Wednesday, December 9, 2009


I love the spastic flashing lights – yes the ones that could quite possibly cause a seizure in certain susceptible people. I even look forward to the plastic yard nativity scenes, broken Christmas ornaments, and even being thrown out of the “no fall club” after turfing it on an especially inconspicuous piece of black ice. I love the memories that bring a smile as I pull out that childhood Christmas ornament, or the nostalgia felt when you discover year after year that ugly brown and orange, yarn-wrapped-around-popsicle-stick decoration that your third grade teacher gave you. Throwing it away would somehow equate to a memory wipe of the events surrounding that priceless gift.

As all of that adds to my happiness, it’s the memory of Judd’s face when Santa Claus knew his name and that he had been trying hard to brush his teeth twice a day; it’s the memory of watching him top the Christmas tree with the star; it’s the memory of Drew congratulating Clay after a win in his Christmas Classic football game; it’s waking up and plugging in the Christmas tree while the house is still quiet, and staying there for a moment enjoying the magic. It’s as if we need something tangible to tie to those fleeting moments that often otherwise get forgotten if not captured in our hearts.

Each year I reflect upon those who play in my life’s orchestra. There are the staples – my close friends and family who are the violinists, cellos, trumpets, clarinets and flutes. But then there are those who come in and make certain parts of the song special – a chord on the harp, the addition of a classical guitar, a piccolo solo, or the impeccable timing of a cymbal. While the song would never start with the core instruments, it becomes so much more beautiful and harmonic with the addition of those symphonic instruments. The potential of the song to touch the audience becomes stronger. And even though they may not play the melody, the song would not sound the same without them.

Many of you in my life have functioned as piccolos, harps, classic guitars, and cymbals. I’ve been thinking a lot about you the last several weeks and the role you play in my orchestra. I wondered how I might crash the cymbals in your orchestra, or strum a chord on my classic guitar in your life?

What can we do to help someone today? What if you lend a hand to the lady in front of you in the mile long line at Wal-Mart. You know – the one with five kids playing tag around her cart as her baby cries hysterically.

We all have something to give. Every single day. And I believe once we find out what it is and act upon it, our lives will be that much richer.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Ladies, Have You Had Your Yorkie Today?

Lush. Humid. Cell phone usage triple the normal rate. Tree frogs whistling in the evenings. Dinner on the water lot. Dancing with dolphins. God-fearing, happy people with heart and hospitality. Where tennis was born. Minimum wage is $25. 183 steps to the top of Gibb's Hill Lighthouse. Where we rediscovered life, food, people, and our relationship with each other.


I was nervous. Okay, really nervous. Not the anxiety you usually feel when you’re late for work, or the clock is ticking on a really important deadline. It was the anxiety you feel when you wonder if you might be having a myocardial infarction, or if the left side of your body just feels numb and you also happen to be suffering from an irregular heartbeat. It’s ground zero in your stomach – that spot you think you can feel (maybe even see) oozing burning acid that may or may not spill up and into your esophagus.

I’ve presented at many events before without getting booed or bitten by anyone (that’s for you psycho New Moon fans), and I tried to remind myself of this as I boarded our midnight flight to Atlanta en route to Bermuda. I had never taken my entire family before. We’d never pulled an all-nighter together either, let alone on an airplane. Nevermind that our next stop was a four-hour layover. I had never had to carry so much equipment with me, from snorkel gear and sunscreen to a laptop and pantsuit with heels. It was risky. It could be a disaster.

But I wanted this to be my best effort. I wanted to make a difference. If I could inspire my audience it would be a successful trip.

I was inspired. Educators who wanted to make a difference in the lives of their students. Parents who refused to give up. Bermudians who are some of the most friendly, genuine folks I’ve met. Folks who exemplified something Neal A. Maxwell once said, “Those with true hope often see their personal circumstances shaken, like kaleidoscopes, again and again. Yet with the ‘eye of faith,’ they still see divine pattern and purpose."

I barely remember the last time we were able to enjoy each other as a family in that way. Raw. No internet, cell phones, distractions. It made me realize that while goals are good and work is a necessity, vacations are essential. They force you out of your box and into a new realm of creativity and life learning. In those seven days, I understood myself better; I connected with my kids and Sean on a fresh, unique plane. Perspectives changed. Hope renewed. Memories were etched into our time lines.

One person fell out of bed at 3 a.m. Three people swam with the dolphins (while two others watched in the rain with faulty ponchos). While on a ferry at night, we saw lighthouse beams that could be seen for 60 miles in all directions. We drank Ginger Beer. We ate Yorkies. Yes, I gobbled three over the course of the week. Once I saw that the package clearly stated “not for girls” I made it a point to eat as many of those rich, velvety chocolate bars as I felt like – despite in large, bold font the package also declared a 385 calorie count. Meow.)

We puddle jumped, and ate chicken fingers and fries almost every meal. We ate the marshmallows from Lucky Charms for breakfast and forgot to use our disposable underwater cameras. My psoriasis went away. Paper was moist. The Stud got taken under by a wave, but his big brother pulled him to safety. We saw good in each other, and bad too. But most of all, we were just there together.

