Saturday, around lunchtime, I got a call from my sister. She was halfway to Ohio (from upstate NY) and was coming to surprise us, offering Todd and I a date night, and she was bringing her massage table. She recently became a licensed massage therapist.

Upon hearing the news, the kids let out a big, “YAY!!!!”

After a really dark stretch, it was like she brought the sunshine with her. We made up for Todd’s birthday dinner, taking a long walk to a new restaurant, not once looking at the clock, and walking back leisurely at night. We used to walk at night all the time before kids. The energy is so different at night. We had our best talks then. We’ve really missed it. But there we were, holding hands, talking, laughing, making plans. It was sooo good.  

Sunday, we went to church (more on that amazing experience later, it was a good one) and then Kelli and I were off for a free day, at the art museum, the Botanical Gardens and shopping for a certain b-day girl who will be ten this week. 



Later, in the evening, Kelli insisted on getting out her massage table. She went to school for a year and a half to learn massage, and in all that time, I’d never asked for a massage from her. I was insecure about it.  There was always a reason not to do it, but this time I allowed it.

It was a profound experience, being massaged by my sister. Our relationship was hijacked when we were very little girls, by alcoholism, poverty, and lack. Dysfunction did not draw us together, it made us hole up in our seperate corners, saving ourselves the best ways we knew how.

We’ve been working on our relationship for years, but during the massage I let all mistrust fall away. It felt like all the hurts we’d heaped on each other from childhood on, any unloving we did toward each other became untangled, melting away with each loving touch. There is so much more to be said about the experience, but I am not quite ready to write it yet. Let’s just say both of us were crying at the end, and a great healing had taken place between sisters.

So now, I can tell a new story.

I’m no longer “the island.”  The one with no family support.

I have a sister, who drives five hours to give us a break, to support us, to nurture me.

I am loved, and I am blessed. 

She is on her way home now, after having stayed two nights. Todd and I got a second moonlight walk in last night after my massage. I still can’t believe she was here. It was an incredible surprise.

Thank you Kelli. I love you.   


  kelli profile 2010

Returning the Cello

Today is the day we take Riley’s cello back to the violin store we’ve been renting it from. I gave her plenty of warning. Allowed her to spend a couple extra days with it.

This morning, when it was time to go, she said from the living room,

“Mom. We can’t take the cello back. She’s sick!”

Walking into the room I saw this,



 She looked up at me with sorrowful eyes,

“The A string is loose. The D and C strings are off tune.”

She slumped and sighed, adding, “G is okay.”

It’s sad saying good-bye to a friend. Even if they did give you a shit load of trouble.

Picky Eating Solutions

“It’s not so much that healthy food is expensive as much as fake food is cheap.”

-Betsy Hicks


My friend Betsy’s book is out on Amazon today! 

 picky eating solutions 2









Betsy is mom to three beautiful children, one profoundly affected by autism. She has counseled thousands of families on special diets, and has given presentations on nutrition all over the world.

This book is not a “special diet” book however. It is about getting back to the basics of healthy eating, and strategies to get your picky eaters to try new foods(even if they are already teenagers)! It is full of wonderful advice, real life scenarios, and information on making small, non-overwhelming changes, tips on what utensils and cookware to have on hand and how to stock your kitchen. You can read it in just a day or two, and start to make small changes which will make a big impact on the health of your family.

It is not “Food,Inc.” scary. Pinky swear.

Betsy’s writing is so engaging, reading her book is like sitting down and chatting with a good (non-judgemental) friend.  

I thought I already knew a lot, but I learned so much from Picky Eating Solutions, and implemented some of the “solutions”  before I even finished the book. The sub-title is: Bringing the Joy of Real Food Back to the Table. That’s exactly what this book will help you do.  

Order it on Amazon or through Elementals Living here.   



Our Canadian doctor of Chinese medicine recommended we get some supplements (which for this law or that, she can’t ship) from a local doctor whom she recommended. So we went to the local doctor, and she said she would handle Riley’s situation differently, with different supplements, and she explained why. So we were put in this awful position of having to choose whose ideas to go with. And since Riley’s anxiety has been out of control, and it would make sense to have someone local to go to, we went with the local doctor. Which felt like betraying our Canadian doctor whom I love so much.

