Beautiful Friend

Yesterday I received a package of photos of my friend Clarissa, who died of cancer in November. The box sat there all day. I was not going to open it with kids clamoring all over it/me. After I put them to bed, I locked myself in our bedroom and with little kid scissors, began cutting the tape off the large box.

It was strange. I almost felt like I was opening her grave, but she doesn’t have a grave, and I knew she wasn’t in the box. I felt a little shaky.

Clarissa and I were friends since 1992 or 3 when I moved to the DC area to try my hand at radio. We worked together at the Unistar Radio Network and stayed in touch over the years. I always felt kind of lucky and honored that she liked me. She was a private person and didn’t let a lot of people in.

She moved a couple of times since we worked together but most recently found herself back in the DC area, in Northern Virginia.

We stayed in close touch via e-mail and phone but had not physically seen each other in years when we decided, in 2009 to meet halfway in W. Virginia and have a girly night. We stayed in a hotel, ate dinner(Indian food), walked around, looked in art galleries. We stayed up late, talking. She didn’t appear ill at all, she walked faster than I did. We knew her body was wracked with cancer. They weren’t trying to cure it anymore, just buying time.

If there is someone you are wishing to see, make the time. I’m so glad we did this. I can’t even explain how glad I am we did this. To have seen her. Hugged her. Driven around with her in her old VW with the windows down, hot wind whipping through our hair. It means everything.

Clarissa was devoutly unsentimental, but she was an exceptionally good person. She worked hard. She did the right thing. She was a devoted daughter, tenderly caring for her elderly mother in the years before her mom died. Neither she nor her beloved mother ever suspected at the time that Clarissa would follow so closely behind her.

Looking around our home, there are so many reminders of her. Little mementos. A picture on our mantel of two hands forming themselves into a heart. A wall-hanging in my kitchen with a poem. More love. A book she sent me on “civility,” a subtle hint about swearing too much on my blog. Don’t get me wrong, she could swear like a sailor, but she’d not do it in writing! She read my blog every single day. She loved it. No higher an honor. No better validation than Clarissa Douglas approving of your writing. She was an incredible writer. She was a radio anchor for decades, her voice a soothing gorgeous alto.

I miss her most, when I think of something I want to share with her; a book, a movie, (she loved books and movies) and then realize I can’t.

Speaking of e-mail, when I’m in my address book, if I  happen to hit the first letter of her last name all the “D’s” pop up and hers in first on the list. My stomach sinks seeing her name there, reminding me she’s not here.

She was a beautiful woman. I was so blessed to be her friend.

Today I’m feeling a little tender about her. HT has the morning off and I’m spending it in my office, just being with it, allowing the feelings. Clarissa would be like, “Fine, take the morning, but no wallowing. Get on with it. You’re not the first person to have a friend die.”

But she never had a friend like her.

Let it be known…

I had the first comment over at Confessions of a Pioneer Woman today.

Sure I forgot to capitalize my first name but seeing there were zero comments, I didn’t want to blow my shot. I was in a hurry.

Why does this thrill me? How pathetic is my life? It’s not like I won a Cannon SLR? It’s not like I won one of her Le Creuset French ovens.

But…what are the odds I’d be the first commenter?

So my logic is…if I can be the first commenter, it’s entirely possible I can one day be the one to win the camera or the French oven.

Okay, I’m gonna go get a life now.

I do love her trampoline shots though (as stated in my deeply profound comment on the subject).

Would the teenage part of yourself be happy with who you are now?

Last night I had the good fortune of seeing Troubadours of Divine Bliss at Unity Center of the Heights. They are hard to explain. Kind of like The Indigo Girls but their songs mostly speak of Divine love, and with an accordion.

They were awesome! I have to say, I’ve been manifesting so many wonderful things as of late. I’d never heard of this band before, and suddenly there I was, blissing out listening to their inspiring music! Honoring the concept of Law of Attraction, whenever I am enjoying something lately, I’ve taken to appreciating myself for manifesting it. Go me! I figure I blame myself enough when things go wrong, it’s only fair to take credit when they go right!