One for another.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Chain of Distraction

I’m working on a presentation I’ll be giving in a few weeks, and I open my journal in Word to search for something funny Clay said that I wanted to include. I see a reference to a blog post I’d written a few months ago and it reminds me to check my blog. I see my latest post about the new book I recently finished reading, and I remember I need to update my Good Reads account. I have a new friend invite so I accept, and then check out what she’s reading. I notice a book called The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, a true story about a boy from Africa. I think how cool it is that the first African-American president has been elected, and it reminds me that I need to get a status on the health care reform bill. I check CNN for updates on the story and notice a headline about the new Google Wave and the buzz surrounding this "real time" communication tool and talks about how it will revolutionize email. I debate whether or not I will ever use it, since those in your "wave" can actually see you type your message. What if I type something not very nice on the fly as my friends watch me delete letter by letter. Not for me.

Then the article mentions a discussion about Google Wave on Twitter, which reminds me I haven't tweeted in over three hours. I go to my twitter account and see an interesting link one of my peeps posted to an article in the New Yorker. Five minutes into the article, I hear a ding and see that I’ve received a new email. It’s from A2Zshoes, the website that I inadvertently purchased a pair of fake Nike running shoes (no I had no idea they were fake until I watched a YouTube video that points out the slight differences. Do not buy shoes from this website). Unfortunately, despite what their website says, they don’t allow returns. So I check Ebay to see if I can sell them as "fakes" when I see that same pair of Nike running shoes going for half the retail price. Are they real? I'm not sure; probably not at that price. By this time my computer is really chugging, not smoking yet, but the multiple programs and windows simultaneously open are causing parts, I don't even know the name of, to overwork. Soon it becomes frozen and I have to restart.

Now I can’t remember what I was doing, so I check my FB account and notice that one of my friend’s is having a good day according to her status. So I click the “I like" that. I look at the clock and realize it’s time to pick up Judd from school.

In this day where distraction is imminent, I’m more and more convinced that some of the best tools one can develop are time management and focus.

Now back to work...

Monday, October 12, 2009

What makes us happy?

The results of a recent study showed that since 1972 women’s happiness levels have dropped. This may seem puzzling and even ironic since there are so many more opportunities for women now than there were 37 years ago, and since other studies have shown that men are taking a greater role in child rearing and housework.

The study showed that women are happier early on in their lives, but become sadder as they grow older. What factors are involved in this sudden drop in contentment? Is it the pressures on women to look young, sexy, and attractive all while juggling a career and child rearing - to be everything to everybody?

I just finished reading HALF THE SKY, an incredible, eye-opening book in which I'll blog about soon. The last chapter examines what influences our long-term happiness, and that social psychologists have found through multiple studies that our happiness isn't dependent on what good or bad things happen to us, like one would think. For example, if we happened to win the lottery we might feel a blip of happiness, but it would taper off. If we got hit by a car and became paraplegic, we'd find a drop in happiness, but then our happiness would resume to the levels in which they were before the accident. Most importantly, they point out that our happiness levels are directly tied to a "connection of something larger - a greater cause or humanitarian purpose."

I believe there are many reasons why women aren’t happy. There are too many distractions, pressures to perform as mothers and in careers, lack of appreciation for doing what really matters, and less quality time with those we love. But the biggest factor, I believe, is that we become so leashed to our daily activities that we forget that life is really bigger than us. It wasn’t until I became involved in a much bigger cause than just me, that I truly became the happiest person I’ve ever been. I still could give more, and when I have a noticeable drop in happiness, it's usually directly related to how long it has been since I've spent time giving to the cause.

In an age where we're bombarded with information and messages regarding what we think will make us happy, we often lose sight of who we really are and who we want to become. It is proven that an altruistic attitude is the best way to create a meaningful life full of lasting happiness.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Howling at the Moon

Lately, as I’m going about my business in my own home, I might round a corner to be met by a loud “boo” followed by a giggle in response to my yelp and bugged out eyeballs. I’ve often wondered what kind of an emotional toll this might be taking on my fragile, adrenal fatigued, 32 year-old for-one-more-week body.

The small one talks often about what he wants to be for Halloween. Monday - Vampire. Wednesday - Wait, Airplane. Saturday - No, Darth Vader. Yesterday - Incredible Hulk. “For really, Mom!” He says, after I threatened to dress him up as the pinkest princess in all the land.

Knowing from painful experience that if you wait until the week before Halloween hoping a three or four-year old is done changing his mind, you’ll find that only size 10-12 Grim Reaper (with blood dripping down the face) and adult size Big Bird costumes remain on the racks. So we settled on Hulk last week, and I've only had to threaten Tinker Bell once so far.

As I contemplated how much longer my heart muscles and nerve endings would endure shouts of “boo” at the least expected moment, I decided we had better feed this creative Halloween monster we named, Judd. (the Stud, he corrects in my head as I write this)

We went down in the basement and dug out the spookiest shoebox we could find. We gathered together the 10 candy corns we hadn’t eaten yet from earlier that day, printed some freaky pictures from the internet, and started mixing our ghoulish creative juices until they started to bubble over.

This is what we came up with. And it worked. For a few days.

Now he wants to know what we’re making tomorrow.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009


Our family has finally reached a travel milestone that most parents won’t forget.

No more changing diapers in the back of the car. No more having to Ziploc soiled wipes and diapers until the next gas stop. No more pulling over to the side of the road to feed the baby. No more screaming non-stop because you’ve missed two naps.

