenth birthday is just that:  pure, unconditional love.  After all, it’s what he gives every day.  For that I am thankful.