I was so confused and torn.

The local doctor wants us to go wheat free/dairy free again. I explained we’d already done this for a year and a half, with no gains, but she said given Riley’s propensity for constipation if she misses even two doses of magnesium, she does not believe her gut is healed. She thinks with the right combinations of healing supplements, and a GF/CF diet, we might have better results, and also reduce Riley’s anxiety. 

Since Seth has issues as well, we will be doing the diet as a family.

So I have been tearing up the kitchen again and feeling utterly overwhelmed. Due to our kids’ health issues we already eat really, really well. No high fructose corn syrup. No chemicals. No preservatives or food dyes. Almost 100% organic.

The GF/CF diet is much easier now than it was even five years ago. So much more is avaiable in the stores and on-line in terms of ideas and recipies and support.

My kids really didn’t bat an eye when we told them. They don’t balk at the special diets at all. Granted it’s because I bust my tail to provide yummy alternatives to anything they could possibly want.

But I’ve been sooo very overwhelmed.

Part of it is the extent of Riley’s anxiety lately. I am worn out. I seriously feel PTSD from clay and cello classes and Girls On the Run and the now abandoned martial arts this season. She screams like Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween, over the most trivial seeming things. Todd and I are limping along, coming up enough to gulp a breath of air before going under again.  We watched the movie Horse Boy the other night (I’ll blog more about that beautiful film later) and the term “emotional incontinence” came up. It fits her. It really does. There is no filter.

So it’s been stressful, but really? If it was just us I wouldn’t be so overwhelmed about the diet. Why am I freaking out?

I’ve spent some time with this question, and basically it’s the perceived judgements from others. As if we’re doing this to be difficult. Or grasping at futile interventions. Or making a big deal out of nothing. 

I’ve seen the eye rolls.

I smell the disapproval.  

And you know what?

I don’t get it. How you could judge parents for trying to help their children, by whatever means. Especially through something as innocuous as dietary changes and healthy eating?

That is screwed up.

So another opportunity presents itself for me to heal, and put more emotional distance between me and those who do not support us as we do our very best to parent these beautiful kiddos. 

Parents of kids on the spectrum need support. Period.

Let freedom ring.


I wrote this post last night, but didn’t have the time or energy to look it over or run a spell check ’til now.

I over did it. We had chorus rehearsal yesterday. This morning, I practiced singing on the way to and from the Girls On the Run 5K in the car(50 minutes each way). Then we had rehearsal again today before the concert. But the thing I believe really did me in? I whooped and hooted too long and hard for all the girls at the race. How could I not?   

So….the concert was going along nicely, and then two songs before my solo, my voice went all Froggy went a courtin’ with a two pack a day habit. I even had to lip synch for a song, which isn’t good, when your solo is barreling down on you like a locomotive.

I whispered to Melody at my right, “My voice is gone.”

Did Melody say, “Sure, no problem. I’ll step in and do your solo?”

She did not.

She slipped me a tic-tac.

I put it in my mouth and crunched it to bits, because I seriously had about 20 seconds, and I didn’t want to inhale it while I sang.

When it was time, I stepped down to the front, and my voice was there!

But then it left me for a second.

And then it was back!

So it wasn’t 100% suckage.

But it wasn’t perfect.

I was brave. And the point is to be brave.

So I’ll try not to cringe, and I’ll try to remember the whole “learning is a process and you don’t have to be perfect” thing we tell Riley all the time. 

Windsong is a supportive bunch. So many people told me I did a good job. They didn’t say, “Good try.”  They said, “Good job.”

Todd said it was good, but he doesn’t know.

Riley was brutally honest,

“Except for that one second, it was great. I think your timing was just a tiny bit off, but you got all the notes. It was good you did it Mom.”

Seth apparently daydreamed through the whole thing, because he asked afterward,

“Why didn’t you do your solo?”