During the set, they mentioned a question asked of them in a recent interview:

Would the teenage part of yourself be happy with who you are now?

Food for thought, no?

Not trying to sound conceited, but I believe my teen self would think I’m awesome. I have busted through so many barriers. Physically, mentally, educationally, financially, emotionally, spiritually. My teenage self didn’t think she was worth a damn. She had no idea Who She Was.

I’ve become the parent my teen self wished she’d had. I say that not with blame, or to inflict shame. My parents were 17 and 18 when they married. My father suffered horrible abuse as a child. My mother carried her own pain. They were unhealed kids, hoping the other would fix it, and neither had any tools.

Back to me….LOL. I’m so much more free now than when I was a teen, and I keep on growing in that area. Riley did that. Oh how I fought against it at first, but my daughter taught me how “different” can bring great freedom with it. She can’t be like everybody else. It’s not what she came here to do. Parenting her like “everyone else” was never going to work. Letting go has brought such richness to our experience.

My teenage self was dealing with so much. She acted tough, but she was always so afraid. I think she’d be happy to know I led her safely to 42. I think she’d love the kids. She always loved kids. I think she’d tell me to dress cooler and wear more jewelry. She’d appreciate HT’s integrity, and love who he is as a father. She’d insist I dance more.

I think she’d say, “You’re doing good.”

She knows proper grammar, but has never been a stickler for it. Kind of an “in your face” to a system that underestimated her.

She’d be glad I write.

She had a lot to say.

U23D in Cleveland

So we’ve been living here in Cleveland for over three years and had yet to make it to The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Yesterday was the day, and I’m so glad we waited.

Our impetus for going was the Michael Jackson exhibit, for Seth. And yes, he got to see Michael’s glove. His red jacket for Thriller. A couple more outfits. One of his Grammy awards.

The museum is expensive. It cost about sixty bucks for us to get in, and Seth was free. Plus, they don’t allow cameras! We took the above photos in the lobby, but they wanted you to check your camera at the entrance (hell to the no…I respect your rule but I ain’t givin’ you my camera. She spent her time in HT’s pocket). There was a lot to see, and if you are a Rock & Roll connoisseur, maybe it is worth it. I picture it being really meaningful if you work in a record store, or in the music industry. I liked seeing Stephen Tyler’s microphone stand with the scarves up close. I liked seeing the dresses Stevie Nicks had worn. Some of Mick Jaggar’s clothes. The Elvis stuff. I mean, it was interesting, but not all that.

Then we went to see the U23D movie.

And it was worth the cost of admission. It was phenomenal. This isn’t like any old 3D movie. The technology was unbelievable. I’ve seen U2 in concert and this was better. It was like being two feet away from the band. You could see the hairs on The Edge’s arm. Bono practically touched my face at one point. He was singing to me. He wanted to wipe my tears away. My tears. It was freaking amazing.

I’d been neglecting U2. Taking them for granted.

Never again.

Up this close,you could really witness the relationship between the band members. The four of them are soul mates. The love between them, palpable. No question Bono is the star of the band, but he relies on the others, he draws energy from them. He is so demonstrative, constantly touching them, leaning on them. There is great love and respect between them. They are a powerful presence and their message is so positive and good.

And the crowd! This concert took place in Argentina, and the crowd was one big organism.


Such love in that audience.

I’m not ashamed to admit I was ecstatic during this movie. Sitting there with my girl on one side, my boy on the other,HT on the other side of him. My girl at a U2 concert! Loving it! She was in it. Not overwhelmed at all. And I would know because she held my hand the whole time and if she’s scared she squeezes it. Seth sang along. Who knew he knew the words? How cool are we? The O’Neils at a U2 concert on a Friday afternoon.

