Allison's Book Bag


Nineteen years to earn American citizenship!

After 19 years of visas, background checks, fees, forms, lawyers, worrying, and more, I became an American citizen on September 18. The swearing-in ceremony was held at Beatrice, the same town where my husband and I got married. Prior to the ceremony we ate at Valentino’s with my in-laws. Following the ceremony we revisited favorite haunts. Beatrice is where I rented my first house and adopted my first cat. The town is also about the size of the one I grew up in and so immediately felt comfortable to me. I taught in the area for three years.

As for the ceremony, it was held at Homestead National Monument. There were speeches and awarding of certificates. Thirty-two people from the Congo, Iraq, Canada, and many other far-flung nations, became Americans on this day. Thanks to Andy for the photos!


Friendship is a central theme that runs through the following three books. Friends can help us through challenges and to solve problems. While working through our differences isn’t always easy, friends fill our lives with happiness.

Sophie and Friends is part of a touch-and-feel durable board book series for readers ages three months to three years. The story is sweet and the illustrations are cute, but there isn’t much to touch.  Sophie the giraffe and her five friends like doing things together: Lazare the cat lives to make everyone laugh, Kiwi the bird enjoys baking cookies, Margot the turtle loves to jump over puddles, Josephine the mouse likes to hide, and Gabin the bear treasures bedtime stories. Although some of the other books in this series have pop-ups and more textures, readers will still enjoy exploring the fabrics in Sophie and Friends. They’ll also like the fun adventures.

The simplicity of Jon Klassen’s design and the deadpan humor underlying his stories never fail to entertain. In We Found a Hat, two turtles find a hat. The problem is there’s just one hat, and they both want the hat. The friends agree that the hat looks equally good on them, but it’d be wrong for one to have the hat, and so the solution is to forget about the hat. Easier said than done! Aimed at readers ages four to eight, the story encourages reading independence with only one sentence per page. In addition, this 54-page story has been smartly divided into chapters, which heightens the suspense. The ending is perfect.

Readers of the classic Ramona books need look no further than Clementine by Sara Pennypacker for another lovably-rambunctious character. Clementine’s week hasn’t been going so well. She’s been sent to the principal’s office for cutting off her friend’s hair. Margaret’s mom has refused to allow the two girls to be alone together. The disastrous week is made worse partly because of the effort Clementine puts into making everything right again, including trying to glue Margaret’s hair back on and offering to sacrifice her own hair. Like Ramona, nothing Clementine does comes from a mean heart, but rather from a creative mind. Clementine is quirky, hilarious, and unforgettable.

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Kids. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.

In December 2013, my husband and I adopted a one-year-old tortoiseshell cat from Hearts United for Animals. Cinder has taught us so much about cats that it seemed proper for her to have her own advice column.

QUESTION: When should one take their cat to the vet?

A few days after I got adopted, I stopped feeling so good. My owners had been spending a lot of time playing with me, which I thought was fun, and they had also been trying to get me to let them touch me. They were patting my head, rubbing my tummy, tapping my toes; and stroking my mouth. Each time I didn’t protest, they’d praise me: “Good girl!”

They’d also reward me with a yummy-smelling treat, which is when I stopped feeling so good, and this confused me. I felt as if I were being quiet and still. My owners kept smiling and sticking out treats for me take. But every time I bit into one of their treats, my mouth filled with pain.

At first, I tried to pretend that nothing was wrong. Hanging out with my owners made me happy. But then the pain got so bad, I didn’t know what to do. Was my owner mad at me and so she was punishing me? Or was something wrong with me and so I had to let her know? Except what if my new owners decided to return me to the shelter?

My owner offered me another treat. I stared at the treat. It smelled good. I glanced up at my owner. She looked happy. I sighed. Maybe this time would be different…. I bit into the treat. Ow! This time I couldn’t hold it in, and I had to yelp out loud.

Suddenly my owner was picking me up and checking me out. “What’s wrong?” she kept asking me. I jumped out of her arms and ran away to hide. I hadn’t meant to say anything out loud. But I also couldn’t keep pretending everything was okay. I was SO confused!

