Saturday, October 31, 2009


For at least the last three years Rojo has declined all offers to get a new Halloween costume, instead opting to wear the red M&M costume we bought at Goodwill for $1.50 a million years ago. It's comfortable. There is no mask. It's predictable. It's red. It's perfect.

As soon as we turned our calendars to October he started in. "Mom, the Halloween carnival is on Friday, October 30th. I am going to wear my red M&M costume and Rosie is going to be a green M&M.

In the back of my mind I made a hazy note to check in with Rosie about this, but I kept forgetting.

Finally, about two weeks ago I saw Rosie when I picked up Rojo from school, and I said, "Rojo tells me you are going to be a green M&M with him for Halloween, is that true?"

"Yes! I am!" she chirped.

I put the whole matter in the "handled" section of my life and forgot about it entirely.


A friend and teacher at school came by on Thursday evening so we could go have dinner. She said, "Rosie is trying to get ahold of you. She is wondering about the green M&M costume." That's when it dawned on me that Rosie thought I had it, and I thought she had it.

I knew it was not a matter of going to the store and buying another one, I haven't seen them for sale in years, and Goodwill was probably closing, and I could see Rojo's simple dream go up in smoke. Not an option.

I racked my brain until I remembered that Kathleen's daughter had been not only an M&M one year, YEARS ago, but I thought a green one. I called Kathleen's cell phone. Yes, she thought it was green and she thought it might have survived her recent purging of the costume box, but she had a distant memory of lending it to someone and couldn't remember getting it back. She'd check when she got home.

My friend and I went off to dinner and about the time the wine arrived, Kathleen called. The green M&M costume had been located, she would put it on her front porch for me so I could get it on my way home and take it to Rosie.

And that's just what we did, except when we got to Rosie's house she wasn't home, and I feared she had her mother out searching the town, in vain, for a green M&M costume. I tried calling their cell phone but nobody answered. About an hour later Rosie called.

"Carrie? Did you try to call?"

"Yes, Rosie, I wanted to let you know I found you a costume and I put it on your front porch. I hope you aren't out looking for one right now."

"We were picking up my sister from soccer and then we were just about to go looking for a costume. Your timing is perfect."

No, Rosie, you're perfect.

It takes a village.

Friday, October 30, 2009

"I like not to know for as long as possible because then it tells me the truth instead of me imposing the truth."

Michael Moschen

* Photo from

Thursday, October 29, 2009

(This week's writing assignment was to tell the story of a name.)


“Mom, I hate my name. I want it to be different. I want it to be Missy, or Sheri, or Dena. Nobody has my name and I don’t like it.” Mom is in the kitchen making me toast for breakfast, and I am sitting at the breakfast bar waiting. The accordian screen that divides the kitchen from the dining room, is folded up behind me. I twist in my seat and my knees bump into it. I’m growing. My legs didn’t used to do that. I should be growing, I’m in third grade and my teacher told us all this was going to be a big year for growth.

“Carrie,” Mom says while putting just the right amount of butter on my toast, all the way to the edges but not globby anywhere. She cuts it in half diagonally, just the way I like it. Triangles. “You have a beautiful name, it was your great grandmother’s name. Here, let me show you.”

Mom hands me my toast and as I nibble it from one corner to the next, she comes over to my side of the breakfast bar and reaches for something in the cupboard below. It’s the chest that holds the real silver. She opens the dark wood box and inside it’s all purple and soft with a special place for each knife in the lid, and special sections for salad forks, dinner forks and spoons down below. In the place that’s not special, the extra space, are the big forks and spoons, serving pieces, Mom says, and the butter knives.

We use the real silver on very special occasions: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter and maybe on a birthday. Maybe. Someday the real silver will be mine because I am the oldest and the only girl and the one that will put it to good use. Mom has not actually told me this, but that is my guess, and I think it’s a good one.

Mom looks at all the pieces in the section of mixed up pieces, and pulls out a spoon. “How come that spoon is not with the other ones?” I ask Mom.

“Because it’s special,” Mom says. So, I was wrong, that section below is not for the pieces that are not special, that section is for the pieces that are. “Look at this spoon and tell me what it says on the bottom.”

I take the thin silver spoon in my fingers and touch where the three engraved letters are on the handle. “CEW,” I say, “what does that spell?”

“Those were your great-grandmother’s initials,” Mom says, “Your father’s grandmother. You were named after her.” Mom sits down on the stool next to me and continues. “When I was pregnant with you I found this spoon in a drawer. I’d never seen it before, so I asked your father about it. He said CEW stood for Carrie Evans Wilson. I knew right then that that would be your name, and your father agreed.”

Mom didn’t say, “For the first time,” or “for once,” or anything like that, but I think that’s what she was thinking. She and Dad don’t agree on much, at least that’s what I think. It’s not like they really fight, either. It’s confusing. One thing I’m not confused about, though, is that they both love me.

I keep twirling on my stool and eating my triangle toast and just thinking how special that spoon and my name are, and how special I am. Missy, Sheri and Dena would be more popular names, for sure, but they wouldn’t be as special.

* Photo from

Tuesday, October 27, 2009


Song of the day by one of my favs, Dar Williams. Click here to watch the YouTube video.

"What Do You Hear in These Sounds"
Words and music by Dar Williams

I don't go to therapy to find out if I'm a freak
I go and I find the one and only answer every week
And it's just me and all the memories to follow
Down any course that fits within a fifty minute hour
And we fathom all the mysteries, explicit and inherent
When I hit a rut, she says to try the other parent
And she's so kind, I think she wants to tell me something,
But she knows that its much better if I get it for myself...
And she says

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, What do you hear in these sounds?
And... Oooooooh,aaaaaaah
What do you hear in these sounds?????