Okay, yes it was a movie. But still!

If you get the chance to see U23D, do. You’ve never seen anything like it.

If you weren’t a U2 fan already, you will be.

HT’s Perfect Response

Writer Elizabeth Aquino is asking special needs parents to answer this question:

What would I say to the parent I was the day before my child was diagnosed with his or her disorder or the day before I knew?

She’s putting together a video of parents holding signs with their individual bits-o-wisdom.

Thinking about the question, I wondered, how could I narrow it down to a sentence that would fit on a little piece of paper? What would I say?

I thought. And I thought.

Finally, I tossed the question out to HT as he was grabbing his jacket and slipping on shoes, ready to take the dog out one last time before bed. He put his index finger in the air and said, “I’ll get right back to you.”

I sat at the computer thinking hard. What would I say? What would I say?

I was deep in thought when HT came back in the kitchen.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said sincerely. “That’s what I’d say to the parent I was before we knew what was going on.”

“It’s going to be okay.”

Can’t top that one.

What would I say to the parent I was the day before my child was diagnosed with his or her disorder or the day before I knew?

You’ll have to wait to see the video for mine. I’m still thinking.

If you’d like to be part of this project, please send your photos with your bits-o-wisdom to Elizabeth: elsophie AT gmail DOT com.

And remember, it’s going to be okay.


This is Jan C. Snow, aka Jancy. She’s a writer, an artist, a musician, a mother, a grandmother and a friend. She is one of the MVP’s in Windsong, Cleveland’s Feminist chorus.

Jan knows all the fun, (and often free) things to do in Cleveland.

For instance, a couple of months back, we enjoyed a Wednesday lunchtime performance of the GroundWorks Dance Theater at Trinity Cathedral.

Last week she was with us at Orchid Mania at the Botanical Gardens, free if you have a season pass, which we do.

She recently went on vacation to Florida and Peurto Rico, and provided us her itinerary, so we could make a homeschool thing of it. We learned about the Burmese Python problem in the Florida Everglades, and the bio-luminescent waters of Puerto Rico, among other things.

She is well traveled and gave us a bunch of coins from all around the world to use as inspiration for our homeschool endeavors. The kids have especially enjoyed learning about the Maori people of New Zealand.

Jan is a very sensitive person herself and she really “gets” Riley. Jan also refuses to sit next to me at chorus if I have on scented lotion, if I’m chewing Juicy Fruit gum, or if there is too much cat hair on my clothes. She has perfect pitch and thinks nothing of leaning over to correct you if you are off your note. Prior to Riley, this might have offended me. Now, I love Jan all the more for it. Jan “gets” Riley. I “get” Jan. We’re all good. And really, I need to know when I’m not on my note.

Jan is the one who wrote the song I mentioned in this post, about giving yourself permission to set some things down when you are carrying more than you can handle.

She also wrote one of my very favorite songs Windsong performs, called Away Ye Merry Lassies. Give it a listen. It is so much fun to sing. And yes, that’s Jan, playing the dulcimer on that track.

She recently taught Riley how to knit. After her first lesson, as we were leaving, Riley stood on Jan’s front porch and said,

“Jan, you really inspire me.”

Yes, Riley. That about sums it up.

Being Fluid

The best, most valuable lesson I have learned from having a child on the autism spectrum is: be flexible.

I don’t get it right every time, but over the last several years, I have learned  to get it right the majority of the time. And when I forget. When I forget….that’s when a whole heap of pain is headed my way and quick.

This morning I picked out an outfit for Riley (choices are sometimes overwhelming, if time is of the essence and today it is). She balked. I was frustrated and in a hurry, but instead of digging in my heels dictator style and insisting she just get dressed, I took a breath and asked her why she didn’t like the outfit I picked out. One of her favorite shirts. Pants with no stains. It all matched, which is important to her.

“I like it, but the last time I saw M. (whom she’s seeing today), I was wearing that.”