Seriously dude, I was two feet in front of him. And I was projecting! What stage presence I must possess!

Oh, well. 

It could have been a lot worse.

I could have choked on a tic-tac.

I could have lost my voice completely.

Or fainted.

Or died.

Or not been brave at all.

Five Kilometers, Zero Tears



Today was Riley’s 5K with Girls On the Run! We woke up at the crack of dawn and drove almost an hour to Akron for it.



It was at this point during her first 5K she became overwhelmed. With the crowd at the starting gate. This time around, she knew what to expect and it was all good. She knew it would be okay for her teammates to keep their own paces. She knew some friends would fly ahead of her, and some would be far behind. Just like in practice.   

She was very focused!



 Nothing was going to stop my girl.




Look at her go!




HT had to work today, so Little man waited with Riley’s friend’s dad while we ran. I look forward to the day Riley is waiting around, supportive of him for whatever makes his soul light up. We’ll be there buddy!




I love this shot. It was a misty morning. The determination in her body!




 Here we are at the finish.





I love this girl so much.



It was nice we were able to have such a positive experience before I go sing the second solo of my life in a couple of hours. You know, since I’ll probably die.

At dress rehearsal yesterday our director said, “You sound good, but you look terrified.”

That about sums it up. At least the terrified part.

You’ve all been so good to me.

See you next lifetime.


A Mother’s Advice On Teaching Her Child

Recently, a reader named Liz asked the following questions in the comments to this post:

Teaching and Learning Necklace in Sanskrit and English

I would really love to hear more from you about what works when trying to teach your daughter. I’ve been puzzling over how I would go about teaching someone like Riley (I’m a violin teacher). Is there anything that has been done that’s really effective?

I was wondering if maybe giving her warning in advance would be effective (like, this week we’ll work on bow holds, next week we’ll work on tuning, week after we’ll learn a new piece of music, etc.). Then maybe getting the actual feedback wouldn’t sting so much?

Also, when does the anxiety bit kick in? Is it when she gets the instruction (move your fingers like this…), or if she doesn’t get that instruction quite right. Or is it more that she’s upset that she hasn’t been practising properly?

Also, you said that she experienced the same thing with learning the piano and then was able to pick up from watching you learn. Would it help if the teacher started showing you the same thing while she watched?

Again, I’m just throwing out the ideas that sprang to mind, I have no idea how well any of them would work (or how many have already been tried). I would love to hear your thoughts on the matter.

Liz, thanks so much for the questions. I’ll do my best to answer. First let it be known, what I am saying can only be applied to Riley, no broad sweeping generalizations about autism because the kids are all so different. Also, these are my observations in general on teachers, not just on cello.

The one essential thing to be successful when working with Riley is to do it in a spirit of love. This is tricky, because you can’t make a teacher love her. It can’t really be taught. She is a challenging child, and if a teacher is teaching to fulfil their own ego, they are going to quickly resent Riley, and resort to blaming her (or her parents) for their own failure. Believe me when I say no one is trying harder than Riley. No one wants to follow the rules and please their teacher more. A teacher has to have a lot of self-awareness of their own emotions, because your buttons will be pushed. If you are someone who says, “No. I’m fine. It’s my job!” And deny, deny, deny what you feel? You scare me. Because your words don’t match your energy, and that is very confusing for a kid like Riley. She may not read social cues well, but she feels energy, and a tight smile slapped over a seething face does not fool her. She reads loud and clear that in your opinion, she is the problem, and she internalizes this.   

A teacher has to be more concerned with helping Riley achieve competence, than worried about their own competence. Teachers who are out to prove what great teachers they are don’t do well with Riley. Riley will stump even the most seasoned teachers. They aren’t going to get it perfect. This is what Riley is here to teach. She’s wired in a way which makes it impossible for her to conform to the old way of teaching. Even if she wants to! If you are going to be successful with her, you will need to stretch and grow. If you choose to expand, the rewards will be magnificant. You will experience euphoria. Much frustration along the way but oh the nirvana, when it clicks. And then it might not click the next time, and you have to accept that, and keep looking forward. 

