About allison breininger

Wife of high school sweetheart Sean since the adolescent age of 22. It doesn’t get any better than that guy.

Mom to the internationally and transracially adopted Maya. She is larger than life, wildly gifted, and currently straddling the line between childhood and the teenage years. Basically, it’s super calm and boring over here.

Caregiver to the above-mentioned Sean, who, since being diagnosed with Fanconi anemia in 2011 has had a bone marrow transplant and all the cancers. He goes to the doctor more often than most people go to the bathroom.

Early Childhood Literacy Guru. It’s a niche market, but someone has to make sure our future leaders are literate.

Master Coach. I coach coaches how to coach other coaches. It’s very meta.

Trainer. I train trainers how to train and occasionally still grab a PowerPoint, some chart paper, and a lavalier.

Lover of all things hygge: blankets, kittens, warm beverages, fireplaces, naps, yoga pants, books. The more of these I can combine into one moment, the happier I am.

Writer? Writer. It’s new for me to claim this one, but I’m trying it on for size. Feel free to hang around and watch how this plays out.


When I was in college I remember thinking that nothing bad, tragic, or interesting had ever really happened to me. I was a pastor’s kid who had grown up in an uncommonly stable and happy family. I was engaged to my high school sweetheart and preparing to graduate with a teaching degree sure to get me a stable job.

In the melodrama of that age I remember thinking with a pout:

“Everyone else’s life is so much more interesting than mine.”

How hard it was to have a life that wasn’t hard! #boohoo 21-year-old Allison. Enjoy your last moments of living in a space paid for by someone else and eating in a cafeteria full of pre-chopped vegetables and all the cereals. (To be clear, if 21-year-old Allison was reading this, she would wonder why the pound sign was hanging out mid-paragraph. I’m much older than I look.)


Five years later a diagnosis of endometriosis had sent us into failed infertility treatment attempts, which led us to pursue adoption. Matched with a giant-cheeked baby girl in Haiti, we were assured she would be home with us in three months. Months turned to years marked by paperwork, corruption, and an empty nursery. After two years and four months, we brought our vibrant, Creole-speaking toddler into our Saint Paul, Minnesota home. 

In the haze of exhausted relief, I remember thinking with a sigh:

“I’ve done the one hard thing for my life! That was it!  No more hard things for me!”

Because that’s totally how life works, right? One hard thing per person! Today Me is shaking her wise head at That Me, patting her patronizingly on the knee…while wondering what kind of things I think right now that Future Me will shake her head at.


One year after Maya arrived, the combination of a handful of skin cancers, a bout of Hand, Foot, and Mouth disease, and low white blood counts led Sean to the Mayo Clinic looking for answers. One year and major missed diagnosis (not a typo, they actually missed it) later he was diagnosed with Fanconi anemia, a rare genetic disorder that causes bone marrow failure and cancer. December of that same year he had a bone marrow transplant, spending 38 days in the hospital. Life since then has been a rotating door of doctor’s visits and hospital stays. Tongue cancer caused the removal of half of his tongue and all of the lymph nodes on one side. Bladder cancer resulted in the removal of his entire bladder and prostate. Inoperable throat cancer led to 35 days of radiation and chemotherapy. Other cancers include gums and cheek in addition to more than one hundred skin cancers. He’s well past the median age of death for his illness at the ripe old age of 40 and so we fight each new cancer while the ticking of the clock echoes deafeningly in our ears.

In the reality of life as a caregiver to a chronically ill man and a parent to a pre-teen transracial adoptee, I now think with a vodka tonic in my hand:

“Life, my life, is full of hard things. These hard things aren’t going away. In fact, they’re probably going to get harder.”


And so here I am, ready to talk about the hard things. My hope is that this will, in turn, give others permission to recognize and even say out loud their own hard things, that this will become a place where hard things can be said, noted, accepted, shared. Join me!