There is always a reason behind the behavior. Even if she doesn’t articulate it.

We could have had a really crappy morning had I “been more firm.”

“Being more firm” ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.

“Being more firm” is often a recipe for disaster.

Being fluid is what has saved our mother/daughter relationship.

And as I’ve learned it, she’s learned it.

Recently she’s taken to debating with me, instead of having a meltdown when we disagree. A huge and wonderful step. And beyond that, she’s listening and sometimes even saying,

“I see your point.”

When you’re willing to see someone else’s point, they’ll often be willing to see yours.

My girl taught me that.

She’s dressed, and ready to go, and I even had time to write this post.

It could have been a very different morning.

Danielle House, a Grandmother Fashion Show, Angelo Zuccolo and Don Giovanni

In 1989, Danielle Stento, a senior at the University of Buffalo, a girl from my hometown, about my age, was struck by a drunk driver while crossing a street in Buffalo, New York. She survived but suffered traumatic brain injury (and to this day requires 24 hour care).

Her parents found themselves in crises, over three hours from home. Typically when this happens, “Families take turns sleeping in chairs, cars, on floors in waiting rooms, or on uncomfortable cots in order to stay close to their loved ones,” said Danielle’s mother, Diane Stento, on the Danielle House website.

Bringing meaning to their experience, they created Danielle House, a place patients’ families and loved ones can stay when they find themselves in similar circumstances in Binghamton.

This weekend, my friend and former theater professor, Angelo Zuccolo, and my friend and former radio colleague Don Giovanni are having “a weekend comedy spectacular…and grandmother fashion show” to support Danielle House. I can only imagine what a grandmother fashion show is…but with these two, it’s certain to be entertaining.

I am in awe of the Stentos and all they have done to honor their beautiful daughter. If you are from my hometown, you know it goes way beyond Danielle House.

If you live in the Binghamton area, do go out and have a great time with Angelo and Don. If you would like to support Danielle House, click here for a printable donation form.

And if you can, take a moment to think of Danielle today, send her love, and thank her brave soul for all she’s given to so many.

Orchid Mania/Cleveland Botanical Garden Slide Show

Learning to post a slide show, for me, was like giving birth. After it was over I forgot about the sweat, the tears, the pain. Almost.

I have a point & shoot. None of these photos are edited. I want an SLR someday. I want Photo Shop one day. I want gobs of time to edit my photos. All wonderful things to joyfully look forward to. For now, this falls under the category of good enough.

Without any further ado, I give you the fruits of my labor.

Lovingly yours,


Orchid “Mania” Cleveland Botanical Gardens

No Nonsense Nelly

So, the morning after my little orchid meltdown, I opened the Girls on the Run book to prepare for the lesson I needed to teach and the topic was “negative self-talk.”


The girls wrote down two negative self-talk examples they sometimes say to themselves on index cards. Then we came up with a noise…like those you hear when a game show contestant makes the wrong answer.


The girls took turns reading their negative self-talk statements out loud, then the group made the sound effect, to cancel it or shoot it down. Next the girls did a warm up activity where they ran across the gym to No Nonsense Nelly above, and ceremonially put their negative cards in her mouth, for her to dispose of.

Some of what the girls wrote was simply heartbreaking. These are little girls. Some as young as 8.

So we talked about re-framing.

For instance, instead of me thinking “I should know how to upload this computer slide show.”

I could say, “This is really challenging to me. Lots of people go to school for computers and I do a pretty good job with no formal training.”

That kind of thing. We’ll be working on this all season.

Yes, if you must know, Nelly borrowed HT’s Hannah Montana Wig. I don’t know why you have to bring that up. You know how embarrassing it is for him.

So, we’re just a few lessons into Girls on the Run this season and it’s going well. Yesterday was a gorgeous sunny day. We got outside in the fresh air and ran, walked, skipped, and talked. Oh how the girls love to talk!