I was wondering if maybe giving her warning in advance would be effective. (like, this week we’ll work on bow holds, next week we’ll work on tuning, week after we’ll learn a new piece of music, etc.) Then maybe getting the actual feedback wouldn’t sting so much?

Advanced warning can work both ways. Sometimes warning just gives her time to ruminate! Picking one thing to work on, and only one thing to offer feedback about per lesson does sound like a good idea. It does not guarantee she won’t melt down over the feedback, but to limit it to one goal would be less threatening. She’s had lessons where she can’t get through a 20 second song without being corrected six times. Bow grip. Elbow. Placing of the fingers on the strings. Posture. Bow on string, etc. These tiny bits of feedback, were given in a loving and gentle way, but were still too much for Riley to process while attempting to play a piece.

What would work better is to have the teacher mirror her, and ask Riley to point out what the teacher is doing wrong. Make it a game. I correct you. You correct me. Make it light hearted. Go OVERBOARD with wrong posture. Be breezy. Music lessons tend to be so very serious.

Also, when does the anxiety bit kick in? Is it when she gets the instruction (move your fingers like this…), or if she doesn’t get that instruction quite right. Or is it more that she’s upset that she hasn’t been practising properly?

The anxiety bit is her baseline. If you were holding her hand, walking down the street, you would be surprised how often her body flinches over typical everyday sensory bombardment. Your hand would get squeezed out of fear, more than you can possibly imagine. This is Riley, keeping it together, minute by minute throughout her day. Now add the grave seriousness of music lessons. It’s “important.” Now add a processing delay, that gets forgotten about because she’s so darn smart. You give an instruction, and just as her brain starts to make the correction, you give another, and another and what you really need to do is just stop talking, and give her a minute to process the first thing. Have you ever had a lot of people talking to you all at once and you just want to tell them all to shut up! One at a time please? I imagine this is what too much rapid fire feedback is like for her. Only she can’t tell a grown up to shut up. What she can do is scream and hide under a table. I don’t think she is upset because she hasn’t practiced properly, I think she is just overwhelmed in general at her lessons. And she’s a perfectionist. A teacher can’t match Riley’s perfectionism with their own perfectionism. That will sink a lesson every time.

Also, you said that she experienced the same thing with learning the piano and then was able to pick up from watching you learn. Would it help if the teacher started showing you the same thing while she watched?

Yes. She would learn from watching me, if I were so inclined to learn the cello. I am frankly burned out from having to be at every single lesson of anything she has ever taken for the last ten years. This mom has never had the pleasure of cheerily dropping off her kid at cello, martial arts, clay class, gymnastics, dance, piano, a friend’s house, violin, Girls on the Run, any activity ever. I have to be there and I have to be “on.”  If I have to take the lesson myself, it is hardly worth paying someone else to teach her.

So, the main things I would say are check your ego at the door. Use less words. Three compliments for every correction. Rediscover your own sense of joy, and share that part of you with your students.  

Teachers are incredible people. I love when teachers want to learn. I love when they are interested and ask questions, and want suggestions. As painful as it is, I also respect when they admit they are in over their head. Riley’s cello teacher is a warm person, who is really used to teaching cello a certian way. I believe she could have been successful with Riley because her heart was in the right place and she had a lot of self-awareness. Her ego was not the problem. (She might have developed a twitch not being able to correct Riley’s bow hold!), but I know she could have done it.

The thing is, there is an excellent music therapy program we believe will suit Riley’s needs better, so that is our next move. I’ll be posting more about that later.   

A final thought on teaching. It isn’t a downloading of knowledge from a wiser person to a less wise person. Think about the really good teachers you’ve had. What was happening? It felt fluid, didn’t it?   

My friend Zoey makes jewelry out of “found words” in vintage books. She was delighted to discover the Sanskrit symbol for “teaching” is the same as the one for “learning.”



They are co-creative endeavors. 

Runnin’ on Faith



This is the Dr. Seuss house Riley made in clay class. I aged ten years during its construction.  

