Ally and Anthony by rustic wooden wall
Connectivity, Daily Life

Why We Read Stories as We Live Them

Ally and Anthony by rustic wooden wallWe met about this time many years ago—Anthony and I—in a cold classroom in an antique brick building at the University of Nevada. I remember his laugh, full-bodied and genuine.

I often sat at a narrow desk in the classroom’s back corner, dressed in my black snowboarding jacket and flared jeans. My brown hair was styled in a punk-inspired pixie cut. I felt so empowered with short hair, as if I had to prove my femininity in other ways than long locks.

Anthony had longer hair then. It grazed the nape of his neck and flipped to the sides. But he was always clean-shaven, except for the tuft of chest hair that peeked above his Threadless T-shirts. His denim jeans shredded at the hems, and his shoes featured holes that revealed his gray-toed socks. He wore those “animal shoes” every day, even in winter.

We met in winter, in January. But I wouldn’t truly notice him until spring more than a full year later. In class, he was just the funny guy. He cracked jokes, quoted “South Park” with reckless abandon, and laughed without restraint. He also had a knack for having all the right answers, sometimes to an annoying degree. But the guy did his homework. I appreciated that fact.

That semester, we had both registered for a class that became the basis for our friendship. Although the course was billed as Twentieth Century British Literature, the course description made its field of study quite clear. This class focused exclusively on author J. R. R. Tolkien. Anthony and I independently chose this quest for our mutual adoration of The Lord of the Rings.

Now, five years later, I can think of no better starting point for our adventure.

In the pages of Tolkien’s book, we discovered tales of men and women who suffered hardship, endured grief, and received for their toils the greatest joys of all. In its pages, the word “hope” appeared in earnest. In Tolkien’s Middle Earth, committed people do what they must for the good of others. In doing so, they find the good within themselves, even if they might misstep into darkness along the way.

Hope always exists, and good always wins. This story enlivens as a metaphor for our own world. But its symbolism changes, walking alongside our perceptions as we absorb each word.

Ally and Anthony hold book pages

We hold the pages between us, as two stories become one tale.

That’s the power of stories. No matter who you are, you can find yourself amid the pages. You relate. Not to the literal situations, but to the emotions characters feel as they survive those fictionalized moments that, in the moment, feel all too real.

We’ve been here before, we realize as we read.

Isn’t that why we read?

Now the stories of my books become my stories. We march in tandem as I flip each page, knowing and believing and understanding and feeling.

It’s that feeling that brought us here in the first place.

Had we not taken these steps to grasp the cover and peruse the pages, to so desire to immerse ourselves in the world and to take a chance on awaiting adventure, we may have never met at all.

“I’m glad you’re with me” for we were meant to go together.

Photograph credit: Jamison Frady of Quiet Art Photography © 2010   (Photos feature Ally and Anthony in January, two years after we met.)

favorite Converse shoes
Connectivity, Daily Life, Submissions

“One Day” in my life: Project to document the daily norm

On my post “How do I start writing?” last week, Jessica of Mothering with Creativity recommended bloggers share who they are. “People like to ‘see’ other people,” she said. I couldn’t agree more!

So when I read about Laura at Hollywood Housewife’s plan to document a day in her life and her invitation for other bloggers to join in “One Day HH,” I couldn’t resist. I joined the movement, and I documented my Wednesday, November 14, 2012, with photographs.

The goal of “One Day” is to document pieces of your life you wouldn’t otherwise see fit to photograph. It’s the toothpaste you use, the gas prices that day, or the stack of papers you just can’t seem to get through. It’s the Post-it Notes of your life that, when pieced together, form your story.

And it’s a good story because you live your life in it.

Click any photo to start the slideshow and see complete captions!

Thanks for sharing in my “One Day”!

Photographs: Anthony and Ally Siwajian © 2012

Snow White eats apple
Connectivity, Daily Life, Scripture Study

The Fairest of Eden

Mirror, Mirror, on the wall,

Who is the fairest of them all?

I gaze at my reflection. Searching. Seeking. Hoping.