I say I hear a doubt, with the voice of true believing
And the promises to stay, and the footsteps that are leaving
And she says "Oh", I say "What?"...she says "Exactly",
I say "What, you think I'm angry
Does that mean you think I'm angry?"
She says "Look, you come here every week
With jigsaw pieces of your past
Its all on little soundbytes and voices out of photographs
And that's all yours, that's the guide, that's the map
So tell me, where does the arrow point to?

What do you hear in these sounds?
What do you hear in these sounds?????

And when I talk about therapy, I know what people think
That it only makes you selfish and in love with your shrink
But Oh how I loved everybody else
When I finally got to talk so much about myself............

And I wake up and I ask myself what state I'm in
And I say well I'm lucky, cause I am like East Berlin
I had this wall and what I knew of the free world
Was that I could see their fireworks
And I could hear their radio
And I thought that if we met, I would only start confessing
And they'd know that I was scared
They'd would know that I was guessing
But the wall came down and there they stood before me
With their stumbling and their mumbling
And their calling out just like me...and...

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, The stories that nobody hears...and...

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, and I collect these sounds in my ears...and

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, that's what I hear in these sounds...and...

Oooooooh,aaaaaaah, that's what I hear in these......
that's what I hear in these SOUU OUUUN NNNDS!

Monday, October 26, 2009


I try not to complain, but let's face it, there are things/people/events that get to me, and pretending they don't is not helpful to my healing. I'm all about what's helpful to my healing these days.

Perhaps the best part of the book, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life, is that you are asked to start off by complaining. Just a free-for-all. Complain, complain, complain. Make a list and make it long. List every little thing that has you out of sorts.

The point is to see the patterns, and to determine which areas of your home/life are most out-of-whack, and which ones are in balance. The spiritual intuitive was right, I had far too few Helpful People in my life. All my other complaints fell into one of two other categories. The rest of my home/life are chugging right along.

By complaining freely, I was able to see that I was wrong, not "everything" sucks, just a couple biggies, and I could focus on them and feel some relief right away.

I'm determined to feng shui the house without spending a dime, and the book gives great tips on how to do that. I'm moving plants, sticking things under the cushions of the couch, inside drawers and under rugs. I'm already feeling the ch'i move about in a way that's helpful to my healing.

And that's helpful. To my healing.

* Photo from

Saturday, October 24, 2009


My dad used to tell me that his mother had a saying, "Tomorrow never comes." My dad instilled this in me as a work ethic, to not put off until tomorrow, what could be done today. I over-learned that one.

Thursday night I put Rojo to bed, happily, I thought. Half an hour later he came into our room crying, "I feel so left out. You are talking to Daddy and I am all alone in my room."

He was inconsolable, and cried for 45 minutes straight. "I am too stressed to fall asleep," he said. Finally, nearly two hours later, we got him to sleep.

Friday morning he woke up, was happy, hyper and had moved on. "Last night I cried like there was no tomorrow," he said, then holding his arms out, palms up, he said, "but here it is."

My grandma and father were wrong. Tomorrow does come.


* Photo from

Friday, October 23, 2009

Exactly. Watch, and you'll never say, "idiot," "stupid," "dumb," or "retarded," again.

They are here to teach.

Are we learning?

Thursday, October 22, 2009


"Through our senses the world appears. Through our reactions we create delusions. Without reactions the world becomes clear."

From Jack Kornfield's, Buddha's Little instruction Book

* Photo from

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

*This week's homework was to start with the line, "I didn't know it at the time, but everything was about to change."


I didn’t know it at the time, but everything was about to change. Actually, “about” is over stating, it, but still, looking back, that’s when it all began, my thing with Mary.

Dad’s in the living room. He’s always in the living room when he’s home, just him, his beanbag ashtray, Salem menthols and a gold colored plastic cup filled with ice and some kind of alcohol. I don’t know the name of it, but I do know this: it stinks and it’s not his first. Mom calls the glass a tumbler and Dad goes back to the cupboard in the kitchen at least three or four times per night to refill the tumbler and the ice. He likes it cold, I guess. When dad and his tumbler get going we all know to stay away. Nobody even needs to tell me this, it’s just common sense, I mean who wants to be near all that smoke and sit in a dark room while dad does whatever it is he’s doing besides drinking and smoking, mostly watching TV, I guess, and something Mom calls brooding.

When Dad’s not in the living room, then Mike and I turn the TV around, we just shove the stand it’s on and move it so it’s not facing Dad’s chair anymore, and people that want to be serious about watching their shows can see it. We watch “Brady Bunch” on Friday nights and right after that we watch “The Partridge Family,” then it’s time to go to bed.

But the night that changed everything, I walked into that dark, smoky room to get the book I left in there after school, ARE YOU THERE GOD, IT’S ME, MARGARET. I walked right into that room with Dad, the Salems and the tumbler and Dad bolted from his paisley covered rocking chair he got in The Orient. “You’re the next Virgin Mary!” Dad said. Only he didn’t say it like that so much, more like, “Yooooou’re… the… neeeeeext… VIRRRRRRGIN… MAAAARY!” like he was really p.o.’d. I’m not sure why he was the one sounding p.o.’d, I was the one that just wanted to get my book and get out, I wasn’t expecting to hear that.