Here we are on the way to her art show yesterday.




Here she is at her art show. Adorable, right? That she is. And sweet as the day is long. I’d give a limb to rid her of the anxiety that tortures her so.



Ah….clay class.

In 14 years of knowing HT, I’d heard him say the F word exactly once.

But there is a second time for everything.

He accompanied her to clay class last week, and that’s all I’m gonna say about that.

Three more classes and the session is over. We’ll be taking a little break. Riley doesn’t respond well to valium, but mama might try it.

What else? What else? Oh…despite the fact that our date got canceled, we decided to have a lovely romantic evening at home on HT’s birthday after we tucked the kids into bed. 

I changed the living room into a restaurant, (because c’mon, I wasn’t about to clear off the dining room table) ordered take-out, put in a few restaurant-ish CD’s, and hit “shuffle.”  Joe Cocker, Eric Clapton. Billy Joel, Luther Vandross and for the life of me I can’t remember the fifth.


ht bd


















We sat down to eat in candlelight. 

“This is just as wonderful as a restaurant,” I said, taking my first bite.  

And HT, with a “How you doin’?” look said, “Even better.”

We smiled at each other.

And right at that moment, we heard a wicked wretch from upstairs. Seth threw up again.



He made it to the toilet that time, so clean up was a breeze. We got him settled back into bed, and soon we were back on our date.




















We even got to do some things we wouldn’t have if we’d gone out, like slow dance to Eric Clapton’s Running on Faith, and sing Only the Good Die Young (you Catholic boys start much too late) as we danced in our living room. I mean, we could have done all those things had we gone out, but it would have looked weird.

Today, all is well. Seth feels better. We had a cake for HT (couldn’t do it yesterday with Seth being ill).

Riley is breathing easy.  

You see, she’d been worried sick not enough had been made of her Dad’s birthday.

Happy Birthday Hot Toddy!

Today my sweet husband is 45.  








He ushered in 45, staying up all night with Seth who was puking. He took the big rug out of Seth’s room and hung it over the deck to be hosed off later. He took load after load of towels and sheets two flights down to the basement to be washed. He soothed his sick boy.

Todd and I both had the same bug earlier in the week. It wasn’t pretty.

The only thing he wanted for his birthday, was an evening with me.


I arranged a sitter and planned a date at a wonderful restaurant. I’ll be calling soon to cancel.

It might not seem like a big deal, but seriously, it was. We rarely get out together. He’s very disappointed.

This is Todd and Seth kickin’ back in our little cabin on the Alaska 2008 cruise. Tight squeeze in that room, but we had the best time. He loves his boy.









This is the young hospital pharmacist I fell in love with.

todd & michelle pharmacy 1996 

I didn’t know him back in the 80’s when he was a pirate, and it is one of my regrets. He’s never so much as said, “Arrgh” to me.


Here he is with Riley at Seth’s preschool dance  a few years back.

He never wavers about her. He holds a vision of her being successful, and powerful and happy in this world. He claimed it the day she was born. I didn’t see her for a couple of hours after they got her out, but he did. He was with her the whole time. He describes her eyes, as having been so aware, so wise. He’d never seen anything like it. She was otherworldly to him. “She’s here to do great things,” he always says.

When Seth was born, I heard his cries and remember Todd’s soft voice, all choked up, carrying him over to me, whispering to our new son,

“Hi buddy. Hi buddy.”   

Here we are at my friend Janet’s renaissance wedding a few years ago. He’s was a trooper about the costume, and he always puts up with my close up self-portraits of us. The more up your nose obnoxious the better.








Perhaps you are aware of his homework whispering talents? 

Or that fact that he recently went all the way with the bulb bald head.


Here he is getting a smooch from my sister. She loves him. How could she not?

Come hell or high water, baby. We’ll have our date. I promise. Not tonight, but another night soon.

You’re a good man Todd O’Neil.

I love you. I appreciate you.

Happy, happy birthday.

Living Laughing Loving

live love laugh






This is what Seth picked out of the prize box at school. They get prizes in his class when caught doing something good. It’s a checkbook holder. He “thought it matched what we do in our family.”  Now that I think of it, I never even found out what “good” he did.