Yet as I absorb the look of my features, I glimpse a shadow of dullness I’ve grown to despise. It creeps into my soul and takes control, wrenching my joy from my spirit. Empty. Alone. A shell of a person, a decrepit hull.

This is how Snow White’s evil queen became ugly on the inside too. She ingested the view, and she saw she was lacking. Inadequate. Pitiful in comparison another woman whom she assumed robbed her of her worth.

Never did she suspect the source of her judgment was wrong.

When I gaze into the Mirror, it enchants before me too. It comes alive with all kinds of nasty words it wants to share. Words which somehow emanate from my own mouth.

Snow White eats appleThat hair… Those eyes… That pale skin… The acne… These scars… Those lips… excuses for lips….

The list spills forth from my mouth before the Mirror. I too have prepared a poison apple. But I have eaten it myself.

I dine upon the lies the Devil places on my tongue. I chew my harsh words, and I swallow his cruel commentary.

I begin to believe the lies, and it takes a toll on my spirit. On the way I view myself, and likewise, the way I have slowly started to view others. Those whom I assume criticize my looks. Those whose words have a way of sinking under my skin when they utter ruthless remarks. Similarly, my skin steels itself against any life-bringing phrases, compliments, or applause. Because these nice people can’t honestly mean what they’re saying.

They don’t know what I know: I am not beautiful. I am not the fairest of them all.

As I eat the poisoned apple, I succumb to the curse of Eden. I eat the forbidden fruit that dangled gently from that tree—the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. The snake hisses in my ear. He tells me I am worth no more than this state of suffering. I may as well accept my fate.

On occasion, I rebuke the lies. Call them by their true name: Lies. That’s what they are. But then the snake tightly wraps itself around the tree and whispers my name. He tells me how prideful it would be for me to be proud of my looks. No, no, no. Tsk, tsk, tsk. How arrogant you are to be proud of the way you were made.

Therefore, I look once more to the Mirror, and I debase my features. Reduce my glorious attributes to horrifying flaws.

But the claws of the once-legged serpent cannot hold fast forever.

One swoop of a sword and the serpent’s tongue is severed. It cannot spit the lies anymore. I see at once a Gardener, who has removed malice from a tree. From me.

For it is as Jesus said: “I am the vine, and you are the branches.”

I shudder at the sight of the shears in the Gardener’s hands. But as his scissors slice away rotten fruits cloven to my branch, I know the pain of pruning comes with a promise. Like peroxide burns away infection in a wound, this pain initiates my healing process.

All the while, the Vine sustains me. It breathes life through its strength, and it supports every branch. All of us. Each of us.

For it is as Jesus said: “I am the vine, and you are the branches.”

This tree can never again be touched by the serpent, who did its best to destroy the beauty God had created.

Life is a constant pruning, but the putrid fruit upon my branches lessens with each moment I give to the Gardener. I accept my identity in Christ. I know I am desired, protected, and renewed. My branch now bears a better fruit. It is the evidence of Christ-likeness: love, joy that is complete, and an understanding that true humility is the absence of both pride and self-debasement.

With this fruit, we encourage each other toward the tender touch of the Gardener.

Every once in a while, I see a sick and slithering serpent crawl through the grass. It glints in the sunlight, and I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the scales upon its back.

Mirror, Mirror on the wall…


You do not define

Who I am.



(Inspired by Genesis 3:1-15, John 15:1-17, and John 3:16-17)


~Ally Siwajian © 2012

Photograph credit: ABC’s “Once Upon a Time”: Season 1, Episode 21 “An Apple Red as Blood”

Daily Life

Motionless Between the Sheets

“For Procedures, Enter Here.”

I push past the door with its eerie sign and hurry down the sterile hallway, following the nurse in navy scrubs like a dog follows its master. Drab, blue curtains descend from the ceiling to separate rows of hospital beds with unconscious patients. Each man or woman lies motionless on their beds, covered in spotted hospital gowns, slumped against their pillows and strung up with IVs. I’ve never seen an IV before in real life. Only in the movies.


Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep. Beep.

The methodical sounds punctuate the still air, the silence of corridor. And I worry what I might find at its end.