Instead we create lasting memories that don’t involve the smells of sour milk, sewage, and recurring images of zombie parents. Now the boys are old enough to either pee in an empty bottle (a luxury we women will almost always envy), pee in the weeds off the side of the road, or if mom has to go we’ll hit the nicest gas station we can find. (she’ll push out thoughts of deadly bacteria yet-to-be-discovered collecting on the soles of her shoes)

Memories of the Denver Zoo and the highlight and topic of discussion for the last four days has revolved around when the Zebra rolled around on the ground causing a mad dust storm; then he unexpectedly passed gas with his legs straight up in the air. Thank you, Striped One. You made our entire trip. The boys have already forgotten the Denver Broncos game, the trip to the Lego outlet, and Elitch Gardens (Six Flags). But the memory you created, Striped One, will be passed down from one generation to the next as a favorite tale releasing countless endorphins, which could quite possibly cure any undiagnosed disease lingering in our future posterity.

The one family travel event that hasn’t changed – broken priceless objects. We manage to fatally damage at least one irreplaceable object or family heirloom every time we travel. Once WE* broke a lamp at my parents house, the shade AND the base. Over Thanksgiving one year, WE broke a large vase that was given to my brother and his wife as a wedding gift. Last summer, an errant football flew through the air breaking a chandelier. On our last day of our vacation in Colorado, just when we thought we were changing our fate, I came downstairs to see my sister-in-law sweeping up glass in the kitchen. Yes, WE did. WE broke a snow globe that was purchased in Germany and given to the youngest daughter. Exhaling, “ahh, sad.”

Oh, the anticipation of our next trip. Let’s just hope the Striped One is there to make it all better.

*I use “WE” as not to cause unnecessary therapy in any one child’s adult life.

Monday, August 31, 2009

In Celebration of Writer Appreciation Week

A special thanks to agent Nathan Bransford for creating Writer Appreciation Week.

It soon becomes apparent to an author that if you’re writing to be published, you can’t just be an artist, a creator, a master of your craft. You have to have stealth-like moves, brain power in the gigahertz range, and the ability to thwart all impending doom. When you get knocked around, you have to pretend it doesn’t hurt, get back up in stoic form, and like Bruce Willis’ character on Die Hard, make extraordinary feats look easy.

So when determining which part of the publishing process is most difficult, you’d have to take into account the following:*

a) craft the to two years, if you’re snappy
b) revise the story until you’ve rewritten and subsequently memorized all 330 pages
c) obtain an agent...most agents reject 99% of submissions. Now remember, you were once the fastest swimming sperm out of millions…
d) sell it to a publisher
e) build a platform...oops, you were supposed to have done that two years before you started writing your book
f) exploit yourself online
g) create a brilliant viral marketing scheme including book trailer so funny or dramatic it rivals an MGM creation
h) ensure your book gets into bookstores...gotta get a blurb by a NYT bestselling author. Dig deep with those connections
i) sell enough copies so you can keep writing...remember those Bookscan numbers? They can bite your rear in half. One chomp.
j) blog three times per week, keep your tribe happy on FB & Twitter while keeping up with book #2
k) obtain a coveted national TV spot or a rave review in a major newspaper
l) a dose of luck that would be akin to winning the $1 million PowerBall always helps
m) stand outside Rockefeller Plaza at 4 a.m. to secure a prime spot with your book poster. Then when Al Roker does the weather, pump it up and down above his head.
n) If you’re lucky enough to get a fantastic agent, editor, and publishing team like I did, the C-N will be delightful. Kinda like eating a fluffy piece of chocolate cake with hot fudge in the middle...with a side of vanilla bean ice cream.

Would I do it again? Abso-friggin-lutely. It’s an obsession love like none other. Your spouse may hate you, your mother may block your calls, any word related to the publishing industry may become banned in your own home and even your neighborhood, but the love of the craft is more potent, more pining and unrelenting, and more dangerous than Shakespearean prose.

So to those writers ready to shred the manuscript and become an organic farmer, I beg you to reconsider and instead ride on this for awhile. Kathryn Stockett who wrote my favorite book to date, THE HELP, was rejected 45 times. Well actually, she said she didn’t really know exactly how many times she was rejected because the fact of the matter was, she stopped counting at 45. Now she's #4 on the New York Times bestsellers list.

As one New York editor put it, “People think publishing is a business, but it’s a casino.”

I do like the bright, flashing neon signs.

* This is to be squeezed in somewhere between your full-time job and raising your children

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Seduction on Aisle Five

The other day during breakfast, Sean casually suggested we create a separate budget item called, “Target book budget.” I looked at him like he had just poured orange juice over his cold cereal. I refused to believe I had ever actually purchased books at my Oasis, the Omnipotent One where the price is always right. After all, I really try to support our local indie bookseller in SLC, The King’s English (see below for proof).

I have never set out to buy a book at Target, ever. It’s just that on my tri-weekly trip, I inevitably pass the aisle of beguiling literature where all the covers are face out. As I pass the said aisle, I see a delicious cover with three cute birds dotting the center. “Quick, cover the eyes,” I remind myself. Then I swear I hear one say, “Hey baby, come look over here.” Then I think I hear, “Hot stuff, you look good in those jeans (the same jeans I thought made my rear double in size when I put them on that morning), but you’ll look even better if you read this. You know you want to.” Before I realize what is happening, I’m stuck with my nose buried deep into some book called, The Girls From Ames, which by the way, was telling me it had some Lindt excellence white coconut chocolate hidden somewhere between the covers.