It’s a terrific bunch this season.

Thank you girls, for teaching me what I need to learn.

Orchid “Mania”

Yesterday, the kids and I accompanied our friend Jancy to The Cleveland Botanical Gardens where Orchid Mania is presently happening.

I took a ton of pictures and made a gorgeous slide show.

Contrast the tranquility of these photos, with my extreme frustration at not being able to figure out how to upload said slide show onto the blog. Seriously it was bad. After tinkering with it last night for hours, I was dejected. There were tears. HT tried for a bit. He couldn’t figure it out either, and finally he forced me to step away from the computer and watch Modern Family to cheer me up. But I still was overwhelmed. It felt like the time in nursing school, when there was this professor, who hated adult learners, and only liked the 19 year olds she could intimidate. She took me and a couple of other older students (I was 28, they were in their forties) in the accelerated program and found ways to slice our papers to shreds. She gave me a 46 on a paper. I’d never received below a 90 on a piece of writing in my life. Of course she made her lackey assistant deliver the papers. She was a twisted woman, and I was a serious wreck, feeling like such a failure over this. (Finally another faculty member pulled me aside and was all….Look…I’ll deny I ever said this…but she is nuts, don’t take it personally, this isn’t about you. I’ll never forget her kindness).

So last night, all this negative self talk was just flying through my head. I should be able to put a slide show up on my blog. It shouldn’t be that hard. Like there is a personal deficit in me because I am not a computer whiz. I was really beating myself up.

And I know the “shoulds” are ridiculous. I know better. And I know there are a lot bigger problems in the world than whether I can get my Orchid Mania slide show up and running. Seriously, this morning? It’s laughable. But sometimes, I’m just that intense about things. And no it isn’t lost on me how my little apple of a daughter didn’t fall far from the tree.

I’ll keep trying for the pretty slide show, but it may be a few days. Mommy needs to take a break from the Orchids.

We had fun at Orchid Mania though. It was a great day yesterday, until the slide show.

At least I got a pretty new header for my efforts.


There is a sweetness in the air today. Seth got up early and hung out with HT while he got ready for work. They had breakfast, while Riley and I slept.

I came downstairs to a fed, happy boy. HT had already left. Doggies wagged with glee at my appearance.


Last night on Glee, there was a first kiss. It was between two teenage boys. Hats off to Glee for the handling of this. It has been a slow, steadily progressing relationship between the two characters on the show. Both are upstanding, honorable, and very sweet young men.

When I think about images of gay men in the mainstream media, what comes to mind is raunch. The television loves to show snippets of gay pride parades, it’s always a guy in a belly top and daisy dukes, or drag queens vamping for the camera. They tend to be dancing in the street, half-loaded. I don’t begrudge anyone their fun, but those images don’t represent most gay people.

When I was a teenager, I remember seeing a movie where a young Will Smith kissed another man. I was very uncomfortable. I think my hands actually flew up to cover my eyes. I’d never seen anything like it. I’d lived in a small town my whole life. I didn’t personally know any gay people (actually I did, but I didn’t know it about them yet).

It took going to college, where my RA had a gay uncle and gave all of us a good education on how hurtful throwing words like “queer” around was, and after that, living in a major city hugely affected by HIV. I met a person who would become a dear friend, whose family was forever changed by one of them having to hide his bi-sexuality. I volunteered with children affected by HIV.

The AIDS quilt covering the entire National Mall in DC literally brought me to my knees. Panel after panel, after panel, after panel… put together by people who loved someone who had died. Sons. Husbands. Friends. Daughters. Lovers. Little peoples’ daddies. I was not prepared for seeing that quilt. Faceless silent volunteers handed me tissue after tissue. No words between us were necessary. No words would suffice.

Gay rights are human rights, civil rights. At this point my knee jerk reaction to homophobia is the same as it is to racism. I have no tolerance for it. But I do remember what it was like to be uncomfortable in that movie theater so long ago. Ignorance is ignorance. You don’t know what you don’t know. But the world is changing.