Now I’m not sure what to do with that information. I’m pretty sure he’s wrong, I mean how many Virgin Marys does one world need, anyway? Grandma says Jesus will come again to judge the quick and the dead. She says quick means living. I don’t see why Jesus would need to actually go through that whole being born thing again, though, I mean he’s already been here once, you know?

But here’s the thing. Now I’m obsessed with Mary, which is a problem because we are not Catholic, and Mary is for the Catholics, and being a Catholic would be just as bad as being a Mormon. Dad actually said to me, “I’d rather you marry a BLACK man than a Catholic!” And he was just standing in the kitchen that time; he hadn’t even gone into the living room with the Salems and the tumbler yet. So, there’s the problem with Mary. Liking her is opening a whole can of worms.

The Catholics worship Mary, Mom says. We are only supposed to worship God, and possibly his only son, Jesus, but that’s it. The rest are false gods, and you don’t even need to put a capital “g” in gods because they are not even important. That is one thing that Mom and Grandma definitely agree on: false gods. People that wear a lot of make up and spend a lot of time in front of the mirror are vain, and making beauty their false god, too. Pretty much anything can be a false god, anything that makes you forget about God with a capital “G.”

“Dad,” I asked him once, “why don’t you like the Catholics?”

“Because of the pope,” he said, “and how the pope won’t let them use birth control.”

I know all about birth control, we learned about it last year in 5th grade. I also know that Mom and Dad practice the only 100% reliable method: abstinence. That’s because Dad sleeps upstairs, and Mom sleeps downstairs, and you have sex right before you fall asleep at night, so that’s how I know.

Maybe if Dad had said he’d rather I marry a Catholic than a black, I’d be obsessed with African Americans. Maybe if he'd said I was going to be the next Amelia Earhart I'd be preoccupied with flight. Maybe I’ll never know. But from that moment on, I wanted to know more and more about Mary, and if Catholics were my route to her, I would put myself on that path, however round about.

* Photo from

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


"Only a powerful soul can offer love. Only a powerful soul can afford to be humble. If we are weak, then we become selfish. If we are empty, we take; but if we are filled, we automatically give to all. That is our nature."

Dadi Prakashmani, 1922-2007
Indian Peace Activist and Spiritual Leader

A powerful soul, a soul full of power, that's the soul that can love. Rojo said to me yesterday morning while typing madly on his computer, "Mom, I just love your soul." I actually can't believe he said that, because if there's one thing my soul is not these days, it's filled.

There are a lot of things on my To Do list and all of them important, but none of them as crucial as making my soul powerful. Full of power.

* Photo from

Monday, October 19, 2009


The magician-turned-naturopath e-mailed and said for Rojo to get into the 10th percentile for weight (so as not to cause a CARDIAC concern - holy $#%@), he needs to weigh 82 lbs., 20 lbs. above where he was when he first saw her. We're up six, maybe even seven so I had a little chat with Rojo.

"Rojo, you need to gain fourteen more lbs. You've already done a great job of gaining six, so let's do something special. Every time you gain five more pounds we'll do something fun. You can be thinking of what you want to do for each of these times!"

"I already know what I want to do, Mom, I want to go to Starbucks and get ice water and watch the shot clocks."

There is a Starbucks just down the road from us and it's on a busy corner. If you get your ice water and go sit outside and pull the chairs to the middle of the corner of the sidewalk, thereby impeding pedestrians, dog walkers and strollers coming from all directions, you can see not one but TWO cross walk signs that countdown numerically, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 then the orange hand goes up to indicate STOP.

So, needless to say, that's exactly what we did.

He watched, and help count (loudly) for the "shot clocks," and I observed all the people going by and tried to look nonchalant as they struggled to get around us.

I saw a little family, man, woman, four-year-old boy and two-year-old girl going by. The man gently placed his arm around the woman, then moved his arm across her back in a brief but tender gesture that deeply moved me. Then he took off his sweater.

I bet she said she was cold so he's taking off his sweater and giving it to her, I thought.

So, needless to say, that's exactly what he did.

That's lovely, I thought. That kind of pure love.

I looked over at Rojo. He shows me that kind of pure love every single day. My eyes filled with tears and I hoped he'd keep looking at the shot clock and not at me.

So, needless to say, that's exactly what he did.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

I'm at Hopeful Parents today. See you there.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

The Blessing of Unanswered Prayers

I asked for strength that I might achieve;
I was made weak that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked for health that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy;
I was given poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life;
I was given life that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I had asked for,
but eveything that I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself my unspoken prayers were answered;
I am, among all men, most richly blessed.

Source unknown

Friday, October 16, 2009


Went to see Susan, a spiritual intuitive two weeks ago. I've seen her several times throughout the years, and each time I'm given so much useful information/guidance/help I almost blow a fuse. Actually, this time I went mostly to get some help understanding what was going on with Rojo. Actually, it was Michelle O'Neil that suggested I consult a medical intuitive. Not knowing of any medical intuitives, I called Susan. I'm glad I did.

She did talk a lot about Rojo, and confirmed what I had already figured out by that point, that he what was going on with him would be best treated by a naturopath. The fact that he's gained six pounds in two weeks is proof.

We talked about every other aspect of my life, too, again, her mostly confirming what I already knew, but was resistant to know.

She urged me to Feng Shui my house, and suggested I get this book, Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life. She pulled out a piece of paper, divided it into nine sections and labeled them all for me.