How does one resist?

One doesn’t. I grab it from the shelf and flip right to the acknowledgments page (weird ritual), then the author bio, and finally I partake of the first square of white chocolate – Chapter One – and it reels me in like a rainbow trout stupidly chomping down on the fluorescent pink power bait (even though it knew better).

Bobby Banjo can sense my book point-of-no-return like a bird dog sniffing out the course. And he intends to exploit me at this vulnerable time in my life. “Mommy, I’ll be right over here…”

“Yeah, okay Judd. Whatever, just…”

“Mom!” he says. “It’s not Judd. It's Judd the Stud.” I look at him over my book. “Okay, whatever, Judd. Uh, Judd the Stud. Just stay close,” I say, as the bubble above my heads shows my hands rubbing together in the glee of 10 minutes of solitary book reading. When I realize I’m finished with the first chapter and he hasn’t tried to interrupt me at least five times, I throw the book in my cart.

Whoops? Did I just do that?

I head around the corner. Not there. I cruise down a few more aisles until I finally find him here. "What? Why here, Judd?” I ask. “Judd the STUD, Mom.” He says poking his head out.

I still have no idea what he was doing. But it reminded me that I needed something on that aisle anyway. And, that I had forgotten to check out that book called Sarah’s Key

Friday, July 10, 2009

I need your help!

There are few aspects of parenthood that are as visceral as the need to protect our children. So it’s no surprise that when there’s a scraped knee, bully, or fire-breathing dragon threatening our children, we are on the front lines with artillery ready to comfort, then fire.

What IS a surprise is that insurance companies all across the country continue to discriminate against individuals with autism by denying medically necessary, evidence based treatment that is prescribed by a doctor. Now, we as parents are forced to deal with the biggest bully of them all. It’s unfortunate, but true, that this large, powerful industry and lobbying group can withhold something so vital to our children’s health and future. And it’s up to us to change public policy for our country’s children and for future generations.

I'll never forget the wave of sick that swept over me when I realized appropriate life-saving treatment for our son could cost up to $50,000 per year. We risked bankruptcy, became deeply in debt, and suffered immeasurable stress so we could implement treatment prescribed by our son's physician. 72 children are diagnosed with autism each day. Families are placed in this agonizing situation, most of whom will never be able to afford a proper diagnosis let alone treatment no matter what they sacrifice. So what results? Divorce. Bankruptcy. Job loss. And a child who never has the opportunity to progress or even recover from autism.


Please join me by calling and emailing Speaker Pelosi (202) 225-0100 and Majority Leader Reid (202) 224-3542. All you need to say is this, "Health reform that does not stop autism insurance discrimination is unacceptable." It only takes a couple clicks to make an impact. Take action HERE!

Together, we can save the futures of countless children with autism all across the country.

For those of you who followed me through Clay's Law, this is federal legislation (vs state) that will be much more comprehensive, helping families all across the nation.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Spiderman and Other Tall Tales

One nice thing about long summer days is the ability to sneak in some good reading time while one of your kids is dressed up as Spiderman climbing the lamp post right outside the window and while the other two boys are busy watching…

If you find yourself in this unique position, you must whip out your favorite book. Then record what you’re reading on Good Reads. Oh, and don’t forget to friend me. I’d love to see what books you love.

Currently reading: The Girls from Ames by Jeffrey Zaslow

Favorite book I’ve read in the last three months: Still Alice by Lisa Genova

What are you reading?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Father's Day Gift Idea - Wrapped With Love

"Riesens" Why I Love You

1. Purchase a bag of chocolate Riesens (chewy chocolate caramels).

2. Get some manly scrapbook paper – maybe with a Boston Terrier print or something (rub it in the dirt if you think it will look even manlier).

3. On the plain white side of the scrapbook paper, write reasons why you love your husband/dad and why you appreciate him. Get the kids involved. They might even tell you he let them watch a PG-13 movie or let them eat ice cream cones on the couch or other secrets that you may not know about.

4. Cut in strips. Unwrap all Riesens. Wrap strip of paper around the Riesen. Wrap back up in original wrapper. Set aside. Eat one (not the one you just wrapped!). Then another. Repeat.

5. Place the newly wrapped Riesens in a clear cellophane bag and tie with a little note that says “Riesens Why We Love You.” Be specific - and clever! Make him laugh. (Caution: don't bring up the corner in the kitchen where he always places his spare change, credit cards, and hankie. Just don't.)

I gave this to my husband for our anniversary, and it is the gift that keeps giving (Agh - cliche alert!). He would come home from work everyday talking about which "Riesen" he had eaten that day. In my case, I'd have irritable bowel syndrome of the mouth as I wouldn't be eating just one.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Summer = Life Eternal

Playing on iTunes – Abracadabra by Steve Miller Band (that must be why I'm imagining salsa dancers wearing hats with hot pink feathers fluttering with every hip movement)

It doesn’t take the fresh smell of grass clippings to shoot me into summer nostalgia. It does take a week of the boys being home from school wondering how it could only be noon even though they’ve already emptied the garbage, practiced the piano/guitar, read for 30 minutes, attended swim lessons, eaten three otter pops each, built a fort in the field behind our house, and played me in a heated game of speed. Doesn’t this break some natural law? Can the summer solstice exist everyday for three months out of the year? There should be scientific studies on the connection in which the average summer day is lengthened by three hours without us actually knowing it. I think most moms of school age children would agree.