To think he would forgo the stickers, and doodads, and pick this. 

He just melts me sometimes, you know?

Like, every day.

When he says “thank you” every single time without fail as I put food down in front of him.

When he doesn’t like something I’ve cooked, but doesn’t want to hurt my feelings, so he says, “I kind of like it, and kind of don’t like it.”

When he makes a point of mentioning to others at school that T. (the boy with Asperger’s) is the smartest one in his class.

When he mistakenly says his daddy has a bulb (bald) head.

I could go on for miles about this boy.

I love him much.

Cathy Bolton

I woke up this morning, itchin’ to write about Cathy Bolton. She was among a group of people on the Caribbean cruise I had the privilege of spending an evening in Puerto Rico with. It was my friend Betsy’s birthday celebration, and her friend Jorge took us on a walking tour, and Kathy is a friend of Jorge’s as well, and she was there.

She was way on the other end of the table, and someone whispered she was an amazing musician, the likes of Ava Cassidy. So…as we were walking along, checking out shops, giving Jorge the thumbs up on a great new hat, I asked her about her music.

jorge's hat








(Jorge’s new hat)


We talked just a bit and she mentioned she might be having a small concert on board the ship, and she said she’d invite me. And she did.

A few days later, the last night of the cruise, Cathy Bolton performed for about 20 people in a little side room on the ship. It was beautiful.

She is the Music Director for the Conversations with God Foundation and performs four times a year at spiritual retreats with Neale Donald Walsh in Ashland, Oregon. Her voice is sweet and sometimes haunting. Think of Dolly Parton’s most soulful ballads. 

During the concert, my friend Don, the adult with Asperger’s I met on the beach, interrupted a couple of times, appearing very overzealous in wanting to record Cathy and put the video on You Tube for her. Cathy, not knowing who he was or what he was about was very gracious, and then firm about what felt right to her. As a mother to a child with social deficits, I held my breath, “Please don’t be mean to him, please don’t be mean to him.” And she wasn’t. She handled it with perfect grace.

One song she played, titled “Give Me Wings” brought tears to my eyes. It speaks from a woman’s heart of needing more, asking for space within a relationship for her own God given gifts to grow. I bought Cathy’s Angels and Eagles CD and listened to it on the plane on the way home, passing it up to Ed for a listen as well, (And he liked it. I saw him jot down Cathy’s name).  

Actor/humanitarian Dennis Weaver was a dear friend of Cathy’s and she put his words to song in a beautiful balled titled Dream Your Eagle. It is on the Angels and Eagles CD and you can also listen to here on Dennis Weaver’s website. It is so very inspiring.  

Looking out at the heavens, hearing Cathy’s sweet voice on the plane ride home was the perfect ending to the perfect trip.

Just thinking about it gives me chills.

I am so blessed.

I Love Myself So Much…

At the concert Friday night, our encore was a very simple bouncy little song they sing at the Agape International Spiritual Center(and at our church too), about how you can’t love anyone else unless you love yourself. The choir went into the audience and we picked random people to sing to, and they sang back, and we all kept switching partners, and the whole place was singing, and dancing and smiling. People just lovin’ themselves so much! So they could love others so much! And on and on.

Look at the darling little partner Seth found for himself. These are the lyrics we were all singing to each other…

I love myself so much,
So I can love you so much,
So you can love you so much,
So you can start loving me.

Of course it is easier for them, being so fresh from God. It’s more of a challenge for adults to hold hands with a stranger and sing,”I love myself so much.”

Most of us have been conditioned to listen to outside voices, telling us we’re not lovable. Not worthy. Not good enough how we are. I love myself so much? Please.  

But one woman I met at the conference shared how she’s come to see self-love as a Divine mandate, because as the song says, you can’t love anyone else without it. 

I love myself so much,
So I can love you so much,
So you can love you so much,
So you can start loving me.