My kids love Glee. We TIVO it, and screen to see if it is okay for them to watch. Often it is too sexually explicit, so they only get to watch bits and pieces. They have all the CD’s. They have mad crushes on some of the characters. They talk of Glee all the time.

Riley is not awake yet, but when she comes downstairs she’ll be greeted by me and her brother and two dogs happy to see her. She’ll lean down and nuzzle Jingle and then look up at me. I guarantee, the first question she’ll ask is, “Can we watch Glee? Was it appropriate?”

I’ll smile at her and say, “Yes, baby. It was.”


It had been a long week. Too many appointments. Not enough down time. HT had to work the weekend, and yesterday I woke, not quite wanting to climb back into my life.

“When is your next day off?” I mumbled to him.

“Tomorrow,” he said.

I closed my eyes and nodded. Good.

“It just happens to coincide with your next day off,” he added.

With that, I hoisted myself into our day.

It was a big one for Riley. She’d been invited to a party and was going unaccompanied by me. I had to skip chorus to be available at a moment’s notice. I love chorus and quietly resented missing it. But she is not invited to many parties, and this one was with a mom I trust implicitly. It was a good one for her to forge on her own. Still, if she had a hard time I did not want the mom to have to deal with it, and take away from her enjoyment of her daughter’s party. I was on call, just down the street.

Seth and I stayed home, had rare and precious one-on-one time. We made snacks. We watched a movie, all snuggled up together with Yippee the Chihuahua and Sam the cat on his chest, together in perfect harmony. (Yippee usually chases Sam). We also got Seth started on his second oil painting. This time he’s painting the same thing he painted last time. Another portrait of Yippee. From a different angle. A profile. What can I say? He’s passionate about his puppy.

Riley did beautifully at the party, BTW. She had fun. Not enough can be made of that.

So today is my “day off,” though I do have to coach Girls on the Run later. I went for a long walk this morning over crunchy snow. It felt good to have the sun shine on my face. Forget sunscreen. I just want to feel it beaming into my skin at this point in winter. Suck up that vitamin D.

Despite the lovely time with Seth, by last night I was feeling caged in. I get that way often enough. Not so much since Todd changed his schedule and is no longer working a 7 day in a row shift. But there it was. This feeling of a total “disappearance” of me.

I firmly believe I’d be a better mother if I could get out of here and work part-time. We have not yet been able to figure out how that would be possible with Todd’s all-over-the-place work schedule, and our kids who can’t be left with just anyone.

I know it’s all relative. Some women wish they could stay home with their kids. Do I have a right to my feelings, anyhow?

The other day a FB friend complained about her  kids being home from school, (snow day or such)and how it interfered with her work at home schedule, and it hit a nerve. I wanted to yell through cyber-space BUT YOUR KIDS CAN GO TO SCHOOL, CAN’T THEY? THEY’RE HEALTHY,RIGHT? YOU DO HAVE AN AMAZING CAREER, DON’T YOU?”

Again, it’s all relative, she has a right to her feelings too. Of course she does.

The grass is always greener. No path is perfect.

Very few men have to juggle work around their kids. I feel victimy about it sometimes, but I know men have their own vulnerabilities and pain. Todd would actually love to be a stay at home dad. Working in a hospital pharmacy is not his dream, no matter how good at it he is.

Today on my walk, I visualized the life I want. If I could choose it out of a catalog, what my schedule would look like, what the kids would be doing, etc. How much time I would need to really feel a balance between being me and making sure their all encompassing needs are met.

We’re really not so far off.

It’s possible.

Seeing it is important.

Appreciating all we do have, is the key to unlock the door.

And so…off I go to do my daily rampage of appreciation.

Ciao. May you have a beautiful day.