What to do to tackle these days of Tuck Everlasting? Here’s my rough draft list…

• Go ice blocking (come on, you’re not that old)
• Make boats from empty water bottles and duct tape. Then float down the ditch.
• Make a target and have bb-gun shooting contests (don’t worry we’ve never shot our eyes out. Knock on wood.)
• Ride city transit to the donut shop
• Ice skating
• Planetarium
• Picnic in the park (bring a Frisbee and a dog if you have one)
• Take scooters to the roller skating rink
• Make a fort – outside or inside
• Go to your closest independent bookseller and attend an author reading/signing.
• Write a children’s book together (
• Blow up water balloons. If you have a trampoline put them on the tramp and see how many you and your kids can pop.
• Repeat

I'd love to hear your idea. LOVE to.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Firewood or Family Heirloom?

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about how much more enriched our lives become when we create meaningful memories with family and friends. Sure we have our jobs, to do lists, pets to feed, “important” responsibilities like leading a twibe on Twitter, but when we inevitable hit that tree that we didn't see ahead, suddenly all of that is meaningless. Think for a minute. When you get together with family as adults, what do you do? We talk about the time we as sisters squirted brown Mary Kay make-up into our brother’s brand new underwear and left it on the floor for him to discover. It’s those memories that add texture and color to our lives. So let’s start creating…

I’m about to share with you what I think is the coolest (please circle one) time capsule/family discussion piece/framed honeycomb ever designed. I found it in a catalog - love at first glance. Uncommon Goods shipped it two weeks ago. I opened the package like when I was eight years old and it was the box that contained my first cabbage patch doll. And I could hardly wait to reveal my "when my boys are adults conversational piece." I carefully painted and prepped it for the big day. Never mind that Sean cocked an eyebrow when I unveiled…pause for anticipation…our brand new family wishing/worry wall. I began to doubt my passion for this home furnishing/sentimental family heirloom/fully recyclable wall hanging.

It wasn’t until I found the perfect moment to sit down with my boys (Sean included) that I explained why this was so special. As I brought it out from behind the piano, their eyes grew wide. Their eyebrows furrowed. Their eyes scanned the frame with question marks. Finally in exasperation, in stereo, they asked, “What is it?” I took out the small box that contained the neon-colored papers. I explained to them that they were to write their hopes, dreams, goals, and fears on the strips of paper. Then roll them up and tuck them inside the holes. To my surprise they excitedly sorted through the paper picking their favorite colors. They immediately started scrawling their thoughts on the paper. Then they carefully selected the hole to tuck it into. They sat back to admire with the satisfaction of creating a unique piece art. Yesterday, when I picked up the boys from school, Drew excitedly told me that he had taken first place, beating every fifth grader in his school, in the 50-yard dash. And hey Mom, “Can I write it on, you know, those pieces of paper and stick it in the wall.” Whose your Mama?

Many of you may know my favorite book is Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd. This book is special because the unique story almost becomes palpable; the writing makes it feel like butterfly wings are tickling your skin, and the characters and symbolism are deep and rich. If you haven’t read this book, you’re missing out on something akin to the richest chocolate ever made. You’ll understand a new dimension of what makes this wishing wall - now hanging in our hallway - so special.

What would you write on your wishing/hopes/fears/successes wall?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Social Media: Useful Tool or Recyclable Waste?

Lately, my creativity has been locked in an airtight box hidden in my mind somewhere. As frustrating as it is, I have hope that if I take the right combination of vitamins or start mowing the lawn, or that, perhaps, just the right look at a double rainbow, it might spontaneously open. I remember the days where I'd blog, and even make it somewhat interesting, about why I line my own toilet with toilet paper before sitting down.

What’s to blame? Unproductive time spent on Twitter, Facebook, blogging? I just read a statistic, on Twitter of all places, that our time on the internet now exceeds our time spent watching television. No surprise, but wow, how do we get anything accomplished when we're hovering over our computers like information addicts anticipating the next tweet which goes something like this, "Good morning! I ate scrambled eggs for breakfast." How do we get sucked into this? How am I supposed to write, or study, with all that chirping looming over me begging to be read. As if the magpies on my roof aren't enough! In an effort to organize all this chatter, I downloaded a program, Tweetdeck, which manages all my tweets and tweeters and peeps and facebook status updates. Simplification? Nah - Pandemonium!

I have to be frank, it's nearly as addicting as an engaging book - it lassos me in and drags me to the trough. I'm sure it doesn't have anything to do with the fact that I'm an information junkie, and that keeping tabs on publishing industry, autism moms, long lost cousins, and favorite authors are just a tweet away. But is it using time productively? That depends.

In lieu of my sudden realization that my rear end may have increased in size and my laundry seems to mate, reproducing multiple offspring while waiting to be folded, I've taken a lent-like vow to decrease my time using social media. There I said it in public - I must adhere! I’m living my real life, signed up for class, and I'm contemplating writing another book. I’ve been agonizing over what to write for months – until yesterday. I was sitting in the pediatrician’s office when I heard something that burst that box in the back of my mind open so wide, I thought I might lose it while I scrambled to find a pencil and paper.