Everything is Holy Now

I bought the 21st Agape Choir Anniversary CD over the weekend. A lot of the songs we sang at the conference are on it, and they are all inspiring, but one song I’d never heard before just blew me away.

God bless Google, the artist who performs it is Faith Rivera and it’s on her website for you to listen to, just because you are so totally beautiful and good.

Happy Mother’s Day. Everything is holy now.


Great Lakes Unity Music Conference With Rickie Byars-Beckwith and Tim McAfee-Lewis

“When the praises go up, the blessings come down.

When love goes out, that’s when love comes in.”

I had more fun last night, more joy than I ever remember having. The Great Lakes Unity Music Conference wrapped up with a concert. People from all over the country took part. We met each other on Wednesday, and by Friday evening we had ourselves a choir.

Under the direction of Rickie Byars-Beckwith and Tim McAfee-Lewis, magic was made. There were around 200 people in attendance, and all of them were on their feet. The energy in the room was electric.

Let’s talk about Rickie. Musical genius. Divinely inspired. Powerful. Gentle. Loving. So loving. So cool. Seriously, the “cool” factor in Ricky is otherworldly. She is the music director of the Agape International Spiritual Center in LA. The wisdom this woman carries in her stride! Being in her presence was such an honor. She is married to Rev. Michael Beckwith.


Tim McAfee-Lewis is Rickie’s right hand man, and he is brilliant. To meet him is to fall in love. He is so pure, and honest, and passionate. He is an open pipeline, just allowing God to flow through him and you can’t help but “catch” it when you are near him. Being directed by him in a choir was a transcendent experience. He gives EVERYTHING, and you just want to, have to, give it back to him. He has this rare combination of sweetness and power. His light is so very bright.

Everyone adored him, but as Seth’s mama, I will forever extra love him and hold him in my heart. You see, he and Seth share a particular teeth chattering “tic.”  Rickie described Tim’s tics as spirit flowing through his body and having out. Isn’t that nicer than calling it a disorder?

The first night of the conference I came home and found Seth upstairs huddled in his bed, afraid of the thunder and lightening outside his bedroom window. Snuggling up with him under his covers, I shared,

“Seth, I met a man tonight, who is an amazing choir director, and an amazing singer and dancer, his name is Tim and guess what? He has the teeth chatter. “

Seth’s eyes went big. He beamed. He’d never heard of anyone else who did that.

Since he was feeling scared of the storm, I taught him one of the Rickie Byars-Beckwith songs we’d learned that evening,

“All is well, all is well, everybody catch that all is well.”

We took it to his fears.

“In my bed, all is well, everybody catch that all is well.”

“In the rain, all is well, everybody catch that all is well.”

“The grass is thirsty, and all is well. Everbody catch that all is well.”

“Seth is safe, Seth is safe. Everybody catch that all is well.”

“Seth, Tim thinks of his tics as Spirit moving through him.”

“That’s just how I feel,” Seth said.

“It’s a little different from how doctors see it, isn’t it?”

He nodded.

“Which way feels better to you?”

“Spirit,” he grinned.

He went to sleep happy, thinking about a man who was kind of like him.

The next day I tapped Tim’s elbow, and briefly told him about my boy, and how much it meant for Seth to hear about him. He was so gracious.

Then, Kathy( the music director at our church whose vision brought this conference together) suggested I bring Seth to see Tim in action. She thought it would be a powerful experience for him. So Seth joined us for the last hour of the workshop on Thursday. He clapped and danced and sang his little heart out.


The concert was last night, but my feet are still a foot off the ground. Music is so healing. It is one of the only things in my life that allows me to be 100% present. Music with 60 other like minded, beautiful, dancing, joy-filled, talented people, being directed with so much love…was like nothing I’d ever experienced.

Todd drove the kids home after the performance. I left about twenty minutes behind them, and got caught in another nighttime thunderstorm on my way home. Visibility wasn’t good so I pulled over in a big empty parking lot and decided to turn off the car.

As I sat watching the storm, adrenaline continued to course through my body, and I allowed joyful tears to come.

I felt like I’d finally accepted my invitation to the party.