Yes, I’m letting you in on a secret…. Cats aren’t as cocky and stoic as we’d like you to think. We do care if you like us and we do feel pain even if we’re expert actors. Below are ten reasons you should call your vet:

  • Hiding or clinging to you more than normal
  • No longer playing or spending time with you
  • No longer climbing and jumping onto surfaces
  • Sitting hunched up in a corner
  • Purring, meowing, panting or growling excessively
  • Avoiding bright areas
  • Swatting, hissing, scratching, or biting for no reason
  • Neglecting to groom ourselves or overgrooming ourselves in one area
  • Doing our business outside the litter box
  • Turning up nose at our favorite foods

After I yowled out loud, my owner took me to the vet. What the vet discovered shocked my owners. It shocked me too!

But you’ll have to wait for my next column to find out what was wrong with me. For now, I’ll just say that I was very fortunate to have been adopted by people who loved me enough to take such diligent care of me, even though I had only been with them a few days.

Reprinted with permission from Lincoln Animal Ambassadors Pet Talk. This article is original in content and not to be reproduced without permission. Copyright 2017.


Five days to find our sheets!

In June, I wrote that in addition to all the major twists and turns in life this year, there was another one on the horizon. Our landlady had called to tell us that she intended to sell her remaining rentals. We had about three months to find a new place. The end of July, God blessed us with our dream home.

This led to an incredibly busy August. I began working ahead on all my writing commitments: reviewing Advanced Reader Copies for Allison’s Book Bag, enlisting guest bloggers for Lincoln Animal Ambassadors, and writing articles for Lincoln Kids. By the end of August, these tasks were all completed, freeing me from those responsibilities in September.

Early August, my husband and I weeding our stuff with the goal of a yard sale. We created signs and price lists and advertised on Craig’s list. Mid-August we held our sale. I enjoyed getting to meet people, wrangle prices with them, and hear stories. As we were packing up leftovers to bring to Goodwill, a wedding bus pulled up. Members of the wedding party put together a basket of goodies from our yard sale as a gift for the bride and groom. What a memorable first yard sale! Oh, and we raised enough to hire college students to help us move.

On September 8, we closed on our new house. Thanks goes to our real estate agent. He took care of us every step of the way. He also gave us a gift card and cookies as a parting gift. The next day we rented a moving truck. Thanks goes to our friends who provided us with boxes and for the four college students who worked eight hours for modest pay and pizza. Much gratitude as well to our neighbor who gave us food for the road. The cheese, meat, and cracker platter provided us with lunches for several days. Without it, we would have resorted to fast food.

Ah moving! We had labeled all our boxes and deposited them to assigned spots. Every day too we stayed up until nearly 10:00 p.m. unpacking stuff. Yet it still took us three days to find cookware and five days to find sheets. We’re still looking for a can opener. Over all though, we’re making good progress and enjoying our first home.


From the Cat Trio and the Solitary Dog….

Our owners have bought their first house. All of us are moving this month. We’re sad but excited.

We’re sad because we have a lot of memories at our rental. It’s where Cinder recovered from stomatitis and had to wear a cone, but also where she learned how to do agility and discovered the wonders of basements. Whenever Cinder needed time alone, she’d retreat to the basement and soon her mood improved. The rental is actually the ONLY home that Bootsie has ever known. It took her weeks to venture beyond one room. Then her curiosity won over her fear. Soon she discovered the fun of cat towers and TV shows. The rental is where Rainy proved herself a troublemaker by knocking books and dolls off shelves and insisting that cats should be allowed on counters. It’s also where Rainy grew up and showed her family how much of a snuggle bug she is.

We’re excited because of everything our owners have told us our new house. It’s much bigger inside and so we won’t be as crowded. Our owners tell us now there will be more room to have guests. There are more windows. The front bay window looks out over a flower garden teeming with butterflies and how the back bay window looks out over a big yard dominated by a giant maple tree. We’re especially psyched about the basement. Our owners plan to set half of it up with agility equipment. We’ll even have a storage closet for all our stuff, instead of it being scattered through the house wherever there was space. Outside there is a deck. We’ll need to wear our leashes and harnesses to go out on it with our owners, but there’s going to be a lot of new smells to explore, and so we won’t mind. Lots of positives!

Our owners tell us the move will take most of this month. That means there won’t be postings of our stories for at least a few weeks. Instead we’ll be having adventures!

Want to start your week off with a smile? Visit Comedy Plus or Burnt Food Dude and see what others are sharing today.

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Fall 2017

This fall I will be on hiatus except to post family news. Stay tuned!



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