So I wake up this morning and I’m not sure the idea seems as great as it did yesterday sitting in a room full of sick kids. But I think I’m going to run with it. We'll see what my literary agent thinks about it. Maybe it's just a pipe dream. But then again, how can I have pipe dreams when I'm too busy tweeting or re-posting "important" links on Facebook.

Especially when I never know when the box of creativity might once again...slam shut.

Okay now, I'm very interested in hearing your ideas for the next book...Let's see if you're even close.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

In Defense of Friendship

Several years ago my front door became a revolving portal through which therapists, early intervention specialists, kids for playgroups, and sometimes stray animals entered. Despite the chaos, I felt overwhelmingly isolated. So it was with irony that I decided I was too busy for friendships. I went on my “mom on a mission” life and thought I was tough enough to make it on my own.

It wasn’t really until the biggest storm blew over that I finally realized the importance of friends – which seems backwards, doesn’t it? Well it is. I wish I had come to this eureka moment much sooner. It isn’t until we make our friends a priority, that we receive the serendipitous rewards of friendship. We must squeeze in time whether it's between soccer practice, homework, science fairs, and work. If we don't, we're missing out on an important piece of life.

So I’m dedicating this blog entry to all the friends who have lifted me in hard times, cheered me on when failure was imminent, and told me to remember my own motto.

To you!

Here’s to the friend(s) who:

• came to my door holding “made from scratch” cupcakes in one hand and her three-year old in the other. For the entire conversation I forgot that I was a week overdue with Bobby Banjo. I even got so carried away they slid off the plate, yes all 10 of them, homemade frosting side down on the carpet.

• brought me flowers, unknowingly, right after my four-year old told me he hated me for the very first time and slammed the door in my face.

• said to me, “I’ll take dorky over fluffy” any day, referring to me as the dork.

• is a make up artist and volunteered to do my make up for my author photo. She also had done Stephenie Meyer, Glenn Beck, and other celebs which made me feel even more special to be grazed by her foundation brush.

• brought dinner over the day Sean passed out in the bathroom at work.

• drove to SLC to my book signing in the snow with her car full of girlfriends, and arranged for us to all have dinner beforehand.

• drove miles to come to my Malad library event – many of whom I haven’t seen since high school.

• saw I needed girl time and arranged to go mountain biking with me.

• brought dinner over when I had strep throat for the seventh time that year.

• read my book and sent me touching emails. There are many of you all across the country.

• didn't get upset with me for dominating the conversation because she kept asking me so many questions.

• reassured me that I can still make it to heaven even if I've said a few bad words.

• didn't freak out when I dented her car.

• told me my zipper really wasn't down when I gave that presentation even though it really was.

• arranged to have lunch last week. Judd had a fever that day, but I took him with me anyway. As I opened the door of the restaurant, her son was throwing up in the corner. We ended up chatting and crying in the car in her driveway.

• blogging friends who have better lift and support than a 44D.

• took photos at my book signing, enlarged one to a 5x7, framed it and delivered shortly after. Also included in the package was a necklace imprinted with the year 2009 and on the flipside says, “Never, never give up.”

• reciprocates but doesn't smother.

• watched Bobby Banjo so that I could pitch my tent at the capitol for 45 days.

• acted as my personal publicists.

• know the importance of women supporting each other.

• laughed and sometimes snorted even when I wasn't that funny.

• reassured me my that it isn't likely any of my kids will be in prison someday.

• (aka autism moms) who inspire me to be better, every single day.

• taught me how to be a good friend.

Aging is inevitable, but friendship keeps us living.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Are you ready to Betty?

Tuesday morning, I received some terrible news. So disappointing and gut wrenching (at that very moment) that I contemplated running in front of the guy on a bike that I just saw pass by my house. I settled on a trip to Super Target instead. But before I left I checked my email for the third time in 60 seconds. Nothing? Still? Where are these people I emailed seconds ago! The exclamation in my head is barely punctuated as I stepped on a lego with my naked foot. %$&#!

I passed by the mirror on my way out the door. I cautiously backed up. Bubble appears above my head. "Does it really look like I have silicone implants in my butt, or is it the pocket placement on my jeans. Pocket placement. When I clench it’s not so bad, but if you look at it from that angle…where is that guy on the bike? Did he pass already?"

I get in the car, plug in my iPhone and click to the Titanic Soundtrack. I suddenly remember the Huggies commercial from yesterday, and my throat swells. So I forward to Chariots of Fire. I get to Super Target seconds later (normally a 15 minute drive) with sweat beads on my forehead and a resolve to start training for the Boston Marathon.

I smooth out my crumpled grocery list:

Medium cheddar cheese
String cheese
Go-Lean cereal

Two hours later, I swing into the shortest line. I notice the contents in my cart. My list – buried in the cart somewhere.

Crunchy Cheetos
Cheetos Puffs
Flamin' Hot Cheetos
Cheetos Puffs Twists
Natural Puffs White Cheddar
Fritos twists
Have a New Kid by Friday by Dr. Kevin Leman
A t-shirt (long enough to cover my pockets) that says, “You mess with me, you mess with the whole family”
Fish net stockings
Lindt truffles
Hostess cupcakes
Chocolate milk
Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey
Tampons – Super, super
Sunless spray-on tan

As I unloaded the groceries in the car, I carefully placed the Cheetos in the front seat. Then I wildly threw the rest into the back and shoved the cart down the row. I hopped in the front seat and tore into the Cheetos like I was a kid opening her first Christmas present. I didn’t slow down until I reached the bottom of the bag. Where are the truffles. I NEED them to balance the salty. Then I called Sean and asked him if he thought my rear was too big, because I knew he’d say something wickedly delicious. And he did. Click. He must have known about the fish net stockings.