"This one here," she said, pointing to the lower right corner, "is your Helpful Friends section. You are in a place in your life when you need to pull in all the help you can get. One thing you can do right away is go home, get some foil and make an envelope. Write down the names of three people that you need to be helpful, and put those pieces of paper into the Helpful Friends envelope. Then put the envelope in that section of your house, visit the envelope often, and watch what happens."

I wrote down the names of two specific people I was wanting to be more helpful, and the no-name of someone I was hoping to attract. I attracted that no-name person. Still don't know their name, but it's been revealed to me that they are on the horizon and in a position to help. The other two are being more helpful, too. I'm sold.

That's the great news, but the equally great news is it's changed the way I feel about asking for help. I have had to overcome my phone phobia this week and talk to doctors, insurance companies, labs that made mistakes, blah, blah, blah. Each time I pick up the phone I say a little prayer, "Thank you for putting me through to a very helpful person." When I first called Blue Cross yesterday a lovely man named Kyle answered, I explained the situation and he said, "I'm sorry, that's not my field of expertise, but let me put you through to someone that can be more helpful. And he did. Sondra. Sondra put me on hold twice while she made telephone calls FOR me so I didn't have to. Then she called me back a half hour later to tell me she thought of one more thing that might be helpful to know.

My new attitude is that the universe is full of people just waiting to help me, I just need to ask. And wait with positive expectancy.

* Photo from

Thursday, October 15, 2009


"A blossoming tree becomes bare and stripped in autumn. Beauty changes into ugliness, youth into old age, and fault into virtue. Things do not remain the same and nothing really exists. Thus, appearances and emptiness exist simultaneously." HH the Dalai Lama

My friend, Deb, used a term with me only once, but it so resonated that I've never forgotten it, have now stolen it, and use it approximately 100 times a day.

Looking across from the table at me as she nibbled on her wilted spinach salad, she listened as I described a particularly upsetting encounter I'd had with an individual. "That's not healed behavior," she simply said.

Just that. No judgment. No blame. No solution, just a deeper layer of understanding to help me see what I was seeing and hear what I was hearing.

Five years ago I set off to write a book. Instead I wrote a series of pieces, threw them all together and named it Fully Caffeinated. Then I started a blog and called it Fully Caffeinated. I wrote all over my life, the beginning, the middle, the now, the ups the downs, the spiritual and rants. After spending a few weeks alone the summer I turned 44, my "Power Year," I came back and wrote a memoir about that transformative time.


I wrote it immediately after that summer. While all the emotion of that time is there on the page, the healing was not. Quite simply? The book is not an example of healed behavior.

It is with great thought and no small amount of grief, that my agent and I have decided to stop pursuing the publication of UNSTRUNG, at least in its current state. There are parts of it that still bring me to tears, those parts are beautiful. Those parts are helpful. Those parts are healed. And perhaps it is those parts that will find their way into the new book, which for at least now remains nameless and faceless.

I'm not good with open ends. I'm not good with uncertainty. I'm not good with change.

I'm working to heal that.

So it can be on the page.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

This week our homework was to write a piece with fewer than 1,000 words, that has sugar for a theme.

Writing fewer than 1,000 is seldom my problem Actually, 137 did it for me. Here it is:


Between his index and pointer fingers he grabs the small white pill from the tiny Gladware cup of brown sugar. Out comes a pinch, which he puts it in his mouth, swallows and we wait.

We wait for the tapping to stop.

We wait for the kicking of both feet against the breakfast bar to cease.

We wait for the humming, the jocular swearing, the loud volume and the antics to subside.

As little as 20 minutes and up until 90 it could take. And then it will come. A stillness that will allow us all to take a fuller breath, complete a thought, hear ourselves think.

For 2 ½ hours.

Then back comes the tapping.

And the kicking.

And the humming.

And the swearing, volume and antics.

And we welcome him back.

Because we missed him.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

You are cordially invited to attend an "open house" beginning Wednesday, October 14, in honor of the newly renovated Rose and Thorn Journal.

Drop by, sign up for the newsletter, check out the new digs (and blog!), follow us on Twitter and Facebook, leave us your comments/thoughts, and wish us well!

Rose &Thorn is a quarterly literary journal featuring the voices of emerging and established authors, poets and artists.

Monday, October 12, 2009


I went to the Franciscan Spirituality Center today with Kathleen for a class on praying with our dreams. It was really great. A 78-year-old priest that gets it, was the leader. Paul. Just Paul. Don't you love him already? There in his olive colored sweatshirt and olive colored wide wale cords he sat, beaming, guiding and loving as we worked on adding "our holy one" to our dreams. He's big on Jesus. He doesn't care what you are or are not into - whomever/whatever you consider holy will do very nicely.

The idea is to record your dreams - waking yourself up in the middle of the night if need be - and then meditating on them in the light of day, "inserting your holy one" into the dream until you get the "click." Until you get what the dream is trying to tell you. Or until you get what it is not trying to tell you.

He did a lot of, "If it were my dream it might mean to me..." but emphasized the dream can only be properly interpreted by the one doing the dreaming.

I dream often of flying. I'm the only one and I am always really pleased with myself in these dreams. It was suggested I come back to earth, that I might think I'm above everyone else. Perhaps. But Paul shook his head no, said it was really neat and asked me if I wanted help in completing those flying dreams, bringing them to an ending.

He led me in a guided meditation in which I was somewhere before I took off flying, then had me feel what that felt like for as long as I could, then tell him where I ended up. A valley. I was flying from a place of elevation to a lower place, yet there was a sense of soaring, not plummeting. A sense of gliding, not falling. A sense of transcending, not devastation.