Talk Nerdy to Me

‘Cause I love having my mind blown…

And this is one reason why homeschooling does not scare me that much. We have no idea what world they will be living in or what we’re even preparing them for. We may like to think we do, but we don’t. It’s changing so fast. All I know is Riley, Seth (and I) are constantly, enthusiastically learning. We don’t know of boredom.

  • Mother
  • Spiritual growth enthusiast
  • Married to a great guy
  • Law of Attraction buff
  • Writer
  • Thinker
  • Traveler
  • Nature lover
  • Friend
  • Likes to help
  • Sets healthy boundaries
  • Autism resource
  • Choral singer
  • Yoga student

What words will appear on your shirt in the future?

*P.S. If you watch the video, wait ’til after the applause for a couple of questions and imagine how this technology might help those with autism and others with communication difficulties.


The only thing better than being a boy obsessed with Lego, and having a new Lego to put together…

is when your sister, whom you adore, suddenly, inexplicably, begins sharing your interest with you.

Here they are, beginning to work on one of Seth’s Christmas presents. We like to space things out. Save some for a snowy day. Seth is so happy she is playing Lego with him. Letting him lead. He is the Lego expert you know.

In other news, Riley hugged HT the other day. She is not a cold unaffectionate person by any means, and always allows our affection, but it was the first time she spontaneously hugged him, and he could not wait to tell me. It’s one of those things an outsider just does not get. If you were hanging out with us, you wouldn’t assume she’d never hugged her dad on her own before. It would be a given for most kids.

My dear friend’s husband died when her son was just five. She says, one of the hardest parts has been…the feeling of there not being another person who knows stuff like this. Shared intimate moments about your kid. Only Todd and I know what Riley looked like the morning when she was six months old, and he returned from a business trip and we lay in bed, and she showed him how she had learned to clap while he was away.

Only the two of us remember when Seth used to say, Yi Yuv You Yie-yee, (I love you Riley).

So when he tells me she hugged him, I get it. The depth of it, reflected in the glint of his eyes as he smiles.

When she shares her brother’s interest, we know what a big deal it is.We’ll remember it.

The gift of autism, for us, is we don’t tend to take things for granted.

I mean, sometimes we do, but typically we don’t.

She makes our lives so much richer.

Just ask her dad.

A Very Successful Clay Session

My childrens’ self-portraits. It’s uncanny, isn’t it? The resemblance?

We are up to our ears in pottery.

As in…next class…if there is one, they are only making pieces to give away. Hot Toddy thought of it and I second the notion. Hear that friends and family? It’s your lucky day.

This is a set of plates they made.

And you can never have too many coil pots. No sir.

We went the whole eight week session with no problems. Not one. Riley has grown so much in the last year. It is beautiful to behold.

How you doin’?

Riley cut her wispies (by herself) a few weeks ago and now has some “signature bangs” which she incorporated into her sculpture. I tried to talk her into getting layered bangs, to kind of hide her work, but she insisted she likes her signature bangs, so there you go. Liking yourself just as you are? I’m not going to argue.

Working with clay requires one to be flexible. That includes moms.

Flexibility. It seems like the very thing, the one thing Riley and I have been teaching each other since before she was even born.

We’re getting there.

We really are.

Who Do I Think I Am?

Last week the living room went from garish yellow to cappuccino. I like.

Today The Maids came. My sister bought me a gift certificate almost a year ago and I never used it ’til now. And only now because they called and said it would expire soon. And I knew I’d catch hell if I let that happen. And I didn’t want to seem ungrateful, because I’m not.

You see….I dream of having a cleaning service. I wish for it all the time. But there is always a reason not to. Money. That’s the big one of course. I never could justify it.

But wait, there’s more.

Today when The Maids arrived, I cringed at their big yellow car with its big advertisement parked in my driveway.

The neighbors will think I’m too lazy to clean my own house.
The neighbors will think we’re loaded.
The neighbors will judge me, I mean, I’m not even employed outside the home.
The neighbors will think, the neighbors will think, the neighbors will think.