Product placement warning. Please leave a comment! Betty Confidential autism essay.

Next up? Photos from Malad book signing...I so heart all of you. Which reminds me of how Seriously So Blessed I am.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Bahama Mama

I just noticed my last post was on Friday the 13th. This one - April Fool's Day. Something must be on the horizon and it had better not be magpies on my roof.

We just got back from our cruise to the Bahamas. I have been snowing ever since. Really. Sean and I fell asleep to the crashing of 20-foot waves and a warm breeze for a few hours with only a dab of sunscreen on our noses. One day later and 600 mg of ibuprofen every four hours, one could upholster a sofa with my skin and have a stylish, comfortable leather couch. My face has shed four layers and is now a camouflage of browns and reds. I looked like a leper just in time for my PBS interview this afternoon. Product placement warning.

As I crossed the threshold into our house of insanity, I was met by Bobby Banjo skidding down the hall in his dinosaur pajamas. He threw himself into my arms and kissed me all over. We snuggled for a few minutes before I started reading him a delightful new book of poems my editor sent home with me called My Hippo Has the Hiccups. As I turned to page 3, Judd looked at me and said, "Mom, I thought you were dead." I thought he was starting his own poem until I waited for him to deliver his second and third lines but instead he just stared at me with his eyes searching mine. I squished my nose on his and said, "I'm not dead, silly. I just went on a cruise!" He wrinkled his freckled nose and started to laugh. I guessed it was okay for me to laugh - even in the face of death. Then I put him to bed and dreamed I barely survived the sinking of the Titanic.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Leave A Comment - Win A Book!

Age of Autism is running a contest for my book! Run on over and leave a comment. It just might be your lucky day!

Remember - even if you already have one by the side of your bed, you still need one for the top of the toilet.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Now Available in Bookstores!

The legislative session in Utah is only 45 days long, but it feels like we're on the television show "Lost" trying to figure out how to get off the island, and there is just no end. I wake up each morning with what Brittany, Steve, and I have termed the "legislative hangover" which consists of 4-5 hours of sleep per night, a nauseating headache that is only made worse by looking at those facebook ads of babies with four eyes, and trying to figure out how a vote at 10 a.m. could end up at 4 p.m. And please...PLEASE don't call me on my cell phone. My monthly bill last month rivaled our car payment. My children have started calling me "grandma" (the one who lives in Idaho) because they see me just about as often. We have March 12 circled on our calendars. I've even doodled fireworks on that day. If it passes, we can celebrate. If it fails, our legislative hangovers will live on. Godspeed!*

So in the middle of all this, I've been made aware of some exciting news. My book, A Child's Journey out of Autism, is now available in bookstores! I also have a couple of events coming up, so please mark them on your calendars. I would be thrilled to see you there!

The King's English Bookshop - Friday, April 3rd @ 7 p.m. (Salt Lake City - 1511 South 1500 East)

Oneida Public Library (Malad City); 31 N. 100, Malad, ID 83252 - Wednesday, April 8th, 7:00 PM

*My experience with Clay's Law has been a fulfilling, tremendously rewarding experience. This is another blog entry (even book) that will be meant to inspire. It's opened up an entirely new world where I have been able to experience love, loss, laughter, and hopefully an eventual victory.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Clay's Law - SB 43 Committee Hearing

Who: Clay's Law hearing in front of the Health and Human Services Senate Sub Committee

When: Thursday, February 12th, 8am-9:30am

Where: Utah State Capitol, Room 250

How Can You Help: BE THERE!! Bring your family, friends, neighbors, church friends, playgroup moms & kids, bring EVERYONE! We need to fill that room so that it's standing room only, and there are people spilling out into the hall. Bring signs that say "Vote Yes for Clay's Law" or "We support Clay's Law." If you are in Senator Bell or Senator Christensen's districts, bring signs that say "Sen. (Bell's/Christensen's) district is for Clay's Law." We are having buttons made that say "Vote Yes!!! Clay's Law" we will only have a few hundred made, so if you take one, make sure you hold onto it and wear it again to other hearings in the future.

Please forward this on to everyone you know in Utah. Ask them to be there to support Clay's Law!

Just so you know where we are at in the legislative process... here is the breakdown. Clay's Law has to pass each step. If it fails in any one of these spots, it's dead. Then we will have to work even harder next year to get it passed. Let's just knock it out of the park NOW!!

1. Senate Sub Committee Hearing - this is the meeting that is on Thursday.
2. Senate Vote - The whole Senate will be able to vote on Clay's Law.
3. House Sub Committee Hearing - Just like the Senate, it has to go through the sub committee first.
4. House Vote - The whole House of Representatives will be able to vote on Clay's Law
5. Appropriations Sub Committee - This sub committee decides if it's worth the money to pass.
6. Governor - After passing all of that, Gov. Huntsman can still Veto the Law. So, we'll need to start writing him letters too.

There are only five weeks left in the legislative session. So this will all fly by really fast. We will need as many people as possible to show up to all of the hearings and votes. Please continue to contact your legislators and ask them to support Clay's Law!!!

