Friday, July 23, 2010

Autism in Reverse

I gave a presentation many months ago at an annual teacher's convention (out-of-state) and wanted them more than anything to walk away recognizing that kids with autism can improve, that it is worth their time and effort to work with them and their families to try and make a difference. I've had a lot of requests for it, so I recently had the PowerPoint converted into one video that any parent could then show to others to help convey the same message. I hope you will find it helpful!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Treasures we find deep under our beds...

Earlier this week I told my oldest son that he needed to clean his room - something I say at least four times a day to any one of my three children who seem to be having too much fun before their jobs are done. So I was surprised to find my typical two-minute speed cleaner sitting on his floor sorting through old schoolwork he'd collected in his under-the-bed drawers. I tried not to comment on how it looked like he had taken a fan and set it in front of a pile of papers. Instead I glanced at the papers littering the floor, one in particular catching my eye...

As I read the words to the poem/short essay he'd written about what he'd put in a magic box, it took me to a perfect world. It opened a tiny hole into his mind; it held a magnifying glass to his soul. It showed me in beautiful words from a then fifth grader what is really important to him - something he'd never even remotely communicated to me. It reminded me what should be important to me.

Now before you gag and run for the bathroom, let me implore you that I refuse to be one of those mothers who believes her kids are really heavenly beings with tilted halos, or that everything they touch shimmers like a sequin. (splash cold water in face) Richard Paul Evans was brilliant when he once wrote, "It is one thing to take joy in a child's achievements and quite another to aggrandize ourselves through them. It is emotional incest to live vicariously through a child's success."

Be assured my friends, while I'm tap dancing with joy, it is just that. A very happy place to be. So with that in mind, I share with you his essay.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What's it like having your favorite author touch your book?

When I found out that Kathryn Stockett, author of THE HELP, was coming to the King's English I did three chair pirouette's followed by the Tiger fist pump and wide, toothy smile. After I read THE HELP, many months ago, I was so sucked in by the writing, character development, distinct voices, and subject matter that I just had to have it signed. So I finally found a way to contact Ms. NYT Bestselling Stockett to see if she would sign my book. She wrote back, classy author alert!, and said she'd send me a bookplate. (another triple chair pirouette)

So you can imagine my little girl-like, wet-your-pants, excitement when she signed my book in person. Other authors may try to pretend they don't have author idols and that they don't even lose sleep the night before their favorite author signing. Yep, okay.

And it gets even better! I'm sure you can also imagine my "is the earth moving under my feet?" excitement when she placed her hand on MY book, A CHILD'S JOURNEY OUT OF AUTISM. See it in the photo? It was the Mardi Gras. It was the first day of school where all three of my kids were IN school. It was a night of ten new 30 Rocks! The day one of my babies was born.

It was Zoo-Wee Mama! (for all you Diary of a Wimpy Kid closet lovers)

*NOTE TO READERS: If you love to read, okay even if you don't, Maw Books - one of the best book bloggers in Utah - posted my author interview and book review on her blog. Also, sorry for the long delay between posts! We're working on some exciting projects for my non-profit, Utah Autism Coalition.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

We Ladies Need To Stick Together

We ladies need to stick together.

Sandra Bullock echoes this sentiment exactly when sharing her reactions to winning the Oscar for best actress.

I couldn’t agree more.

Ladies, I’m sure you can think of at least five women who have significantly helped you succeed in your life. Unfortunately the truth is I’m also pretty sure you can think of one or two who haven’t been helpful at all. Maybe she even blew you off completely, never called or emailed you back despite your best efforts to contact her for help. Or maybe she’s purposefully made life difficult for you.

Madeleine Albright apparently wasn’t kidding when she once said, “There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.”

In a day where thinness is celebrated to the point of pushing women into anorexia, where family and career become impossible juggling acts, where the stresses and societal, even cultural pressures to be perfect in every aspect of your life become too much – we women need to stick together. You’ve all seen the bumper sticker, Mean Girls Suck. Maybe you’ve even seen the movie. We all know what it feels like to be ignored. We must stick together. Let’s celebrate our differences, put away our pettiness, and instead reach into our hearts and pull out the empathy and innate nurturing abilities we possess to lift one another.

Life is full of distractions, but nothing adjusts our focus clearer than altruism in the form of reaching out to one of our own.