I can't tell you how helpful this 3 minute exercise was. I had tears in my eyes and was grateful he didn't ask me to share any more of it with the group. At the time it felt to personal, too intimate, too close to true.

* Photo from

Sunday, October 11, 2009


10. All four of us plus one of Woohoo's friends drove down to Corvallis for an OSU game yesterday - Go Beavs! They won!

9. Something big was going on on campus with the Greek system, (beside the game against Stanford), and it was one giant tailgater/party everywhere you looked.

8. I'm not sure if all that partying talked my daughter into going there or scared her away.

7. Today is my mom's 79th birthday. She makes 79 look good. Really. Good.

6. She's already let me off the hook for planning a big 80th. Thanks, Mom.

5. We took her birthday party to her: lemon bars, balloons, flowers, cards and a nice visit.

4. Went to Wordstock alone and found three great writer friends there. Love when that happens.

3. Heard Hope Edelman read and talk about her book, The Possibility of Everything. Just finished her book a couple of days ago. It is SO good.

2. Hope was incredible as a speaker/writer/teacher. Got me all fired up.

1. I'm excited to take Rojo to the naturopath tomorrow and have her weigh him. I think he's gained 6 lbs. in the two weeks since she's seen him. : )

* Photo from

Thursday, October 08, 2009


I pull the car right up in front and he sees me as he files out of school with the rest of his class. He reaches for the back door, opens it, flings his backpack on the seat and scoots in next to it.

"Hi, honey, how was your day?" I ask, same as always.

Usually he says "Good." For all of September he said, "I'm tired," or even "Stressful," and the worst one, "Today was a day of hell." The last couple of days he's come home nearly skipping, with an excited look on his face, and answered, "Great!"

"Can we go to Trader Joe's and buy more spinach pizzas?" he asks.

"Sure," I say, "I was just waiting to go until I picked you up so we could go together."

"Mom?" he says, and I prepare to receive his verbal list of all the other things he wants at Trader Joe's. But instead he says, "Why do I have braces? Why am I growing up? Why am I stressed out? Why am I not with you?"

Then he moves on to the verbal list.

"Mom, we need fruit leathers, too. And veggie sticks. And butter. We are almost out of butter."

For weeks I've been tossing and turning over what's going on with him and what I can do about it. I had come to the same conclusion he had: he was struggling with his braces, with growing up, with stress, and perhaps most of all, with separating from me. Not just transitioning from the summer to the school year, but from childhood to adulthood.

Today is my dad's birthday, October 8th. He would be 88 today, and that's something worth noting.

I looked up the numerology of 8, and it was my dad to a "t."

* "More than most people, your failures in marriage can be extremely expensive for you."

* "Although jovial in nature, you are not demonstrative in showing your love and affection. The desire for luxury and comfort is especially strong in you. Status is very important."

* "Your Life Path treads that dangerous ground where power and corruption lie. You may become too self-important, arrogant, and domineering, thinking that your way is the only way. This leads inevitably to isolation and conflict."

* "The people you run the risk of hurting the most are those you love: your family and friends."

* "Be careful of becoming too stubborn, intolerant, overbearing and impatient."

As astute readers of this blog have pointed out, an 8 on its side is the symbol of infinity, too.

There is a oneness being played out between my dad, son and me. The little boy I was carrying while my dad lay dying, is the boy that will work in his lifetime to break patterns, to heal the past and prepare for the future.

And I am in between, taking this boy with an obsession with the number 8 (remember the Target story?) to wherever it is he is going to go in life. Along his path. Healing my dad's path, and reframing mine.

* Information from

* Photo from

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Here's my homework for tomorrow's writing class. Here's what we were told:

Your assignment this week is to write about a secret.

It can be an important secret or a seemingly small secret. It can be kept for a good reason or an evil reason or a silly reason or an "I am ashamed" reason.

Focus on writing the first scene of the story in a cinematic style--using dialogue and visual details (other sensory details are great, too), so that we can really SEE the scene. In this scene, one of the characters has a secret that he or she is not revealing.

You may simply bring this first scene, or you may continue with the story--following it wherever it takes you as a writer--perhaps to the moment when the secret is revealed to the reader, perhaps to the moment it is revealed to the other characters, or perhaps to some other outcome.


“Boys have so many sperm I feel sorry for them,” my mom tells us. We’re in the backseat and the “way back” of her orange 1976 Plymouth Volare station wagon. It has wood panels, too, but the panels are not actually wood. The car is pretty new and already I can tell those wood panels are really just contact paper.

My cousin Julie took the bus all the way from Portland to Prineville so she could be with me on my thirteenth birthday. My really good friends, Gail and Julie, are here too. So there are two Julies, but that’s not as confusing for me as it is for them. When Gail or I say, “Julie!” they both turn around. Mom is driving all four of us over to Kah-Nee-Tah for the weekend. It’s about an hour away. My brother Mike is staying with a friend, and we don’t live with Dad anymore, so it’s just us girls.

Mom’s talking about sex. I guess she thinks now that we’re all turning thirteen, that we need to know about these things. Mom doesn’t know that I have a book that’s going to teach all of us much more about sex than she could ever even know about. It’s called FOREVER and you have to be thirteen to even check it out from the Prineville library. I know because I tried to check it out when I was twelve, but the librarian wouldn’t let me. “How old are you?” she said. She looked like she was really old, like 50.