Thank you for all of your hard work and support. This will take all of us to get this passed!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Valentines Day Gift Ideas

Valentine's Day doesn't have to suck. I decided several years ago that no longer was he going to top me in the gift giving department. So I sat down one day and wrote a list of memorable, mostly inexpensive gifts.

1. Cake your lips with lipstick then kiss the bathroom mirror topping it off with “I LOVE YOU” in all caps like that. Then google how to get that much lipstick off the mirror.

2. Get the biggest box you can find and let the kids help you decorate it with hearts and messages of love. If you can all fit, hide inside the box. Then jump out and surprised him when he walks through the door. CAUTION - do not write honey do's on the box no matter how tempting.

3. Buy car paint pens (Wal-Mart). Get the kiddies involved and draw hearts and cupids all over his car windows.

4. Write down all the favorite memories you have of the two of you on cute paper. Cut them in strips and put them in a cool box. Put the box on top of the toilet so you’re sure he’ll read one at least everyday.

5. Purchase fish net stockings and the highest heels you can find at Nordstrom. Go home, put them on and start vacuuming the house.

6. Gather all the love letters and cards you've ever sent to each other and put them in a scrapbook. Place on top of the television so he's sure to read at least once. Then you can place on the bookshelf.

7. Send him a pajama gram at work. Start office gossip.

8. Dress up as cupid and shoot him with arrows that have suction cups on the end.

9. Take out all the flags in a bag of Hershey kisses and insert your own flags telling him the reasons why you love him.

10. Censored


Monday, January 26, 2009

Senate Bill 43 - Clay's Law Video

Please refer this You Tube video to your legislators! Thank you so much everyone!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Here it comes...

Sorry for the quietness. I've been hiding under this...

Press Advisory

Coalition to Update Utah Insurance Coverage for Autism

Legislators, business leaders and families join together in announcing a bill to update medical insurance to eliminate discrimination of and provide coverage for children with autism. “Clay’s Law”, named after a child who, after successful treatment, no longer has autism, will help countless children and save taxpayers in Utah millions of dollars.

When: Thursday, January 22, 2009 11 a.m. – 11:30 a.m.

Where: Utah State Capitol Rotunda

Who: Sen. Howard Stephenson (Utah Senate District 11), Rep. Roger Barrus (Utah House District 18), Fraser Bullock (former CEO 2002 Olympic Winter Games - in absentia), Paul Carbone, MD (Intermountain Pediatric Society), Steve Michalski (autism specialist), Leeann Whiffen (Clay’s mother), Brittany Recalde (parent), and Holly Rechis (parent).

Ample space will be available for photography (still and video) and audio recording. A press Question & Answer session will follow the brief comments. If you would like to make arrangements to interview any of the speakers listed above, or want more information about the Utah Autism Coalition, please call Leeann Whiffen.

# # # #

Monday, January 12, 2009

What is Steamy, Sexy, and Autism?

A Jenny McCarthy/Jim Carrey fundraiser? Wrong! It’s Kay Thomas’s exciting new book, Better Than Bulletproof! So scoot on over to Kim Stagliano's and leave a comment so you can enter the contest for a free, signed copy of this must read!

Until then, we’re running a contest of our own. In the comments, I want you to write your very best steamy G to PG-13 rated one or two-liner. Come on, Twilight fans, I know you have one tucked away somewhere…

I’ll kick it off…

His oversized hand pressed gently against the small of her back as he dipped her in his arms, staring deep into her hungry eyes. He pressed his lips firmly against hers in a passionate embrace that spoke of their enduring love and unwavering loyalty to one another.

(If this were a scene taken from my life, which it isn’t, the next line would read something like this…Suddenly there was a loud banging on the bedroom door. Mooooooooooom! Judd threw his sippy cup at me!”)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

In warmth, in green, in love…

In Green…

I finally saved enough dust bunnies to make good on my 2009 Declaration. See for yourself. Already used one to clean my face. I named one of them Brynne – because that was supposed to be the name of the girl we never had.

Feels so good to be green.

In Love…

Today, January 6, we celebrate the day Sean asked me to marry him. Down on one knee, he faced a long pause with silence as I finally said…I’m scared. Then the color left his face and drained to his toes. We’ll always remember that day for reasons that include me ending up making a decision that would be akin to winning a high stakes poker game every day of my life.

This what he brought me. (I took the bite)

In Warmth…

At the beginning of the year I was asked to teach a group of 7-year old children in our church. One of these energetic children is a charming girl with autism. I’ll call her Paige - the name we were going to give the other girl that we never had. On my first Sunday with this new class, we sat together as a large group for a lesson and singing time. Many times she got up and bolted over to the teacher she had the year before. I finally coaxed her to sit on my lap for the rest of the time.

As we broke into classes, I threw out my planned lesson and told the kids to sit on the floor with me. Then we told stories about choosing the right. Paige bounced between sitting under the table and climbing all over the stacked chairs. This lasted for most of the class time. At the end, I gave them all something to color, and I began gathering up my things. Paige turned around, looked right at me and asked, “What’s your name?"

Taken back I replied, “Mrs. Whiffen”. She was quiet for a minute, but continued looking at me. “I like you, Mrs. Whiffen.”

And there it was. I looked at her, she looked at me, and I was dialed in. And if you’ve ever connected with a child with autism, even if it’s a brush with time, the feeling is like lounging on a fluffy cloud somewhere in heaven.