Sticking together doesn’t necessarily mean spending weeks or years helping someone succeed. It means smiling at another woman when you see stress flash across her face. Putting an arm around her when her posture looks heavy. Helping a stranger who “cold calls” or emails you to ask for your professional advice.

Let’s be the women who have been there and who willingly reach a hand down to help the woman who wants to get there.

So to my many women friends: Thank you for celebrating with me, for empathizing with me, and for answering my “cold call” emails. For telling your friends about my book, for calling your legislators to help pass important autism legislation. For being my friend. For sticking together.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Lessons from Haiti

The day after the earthquake in the heart of Haiti, I watched all news updates with intense interest. I went to CNN and watched heart wrenching videos of the disaster. Haitians were running in panic down what used to be a main street – strewn with debris and lined with flattened buildings. Husbands screaming because they can’t find their wives. Mothers screaming for their children. Families torn apart. The camera panned to dead bodies strewn in all directions. A tear fell from my face. Suddenly, an ad popped up next to the video I was watching. It was a picture of a designer stiletto with diamonds studding the heel. I was instantly reminded of the stark contrast of what was happening in the poorest country in the western hemisphere versus the comforts in which we live.

Those scenes haven’t left me.

As the week ensued I watched more horror unfold. People buried alive. Excavators dug mass graves. The stench from the dead was so potent it caused many to faint.

I watched as a woman pleaded with rescuers to help find her daughter. Where? She pointed to the daycare center, now a pile of concrete. The rescuer yelled into a crevice, “If you can hear me, tap three times!” A faint tapping was heard. A dog trained to smell live humans scoured the area finding nothing. The rescuer yelled again, and continued the routine for several hours while digging. The tapping stopped before they could get to her. Her mother sobbed.

Others stood by collapsed homes, knowing their loved ones were pinned inside. But they lacked the proper tools to get them out.

A 10-year old girl remained calm and brave despite her leg being crushed and pinned by a concrete beam. Her uncle worked furiously trying to get her out. She cried out, “God, don’t let me die. Oh, please, God. I don’t want to die.” Hours later she was freed from the rubble. She died on the way to the hospital – three hours away.

Where there was heartbreak, there was also triumph. A 70-year old woman was rescued from a church seven days after the earthquake. Earlier that day, an 18-month old baby was rescued from under the rubble of a flattened day-care center and reunited with his mother. Miracles indeed.

May God bless the Haitian people. May they be comforted and unified. May we learn from their pain and sorrow and be inspired to live better lives and to contribute more to the betterment of humanity.

Impact Your World

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Here's To A Year Of Four-Year-Old-Isms

And how they have helped me remember why it is important to be present in every moment.

Watching him out the back window, his hair matted to his head from the rain as he dipped his wand in the bubbles, and blew. After a couple of minutes, he saw me, he smiled and mouthed the words I love you while he gave me the sign in sign language.

Tucking him into bed one night and pressing "play" as his Mary Pope Osborne book on CD started to play. His eyes got big. He sucked in a deep breath, then said, “I love this one! It makes my heart beep and beep right out of my chest!”

Walking into my office while I was “in the zone” and dumping an armful of leaves onto my desk and computer. He had collected them especially for me.

Telling me one day that Happy + Sad = Purple.

Riding in the car one day and he said, “Look at those pretty clouds up there. I want to get one for you, but it’s too high for me to climb.”

“Mom I have a bloody nose and there’s blood on it. But that’s okay, I just ate it."

"Mom, will you marry me?"

Telling him I had to get beautiful before we went to church he said, "But, you already are beautiful." Then he whistled at me as I came out of my room in make up and a dress.

Bowing his head to pray before dinner, he started, “Once upon a time…” Then went on to tell the most fantastic story about a bunny, then ended it “amen.”

Telling the boys to use the bathroom before we left. I had to ask him three times, and on the third time he pleaded, “Mom, I can’t because I’m all out of pee!”

Asking me, “Is a male a boy?” I said "yep." Then he asked, “Is an email a girl?”

Telling me, “Mom, I love you more than my lego set.”

When asking him how the circus was he replied: “The clown hates me.”

Laying down on my bed due to a severe headache. He came into my room and said, “Mom, I can make you feel all better, just like you make me feel better when I’m sick.” Then he took his little hand and put it on my forehead. "See, don't you feel better now?"

Dum Vivimus, Vivamus
While we live, let’s live

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.