“I’m twelve,” I said, “I’ve read all of Judy Blume’s books, I’m sure I can handle this one.” I took my hands out of my pockets of my poncho and stood up as straight and tall as I could so I’d look very mature for my age. Too bad I had worn my hair in two braids that I looped back around to make two circles like the Swiss Miss girl. That probably didn’t help me look sophisticated, but it was a cute look, everyone said so.

“Sorry,” the old lady said, “you have to be thirteen to check out this book.” She scooted back in her rolling chair and swiveled right away from me. “Case close” her back told me. “Case close,” was not going to work for me. So, when I turned thirteen, on my actual birthday, February 14, 1976, I rode my bike to the library after school, and just marched myself right back up to that old lady and said, “Today is my thirteenth birthday, and I am here to check out FOREVER.”

This time she let me hand her my library card and I signed my name in the back of the book. Maybe it was because I’d remembered to wear my hair straight down and parted in the middle. Plus, I had some Bonnie Bell strawberry Lip Smacker on, and that couldn’t have hurt, either. She stamped the due date: February 28, 1976, and that was it. I had two weeks to linger over all the things Judy Blume was going to tell me.

I told Julie, Gail and Julie the plan. We’d sleep in the living room and Mom would sleep in the bedroom of the unit we’d rented, and as soon as she was asleep we’d get out FOREVER and read it out loud to each other. Not that Mom would care if we were talking about sex, she would probably be happy, it’s like she was obsessed or something. But still, it’s very weird to read that stuff in front of your mom, no matter how cool she is.

I think the reason Mom talks about sex all the time is that her mom never talked about it with her. Not one single time. Zero. My mom just had to figure it all out on her own and she doesn’t want that to happen to me. It doesn’t really matter how much I know about sex, because I’m not planning on having it until I’m married. Mom might not be Baptist anymore, she’s Episcopalian now, and so are Mike and me, and although I’ve never heard Father Ted actually say it’s wrong to have sex, I’m pretty sure it is. I am going to make Grandma really proud of me, and wait until the wedding night.

“Do you girls have any questions?” Mom asks from the front seat. Nobody said a peep. We weren’t going to ask Mom the questions, we had Judy Blume for that.

Later that night after Mom was asleep, my friend Julie pulled me into the bathroom. Cousin Julie and Gail were taking turns reading FOREVER in the living room. “I have a question I want you to ask your mom, but don’t tell her I asked it, just ask it like you’re curious, not like it’s a real question, okay?”

“Okay, “ I said, looking down at my Lanz nightgown.

Julie was wearing a really pretty long nightgown - pink flowers on yellow fabric. Her parents were pretty strict about what she wore to school. Julie is Mormon. I’d actually gone to a youth group with her one time, but it wasn’t my cup of tea. Plus, I think Grandma would flip out if she knew I’d even tempted Satan by going to something the Mormons were doing. Even though they said they were from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all good Christians knew that was a crock.

“Ask your mom if you have sex before you get your period for the first time, if when you do get your period, you can get pregnant. Ask her that.”

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


1 in 84 boys will be diagnosed with autism. 1 in 150 children. If your life is not already touched by autism, it will be, either directly or indirectly. Monica Holloway has done an amazing job of bringing the diagnoses, and subsequent grief process, to life for those of us that have walked a similar path, and for those that haven't but who empathize.

This book is a love story. It's about the love a special dog named Cowboy has for a special boy named Wills. It's about the special love they have and the miracles that happen because of that love. It's also very much the story of what all parents experience, that I'd-do-anything-for-my-child phenomenon.

I was lucky enough to get an advanced copy of the book, which I tore through in a couple of days, laughing, crying, and shaking my head in agreement all the way through. Monica gets it.

Monica is many things, she is a gifted writer, a born comedian, a devoted wife and friend, but what she is most of all, is a mother. Wills is a lucky boy and we are lucky to be privy to their story. A love story.


1) Oh, Monica. You've gone and turned me into a dog person, and they said it couldn't be done. Tell us, why animals? Why did you go there? And how does a self-proclaimed OCD neat freak, deal with all the pet hair/mess? You're a bigger woman than I.

All of us turn to the things that comfort us most—the person, the taboo dessert, a second glass of wine or (in my case) the animal—that turns down the volume and keeps us as sane as possible in the face of a crisis. I had no idea that animals had actually become that security blanket for me until I was standing in my living room at 11:00 AM, still in my pajamas, having been up since 5:30AM playing with Wills, cleaning cages, feeding Wills, feeding a rabbit, two hamsters, a dumpy frog, changing Wills’s shirt, throwing balls for the puppy, barely choking down oatmeal to sustain myself before attempting to fix the aquarium filter – to no avail.

It got crazy, but here’s the payoff (and it just might be me), but try being sad or hopeless when there are four soft paws following you all around the backyard as you pick up plastic balls and then right out to the mailbox where all of those hideous and expensive bills are lying in wait. A rough tongue laps the back of your knee as you fill and refill the dishwasher. You can see the back of her light blonde furry head as she sits patiently beside the shower door counting the seconds until you emerge, her hero. And you hardly feel like Super Woman. Your child is in trouble, and you have no idea if you’re doing everything in your power to help, even though you’re turning over every rock, reading every single book and crying—a lot. It’s a whole lot of love—especially when the world looks a little shaky.

As I say in the book, after Wills’s diagnosis, “I began collecting furry and scaly creatures who were more dependent, but less scared than I was.”

