Allison: Shaping the world with stories

This July, I’m sharing stories of firecrackers: women I know working different paths to speak up and light up the world.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” ~ Joan Didion

Allison is my oldest friend. Not in terms of age, but our shared history. We go way back – all the way to early elementary Sunday School in Dallas, Texas. Choir together in junior and senior high school, shared friends, church youth group, discussing the merits of Scarlett vs Melanie, Rhett vs Ashley…

Allison is the person woven throughout all the facets of my childhood. With all that history (and some dirt, if we’re honest), I feel uniquely positioned to confirm that Allison has always been a storyteller, performer and 100% herself. I mean, she once got a high school beau to reenact the gazebo scene from The Sound of Music – complete with leaping from bench-to-bench while singing “I Am Sixteen”. That is impressive.

After we both left Texas to go to separate colleges, we settled down in new (and northern!) cities. Allison in Chicago, me near Boston. Yet our friendship benefited from the rise of social media, and we have been able to stay in touch over the years. While our friendship has roots in our early, more innocent days, Allison’s sharing of her own stories has cemented our connection as grown-ups.

“Everybody is a hero in their own story.” ~Maeve Binchy

Allison’s honesty and humor shine through in her annual Christmas cards – which have become a highlight to my family’s holiday season. My wife texted me last year that “Allison’s card arrived today!” and that she had already opened it. Rather than a Norman Rockwell-esque photo shoot each year, Allison pulls back the curtain and shares her real life, laughing through the challenges life with four kids can bring. My favorite so far?

A picture of her newborn son, “Sleep in Heavenly Peace” printed the front. The honesty? Well, this was this picture of her son. Not sleeping. And not so peaceful. But so honest and real to what was happening in Allison’s life that year. IMG_4137.jpegI think about that every year, while the pretty holiday cards come in, and everyone’s life seems picture perfect. Once I had my own baby, it became a reminder that no matter what it may seem like, everyone’s gorgeous baby cries and doesn’t sleep sometimes.

When one of Allison’s sons was diagnosed with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), she looked for stories from other families in similar circumstances. She searched for books reflecting the experiences and daily life her son was experiencing. And she couldn’t find any. As she says, they just hadn’t been written. Yet.

She is now writing these stories into existence for her children and for others with similar experiences. A boy named Peter is the central character these stories, loosely based on her own son and other children she’s met with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). I know that once those stories are published, they will help families having similar experiences just as much as that Christmas card continues to help me. (If anyone is or knows of a publisher, send them to Allison’s website!)

“We must all become storytellers of a future we want to share…” ~Bono at the UN

Allison’s stories are always entertaining, and she is now using her own stories to change the world around her. In addition to her children’s book series, her longer blog entries are hopeful, positive and always keep it real. In one of my favorite pieces, Tomorrow, Shine On, she challenges us to each “To be a light. I dare you.” And while that particular essay is a heavier subject matter, Allison is telling the stories of a future she wants to bring into being.

* * *

The July Firecracker series is inspired by the question “Why aren’t more people speaking up?” in response to the more recent news headlines. A somewhat simple question with complex and complicated answers for each of us. It sparked me to think about how I contribute to the world I want to live in, whether it be sharing my voice online, volunteering, or continuing my own political activism. As I reflected on the ways I choose to speak up, I noticed that almost everyone I know is using their unique voice and passion to be of service to others. It also gave me the idea to spotlight the powerhouse women I know who are changing the world from where they are. People and purpose are part of the fuel helping each of us lead meaningful, and happy, lives. If you know of someone speaking up with their own unique voice, please share their story with me at workyourhappy@gmail.com.

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