Friday, November 7, 2014

Two Birthdays

Monday is not only the 239th birthday of the United States Marine Corps (Semper fi!), it is also the 20th birthday of our first child (Yay Rees!). Since my husband was an active duty Marine when he was born on November 10, 1994, he was the subject of much good-natured ribbing by his squadron: What a perfect devil dog to command his wife to give birth on the 10th; No one loves the Corps as much as Howell; Think you’ll make rank quicker now; How come you weren’t at the ball? While I am crazy-proud that he served for eight years, I am also crazy-happy that he got out. We esteem the Marines this day, but our wonderful son even more. I would consider it a great honor if any of my children wears the uniform.

While Rees is not allowed to serve, he has grown into a strong young man who is gung-ho about his life. He has adopted the military code of conduct to the best of his civilian abilities. Simply put, it is ~

* Be prepared to give your life
* Never surrender to the enemy
* Always plan an escape from the enemy
* If captured, keep the faith with fellow soldiers

He applies this to his life as a Catholic, a friend, an employee, and a student. I am crazy-proud of him.

From the Marine’s Prayer:

“Almighty Father, whose command is over all and whose love never fails, make me aware of Thy presence and obedient to Thy will. Keep me true to my best self, guarding me against dishonesty in purpose and deed and helping me to live so that I can face my fellow Marines, my loved ones, and Thee without shame or fear. Protect my family.

If I am inclined to doubt, steady my faith; if I am tempted, make me strong to resist; if I should miss the mark, give me courage to try again.

Guide me with the light of truth and grant me wisdom by which I may understand the answer to my prayer.”

Happy birthday to the USMC, America’s protectors and defenders.

Happy birthday to my boy, a good man.

Yikes, I'm the mother of a twenty-year-old!
Love, Allison

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Howell Girls

My girls at the same age ~
Clare at 2 1/2

Addie right now, at 2 1/2

So different; so connected. Love them!
Allison at about 4.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

A Little Peace, a Lot of Hope

Only Clare and I went to church this past Sunday morning (Ken took the others to our usual service Saturday evening but we were tired of people from two outings that day). A minute after settling into a pew, a lady slid into the space directly in front of me and I clenched my teeth. She is publicly, happily pro-choice, once announcing that she finally became Catholic when she found out that she could be pro-choice and Catholic (oh yay). How can I possibly concentrate on Jesus with this person in view? Mass is ruined now. Then something worse dawned on me. Since we are not acquainted and she does not know of my disgust, she was probably going to turn around and extend her hand toward mine to wish me the Peace of Christ and I'd be expected to clasp hers and wish her the same thing. What to do? Where to go? How to avoid this? Going to the ladies' room wouldn't work because I'd visited right before church and Clare knew it and I did not want to explain to her that I was not going to shake that lady's hand. I thought about coughing here and there throughout the liturgy so that when the time came for the sign of peace, I could smile and shrug while mouthing, Coughing; but again, bad example to Clare. Plus I didn't want to smile. So I stewed.

I'd love to say that the Scripture readings and psalm singing convicted me to kindness.

I'd love to say that my beautiful surroundings soothed me to sweetness.

But it was a reminder of the prayers from a fiery priest that I'd spent the previous day with  in a mini retreat that spurred me on to a better way. He called it "Healing Litanies" and it took us an hour to read through together. There were about fifty ladies, from young women in their twenties to white-haired grannies, all murmuring these words ~ most of us on our knees (Father Shields has pastored in Siberia for twenty years and told us that the Russians "love to suffer on their knees," so we competitive Americans remained on our knees!

Some of the statements we prayed:

A Confession of Faith that included ~
* Lord Jesus I trust in You
*Lord Jesus I believe that out of love for me, You saved me
*Lord Jesus I believe that Your gift of life brings peace

 Please forgive ~
*My doubt
*My hatred
*My indifference

Please heal ~
*My mental anguish
*My fears
*My pain

I ask You, Lord ~
*To open my heart
*To forgive others
*To desire Your will

I am sorry for ~
*The times I have turned away from You
*The times I have held resentment in my heart
*The times I was not Your instrument of peace

I seek refuge ~
*As I abandon my aggression
*As I abandon my fears
*As I abandon my worries

Jesus, let Your cross be my joy ~
*When I am tempted
*When I am not confident in Your mercy
*When I am in misery

Holy Spirit ~
*Fill us
*Transform us
*Comfort us

Grant us a compassionate heart, Lord ~
*For the poor and homeless
*For victims of war and epidemics
*For those whose faith is tested

(There were many more prayers under each heading. It was sobering, yes, but also hopeful to be a part of a large group of women praying to love Jesus more, to love His people more, to love all people more. The simmering pentecostal in me was very close to hollering some "Amen's" and "Yes Lord's!")

Back in Mass, I realized that I had already prayed for this lady the day before. That Jesus loved this lady. That she was sitting with me in church and we were connected. That shaking her hand did not mean that I loved abortion. That I absolutely did wish the peace of Jesus to be with her. 

When she turned around and held out her hand, mine was already stuck out to meet her, my smile was totally genuine, and I practically shouted, "Peace of Christ be with you!"

There is hope in peace. Even such a little bit of peace as a handshake. For the times I have not been an instrument of Your peace, Lord forgive me. He does and there is peace.