And what began as just that, an attempt to distract myself from the diagnosis and lap up some animal love myself, grew into an absolute lifeboat for Wills. Animals require nothing in return, and he could relax and have fun with them at a time when strangers scared him half to death.

2) I love all the "firsts" for Wills that came along after Cowboy came along. One of my favorites is how it used to be when you said, "I'm going to crack the window" Wills got worried - he was so literal, but when you guys are all eating pizza and Cowboy gets away from the table and wreaks havoc, Wills laughs and you say, "Funny, right?" He answers, "Killing me." What were some of the other "firsts?"

The biggest first was that Wills told Cowboy that he loved her. I’d never heard him say that to another living soul. It was too intimate for him to say it to us, but when that little voice said, “I love you, Cowboy,” I knew I’d fallen into a goldmine.

Another first, and one that helped my marriage a lot, was that once Cowboy arrived, Wills was able, for the first time, to sleep in his own room. Wills was six years old and had never slept there without his dad or me lying on the floor next to him. Usually, he slept between us in our bed.

Once Cowboy arrived, we successfully got the two of them to stay the entire night in Wills’s room. I have at least forty pictures of Cowboy (in various stages from puppy hood to adult) and Wills sleeping together with her paw resting across his chest. His night terrors also stopped once she arrived.

There’s a ‘bath” scene in the book where I talk about how difficult it was for Wills to have his hair washed or take a bath because bubbles and sometimes even water “hurt” his skin. It was a sensory integration problem that plagued him in many aspects of his life. Tags on the back of shirts gave him “goosebumps” and he refused to eat many kinds of food (grapes, bananas to name only a few) because of their texture.

But one morning, he was crying in the bathtub and I was trying to hurry to cause less upsettment (not a real word) on his part when Cowboy (as a very young puppy) came busting through the door. Before I could stop her, she’d jumped into the water with Wills. I was hysterical, rushing to grab her out of there, but Wills began laughing really hard. Wet fur, water—nothing about this bath was upsetting Wills. Once Cowboy was in there with him, he wanted to bathe her. So he asked for bubbles.

He came out covered in hair and dirtier than he had been going in. But he was happy. Laughing. They bathed together from then on, and I did get his hair washed every time.

So the firsts were many and mostly centered around his comfort with messes and getting really close to another being.

3) I love the scene in the book when the BITCH in the parking lot tells you the problem is that Wills just isn't getting enough love at home. How do you deal with other parents who do not understand? How is that approach the same or different from when you first got the diagnosis?

It still happens, but I’m much more confident now. Autism doesn’t set off the terror in me that it once did – the terror that made it difficult to separate who was misunderstanding us out of love, and who was just plain judging us.

I was waiting for Wills outside a summer camp dedicated to children with disabilities last year. I assumed the parents there would be more open about their child (or mine) having a disability. Not so.

A mother I’d met a few times before said to me, “Wills rode in my car for the field trip yesterday and he’s such a sweet boy.” And I told her how happy I was to hear that and that he was always that way.

“He’s very verbal,” she continued, “he enjoys talking to people.”

“He does,” I said, “and it’s so exciting because he has high functioning autism, and talking to strangers used to be very nearly impossible for him.”

She drew back as if I’d tazered her. “I would not go around telling people that Wills is autistic! No one would ever know. Why put that out there?” She stared at me in disbelief.
“Wills is not ashamed of having autism,” I responded.
“But why say it?” she asked, as if he had a flesh eating virus.
“It’s part of his every day life,” I explained, “not the end of the world.”

Suddenly her daughter ran out to greet her. She was a darling girl with huge green eyes. Wills ran out behind her.
The daughter turned to me and stuttered, “IIIIIII likkkkkkkkkkke Wiilllllllls.” It took great effort for her to speak.
“I’m so glad,” I told her, smiling. “What’s your name?”
Her mother jumped in, “Gina.” (I’m not using her real name.)
I turned back to Gina. “Are you in Wills’s group?”
Her mother answered, “She a year younger.” And then hustled her daughter away.
“Nice meeting you, Gina,” I called after them.

Her mother seemed to have quite a bit of shame around her daughter’s communication skills, not even letting Gina speak for herself. I felt very sorry for Gina.

But I was once that mother. It still embarrasses me to think of how I worried about what other people might think of Wills or me, if they knew he had autism. The shame that I attached to Wills having a disability was painful and wrong. And you know when I let go of it? When his therapist of nine years said to me, “Why do you want Wills having autism to be a good thing? Why do you feel so guilty that it upsets you? Would you be happy if he had diabetes?”

And I realized, no, I wouldn’t be happy if he had diabetes, but I also realized that I had a choice. I could always be upset that Wills had autism or I could accept it as a part of him like his gigantic blue eyes and his freckled nose. Because it isn’t diabetes, and my heart goes out to children dealing with that. Autism is a neurological disorder and we are fortunate enough – in fact, have won the lottery—that he is very, very high functioning.

4) You do an excellent job portraying the love you and Michael so clearly share, while expressing your different paths in dealing with a diagnosis of ASD, and ultimately of acceptance. Can you tell us more about that, how you felt when you got the diagnosis, how Michael felt, and how you worked through that together?

When we got the diagnosis, Wills was three, but he’d been in therapy since he was 18 months old. Still, the diagnosis slapped us right upside the head. The fact of it.

I got busy. My anxiety and fear kicked my energy level up to the moon, which might seem like a good thing if you’re not living with someone who’s picking up your glass before you’re done with it so she can stick it in the dishwasher or finishing all of your sentences because she’s so manic. I took Wills to therapy three times a week and read every book I could find and began learning about new ways to help Wills. My relationship with Michael would take care of itself.

