behind the name

When I was a kid, I had the worst allergies. My seasonal allergies were just terrible: Spring always has been and always will be my least favorite season. Once the frost stopped coming at night, I would cease breathing. The majority of my childhood Autumns and Springs were spent inside with kleenex stuffed up my nose, which was just the absolute pits because I loved to be outside.

When I was in elementary school, I went to an allergist. He did that horrible test where they draw this Battleship grid on your back with a Sharpie and then poke each square with a needle loaded with a different allergen. There were 50 squares on my back and 20 on each arm. The idea is that the needle pricks you are allergic to will swell up, revealing exactly what makes you sneeze and wheeze and break out in hives. I had to lie there, on my stomach, for 20 minutes to let the reaction start, and I couldn't so much as scratch myself. My mom had to hold my arms down. It was torture. I deeply resented that bald little nasally man.

Well, needless to say, my entire back broke out. Grass, pollen, dust, mold, strawberries, weeds, mustard, apples, mildew...the list goes on and on. The worst reaction? Horses. The horse square was on the lower back right side, and it looked like someone had replaced my hip with an elephant's.

The doctor said it was the worst reaction to horses he had ever seen. Of courseit was. Who is even allergic to horses, for heaven's sake? What a stupid allergy.

I was given a prescription for Claritin and some nose spray. I took them every day, and they helped a little bit. Ever so slightly. I was still a snotty, swollen mess.

My dad always fixed breakfast for us when we were kids. It was no pop-tarts-and-Cheerios kind of thing, it was a feast. Every morning. He had this fresh fruit juice concoction: strawberries, bananas, oranges, was liquid delicious. Some days he made waffles with a side of chorizo, some mornings we had omelets with hash-browns and onions, or chocolate chip pancakes, or french toast with buckets of powdered sugar. My dad would get creative with his creations: some mornings we would have pancakes shaped like our initials, or animals, or faces drawn on them with squirt-butter. My brother refused to eat the pancake "crust," so his pancakes were always trimmed down (which I can't necessarily call him out on, because I did the same thing with hamburgers. We were strange.). I always drank chocolate milk, and Paul always drank strawberry, so some mornings dad would mix the two syrups together and make us drink it (probably my least favorite creation of his).

Even though we never knew exactly what to expect when we came down for breakfast, I had one side item that remained a constant: toast and honey. Somewhere, my dad had learned that if you eat a little bit of honey every day it will help your allergies, much more than medicine.

We're not talking about store-bought honey here. Won't cut it. It has to be thereal honey. Bought-on-the side-of-the-road, locally-grown, sold-in-a-bell-jar honey. So every morning, from elementary school through high school, Dad would make me a piece of toast and honey.

Miraculously, my seasonal allergies have almost disappeared. I can actually go outside in the spring, and at the worst I may have watery eyes. I can walk in the grass and not look like someone decorated my feet with paper cuts. A far cry from breaking out in hives and not being able to breathe. My dad is very proud to have remedied my allergies. To this day, if I so much as sneeze in my Dad's presence, he says, "You're not eating your honey." Seriously. It happened last week.

I am not a patient person. I want things to go how I plan them to go, I want results right away. I always undercook rice. I try to put my jeans on right after painting my nails and always mess the paint up. I read magazines backwards because all those ads in the front make me antsy. I had terrible insomnia as a kid because I was too excited about the next day to fall asleep. Every time Avram accomplishes a new milestone, I catch myself checking it off the list and start practicing for the next one. I do not like to wait.

Mother Teresa once said something about how not one of us can do great things, only small things with great love. It took months for that one small action, one piece of toast and honey, to make a difference for my allergies. But once it had taken effect, it made all the difference in the world.

I am learning that I cannot do one big thing to make the difference for Avram, I cannot do one big thing to become the person I want to be, I cannot do one big thing to strengthen my marriage, I cannot do one great thing for God. I can only do small things with great love. I can speak with kindness, I can choose to show grace and mercy even when it hurts, I can remember to breathe. I can fight to see the good in people, I can choose to be selfless, I can remember to pray. I can read a "One Fish Two Fish" to Avram for the 1000th time, I can fix a pot roast for J, I can drink more water and be kind to myself. Small pieces of toast with honey, small actions of love, small bits of light in the darkness.

I can do small things with love, every day, and that is what will make the difference.

Toast and honey.