Saturday, August 23, 2014

Coming and Leaving and Coming Back to Alaska

Howells have come and left Alaska four times over the past twenty-five years. Four times!

Time #1: Ken and his friend, "Uncle Paul" came in 1989, freshly discharged from the Navy, spent a month hiking and kayaking around, then left to come home to RI. Ken soon proposed marriage and the crazy idea of driving to Alaska and setting up our home.

So young.

So dangerous.

Time #2: I said yes and we began our trek, taking six weeks to visit places and hike along the way. We got to Alaska and poked around the state, then pitched our tent by the Salcha River outside of Fairbanks, heading into town each day to search for jobs and an apartment. We found a tiny place above an attorney's office and two minimum wage jobs, which we worked for six months before Ken decided to re-enlist (with the Marine Corps this time) and get some edgy-cashun. So we left for North Carolina. Because the Marines.

Welcome to Alaska, Allison!

Teen Challenge of Alaska (no longer there)
Driving north of Fairbanks

Time #3: Four years later, we came back to Alaska, this time with a baby boy, a theology degree, and a job directing the now-closed Teen Challenge of Alaska. When that baby boy was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, we left again after just one year to pastor a church in the mountains of North Carolina.

The truck was not moving. This was taken with a normal camera long before The Selfie.

Time #4: That disaster (See conversion story page above) also lasted one year. We packed up and came to Alaska again; now with two sons, two vehicles, and zero awaiting employment. We realized that Alaska was the only place we fit in; we decided to tough it out and make it work. We have.

Growing up in the shadow of Denali.

Easy-does-it, Joe!

Craigie Creek Trail. She's not sleeping; just thought it'd be fun to hang.

Some beautiful lake by Dogsled Pass.

It has now been seventeen years since that fourth and final time and we're doing fine (Decent job and house and lots more kids)! Alaska is home.

Adventures and peace to you,

Friday, August 8, 2014

A Poem with Pics by Clare

(Copied and pasted from her locked blog...)

A story by me

This is a story/comic/picture book/poem thing that I wrote. Click on the pictures of they're too small.

For some reason I like drawing sick, and/or stray dogs. 

I like the way I did the face on this one.

Ok, yeah, this one came out bad. But in real life it looks good, the scanner messed it up.

The hand took me a long while (I'm not good at humans), and it STILL doesn't look perfect.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Big Girl

Time for an Addie update!

At 2 1/2, she remains pretty healthy. Plenty of oral antibiotics (maybe 6 times) and one round of prednisone, but no need for IVs. She's tiny, though, weighing just 23 pounds and growing along the 5th percentile, weight  for height (which I don't ever remember). She is thriving and engaging and hilarious and affectionate. She learns new things every day and due to her constant imitation, I've renewed my efforts to curtail the brothers' potty humor.  It's just not right for a vision of pink sweetness to make those kind of noises. One thing that gives us endless amusement is her penchant for pointing at any man with a white beard and exclaiming, "Dumbledore!" or to a dark-bearded man with, "Thorin!" No, she hasn't seen the movies but the kids point out pictures.

Here's our big girl:

World's littlest braids.

Clare's Art Class (what a good babysitter!)

Pounding bread dough.

Rocks pulmozyme nebs like a boss.

Extra neb picture because of that smile.

Totally ruining someone's book.

Camp out with Clare.

Yes, that is a block of cheese in her mouth.

She's still the star of the family!
Smiles, friends,

Monday, July 28, 2014


Most of the time, I'm just like any other mother. Sometimes, however, I fight this:

When I have to allow medical professionals to hurt my children without saying a word when I can sometimes visualize punching them and running away with my kid to a thatched cottage on the moor, something breaks inside and I wonder if I will ever truly trust anyone again. When I have to listen to other moms simper about how teething fever is the worst and I know I'm being mean when I can almost hear myself laughing at them, something breaks inside and I wonder if I will ever cultivate charity. When the ladies who lunch ignore my request for a few bucks toward our charity research walk but ask for funds to send their kids on mission trips and I'm certain I'll never speak to them again then get mad at myself when I do, something breaks inside and I wonder if I'm a petty jerk. When I stare at a hospital bill from the two days in nineteen years that he was in between insurance plans and know that the CEO who received a letter from Rees just passed it on to the billing office and I want to snarl at Mr. Big Bucks to just pay for it but have to be quiet because it's rude to talk money like that, something breaks inside and I wonder if I despise rich, powerful people. When I listen to the coughing and to the lab cultures and PFT results and want to die but can't, something breaks inside and I wonder how I will ever get to tomorrow. 

Some parts get strong, to be sure, but other parts will never, ever heal.

I'm still trying, though, to be a trusting, charitable friend to all, even with my broken parts, who doesn't punch or shun or snarl or laugh meanly at anyone. But no one gets this craziness like CF Mamas, for all our disagreements about lakes and campfires and masks (!). They're special to me from afar. But if anyone reading this comes to Alaska, e-mail me so that we can visit for real, OK?

There is plenty of excellence that CF brings to a body, to a family, to a community, which I'm happy to herald, and often do. This is also part of it (well, for me at least) and I want you to know that when I recently saw a selfie of a vacationing couple and all of the "You deserve it" comments, I exclaimed to my husband, NO ONE DESERVES A VACATION LIKE A CF MAMA.

Broken, yes, but also ready for visits and vacations. And still beautiful. 

Love and thanks to all my friends,