Michael was just as anxious and afraid as I was, but his reaction was to distance himself —not from Wills—but from the diagnosis. It was very nearly impossible to get him to talk about it, let alone pick up a book. In his terror, he shut down.

So we both felt very alone and I got tired of pulling him around by his collar, quoting the books out loud, and he got tired of being pushed and shoved toward something that literally paralyzed him with fear.

Somewhere in the middle — someplace between mania and disassociating—were two people who loved each other very much and, even more importantly, loved Wills.

We went into couples counseling because, clearly, Michael’s avoidance, and my assuming the role of the martyr, was going to destroy this little family.

Thank God we found the middle place. And, of course, it still gets out of whack, but we do pretty well.

5) In your prologue, you killed me with the last paragraph: "Often, these two are heading nowhere in particular, but wind up in that ambiguous place between bravery that only comes in pairs – and miracles that continue long after there is no one to toss the ball to." Gorgeous. Tell us more about Wills today, and some of the miracles of his time together with Cowboy, that live on.

Wills is still very sad about Cowboy, and yet, he very much keeps her memory alive – pictures of her in his room, her old toys that he gives to Buddy Rose.

My writing this book has had the two of us telling all kinds of stories to each other and laughing so hard. But then Wills saw the cover for the first time and cried really hard about losing Cowboy. He cried like it was happening all over again.

A composer friend, David Murphy, created the music that is in the book trailer just for Wills. It’s entitled, “Cowboy’s Waltz.” But he also wrote a song about losing his beloved cat. That song is called “Over Yonder” and you should be able to hear it on my website very soon. But Wills can’t listen to it at all. “I’ll see you over yonder, my good friend …”

He now has Buddy Rose, the new golden retriever he gets at the end of the book who’s 2 ½ now, and just recently, we got a nine week old puppy named Leo Henry. (Another golden.) No surprise—the three of them are inseparable.

The miracles that continue after Cowboy’s (way too early) death all have to do with Wills feeling more comfortable in the world. He still sleeps covered in dog(s), but he doesn’t need a dog to get to sleep or to stay in his room. Messes don’t bother him at all. In fact, since Cowboy’s sloppy, roust-about reign in which she created chaos and great untidiness, I’ve had the pleasure of being irritated about Wills’s dirty laundry being thrown around his room. Such a normal parental annoyance. He’s relaxed enough to create and leave messes—Yahoo!! He’s even been seen with chocolate stains on the front of his shirt.

Almost immediately after Cowboy’s death, I was in the hospital having minor surgery and Wills came with Michael to pick me up. He wheeled me down in the wheelchair I didn’t really need and told me for the first time, “I love you.” And from that day on, it’s been a daily occurrence for both Michael and I: Wills tells us he loves us. And we never take it for granted—never. It’s always an enormous blessing.

Thank you, Monica!

If you have not already watched the trailer, either scroll down to yesterday's blog, or click here.

The book is available in your local bookstores TODAY! Or you can order here.

Monday, October 05, 2009


My friend, Monica Holloway, has done it again. Her first book, DRIVING WITH DEAD PEOPLE was amazing, and critically acclaimed. Now she's gone and written about where so many of us reading (and writing) this blog live: special needs. Her son, Wills, has high functioning autism and is just a year younger than my boy.

Watch this trailer, but not before you grab a Kleenex. Then, count the minutes until tomorrow, because that's the day I'm interviewing Monica right here on this blog, and the book is released!

Thursday, October 01, 2009


On my bad days I watch my son's friends move through the neighborhood as a pack - without him -and I'm sad. They are laughing, joking, throwing a ball around, hanging. He's back home hanging with Elmo.

On my good days I'm thankful for this bunch of boys that are kind to him. They walk to school with him each day. They humor his quirks and laugh at his jokes. I know that even if they did ask him to join them as they roam the neighborhood, he'd say no. He's happy with how he's spending his time, and does not feel left out.

On my bad days I worry about the future. I worry about high school. I worry about what comes after high school. I worry about growing too old and too tired to continue caring for him, but not trusting that anyone else can do it as well as me. I worry about what will happen to him when I'm no longer around to worry.

On my good days I see how every step of the path there have been angels. There have been people that didn't need to go out of their way to help, but did anyway. I trust that Rojo's life is not an accident and he's been graced with an abundance of guides, both physical and spiritual, and he will be fine. He will be better than fine, he will thrive.

On my bad days any illness he has makes me ill and any wellness makes me well. I allow myself to be fused.

On my good days I see that we are indeed, two separate people. I take back whatever emotions I've given him to hold, and give his back to him. I differentiate.

On my bad days I list all the things that need addressing, all the changes that need to be made, all the goals that need to be accomplished, and a panic rises within me and threatens to snuff out my very life force.

On my good days I list all the things we didn't think he'd ever do, and is doing, all the ways he's surprised and delighted us, all the ways we've been so richly blessed by him, and my heart is overcome with gratitude and appreciation.

On my bad days I eat, breathe and sleep special needs. It's all consuming and I hate it and myself for falling into that trap.

On my good days special needs takes its place in my life - a big place, but just a place, not my whole life. I am able to laugh, enjoy, and just be.

On my bad days I'm wracked with scarcity: there's not enough time, not enough money, not enough patience, not enough help, not enough.

On my good days I'm struck by the abundance all around me. All around him. All around.