“He might be groggy,” the nurse says. I shake my head.

The doctor on staff strolls past. He stares intently at the chart in his hands and runs the long edge of a pen against his chin. I follow the nurse as I peer into another makeshift room, looking for my husband.

Then in the last bed in the row, I recognize the blue Sperry shoes the patient wears, peeping from behind the curtain.


Beyond the blue curtain, he lies on thin bed with its metal sides and crisp sheets.

“Hey, lovey,” he says. His gaze follows my movement, but his eyes are barely open. I know what that expression means. He needs coffee. It’s just another Saturday morning when he hasn’t risen from bed yet to start the French Press.

I ruffle his thick hair and smile. But his body doesn’t react to my touch. I sit down in the gray, plastic chair at his bedside, and I grip my black purse in my lap.

“What’s that?” I say and point. I know what it looks like. It looks like a pool of blood the size of my palm. It’s soaking the bright white sheets, and it’s right next to my husband’s arm with a clear tube shoved under his skin.

Anthony’s gaze drops. “Oh that,” he says. “The IV didn’t work the first time.” He swallows deliberately, and I watch his eyes squeeze shut as he does so. He’s been swallowing like that a lot lately.

That’s why we’re here. We need to know what’s wrong. The stomach aches, the vomiting, the burning sensations in his throat, the dark bruises on his skin.

“I need to see you later this week,” the doctor had said. “We need to run some tests.”

For cancer. For gastroenterology weaknesses. For a disease.

I hold Anthony’s hand, even though he can barely respond with his own grip. I don’t like seeing him like this. We’ve been married barely more than a month, and we already have to think of the possibility of cancer, of disease, of….

Anthony requested to be cremated when he dies. He wants his urn placed on the mantle if it will bring people joy. If not, then cast the ashes to the wind and watch them soar.

We took a vow: “For better, for worse. For richer, for poorer. In sickness and in health. ‘Til death do us part.”

Most newlyweds don’t have to think about that part of their commitment this soon. I don’t like thinking like this. But it’s what you do when you love someone with every piece of your soul.

~ Ally Siwajian © 2012

Photograph credit: Vera Kratochvil via

laundry detergent bottle falls into washing machine
Daily Life

SuperWife Strikes Down “The Marriage Myth”

Like many young women, I assumed that getting married would make me SuperWife.

Need that sock sewn? SuperWife to the rescue! Aha, I see dinner needs to be made. No worries, I have a billion recipes and have inherited magical cooking powers since I graduated college! Dirty laundry? Messy room? Scum in the shower? Hahaha! SuperWife has the wielding powers to zap this all away without a single complaint. In fact, she’s smiling up a storm so intense, it’ll knock the socks off the Mister when he walks in the door.

laundry detergent bottle falls into washing machine

Well, wives-to-be and singles-in-training, let me assure you that your hobbies, abilities, and interests do not, in fact, change after marriage. Whoa! And there’s the big reveal!

Needless to say, this SuperWife possesses other skills. Need that food cooked? Let me introduce you to Mister Husband. He’s quite charming and rather good at all this skillet stuff. SuperWife just chops up the veggies, searches the Internet for new recipes, and uses her shopping prowess to find the best deals! Whoohoo!

Want your bills to decrease? SuperWife is the priceline negotiator! And if the power company declines, she can withstand the freezing depths of the living room for hours with no additional electrical heat, thanks to her magical layers of sexy sweaters and snowboarding socks!

Want that laundry done? Just let it lie. Soon the odor will get to her super-sensing nose, and SuperWife will gather the gumption to conquer that octopus-size pile in three fell swoops, known as Wash Attack, Dry Spinkick, and Fold ‘Em Obliterate.

Oh yeah, being a housewife does take talent. But that talent doesn’t have to look like your great-grandmother’s… or Betty Crocker… or Martha Stewart. Ladies, embrace your own magical powers, absorb all the new tricks you can, and say to heck with the rest of it! 😉

~ Ally Siwajian © 2012

Photograph credit: Ally Siwajian, featuring my epic laundry fail