Ludacris, I know, but there it was.

A team of four piled into the house and immediately set to work. One in the bathroom. One in the kitchen. One upstairs, one downstairs. They were hell on wheels. Two hours, four people scrubbing my house spic and span.

The maids are probably disgusted with my house.
The maids have probably never seen so much dust on a ceiling fan.
The maids probably resent having to scrub someone else’s toilets and floors.

I hid in our bedroom with the kids and the dogs, frantically e-mailing HT and my friend Betsy for pep talks. They delivered. ((LOVE)).

Yesterday, I spent a considerable amount of time, removing clutter from dresser tops, the dining room table, etc., boxing it up and putting it in the basement or my office so The Maids even could clean.

How am I constantly de-cluttering and still always finding more stuff piling up? Actually I recently figured out using the term “de-cluttering” is part of it. The energy behind the word is “anti.” I need a new word. I am not de-cluttering, I’m creating space. I’m organizing. I’m beautifying.

Anyway…this whole experience of having The Maids here was very eye opening. Very ridiculously stressful. Very shining a light on unhealed aspects of myself and saying, “Yoo-hoo? You ready to deal with this? Is now a good time?”

Before answering the question, I ran to the kitchen cabinet and ate four cookies. I knew I was emotionally eating. I knew. But you know what? It’s okay. I’ve done a lot worse than four cookies, and there was awareness, even as I dunked those babies in my coffee.

This isn’t about the neighbors. This isn’t about the maids. This isn’t even about money.

The issue is worthiness. It always is.

Who am I to have a good life?

Who am I to have help?

Who am I to ask for and/or receive support?

Who do I think I am?

Sitting here in my nice clean house, I am thankful.

One more layer peeled off.

Thankful to have this experience.

Thankful to have the luxury, the time and space to think about my response to these questions.

She Has Buckets of Empathy

Today was the first day of this season’s Girls on the Run. I had the lesson prepared, my flashcards at the ready and was enjoying leading the new group. Seth usually hangs out in the gym while we meet. Smack in the middle of our session he came running over to me, holding his mouth. He made it to the trash can where he proceeded to be sick. Repeatedly.

We needed to leave.

The other coach heroically stepped in and winged it, and offered to drop Riley off later.

As soon as Riley got home, she ran upstairs to check on her brother. Then, she brought a picture of his crush (Diana Agron from Glee) and taped it to his pillow to make him feel better.

This girl, is not without empathy. She has such a big heart.

Our little man may not be feeling so hot, but he sure is well loved.

P.S. Don’t Seth and Diana make a cute couple?

Homeschool Co-Op

This is Riley, (below right), enjoying a quiet lunch with two other girls at the homeschool co-op. The three of them decided to excuse themselves from the busy gym and eat in one of the classrooms.

“Mom, can I go eat with A & H please?”

Um, yeah. Why yes Riley, you may.

Friday was the last day of this session, (our second with the group) and it was sharing day where tables are set out and everyone can look at what the kids were working on in each class. I taught a class on dogs this time around.

We learned about service dogs.

And breeds.

Grooming (everyone got a turn brushing Jingle)

And lots of other things like canine body language vs. human body language, how dogs see, taste, hear, etc. Where dogs come from on the evolutionary scale, how they got to be domesticated, and on and on. You should have seen me pulling curriculum out of thin air! It was a stretch coming up with eight weeks of material, but mostly it was a success.

Children in the co-op sign up for two classes each, with an hour for lunch and recess in the middle. My kids were in the dog class for block A.

Jingle lives for co-op.

For block B, Riley enjoyed a scrap-booking class, not taught by me. Or assisted by me. Or requiring a single thing of me. The whole time.

Me? I sat outside of the class and worked on material for my next week’s dog class. Like it was nothing! Just another mom, not having to be in her kid’s class with her. That’s right baby, check me out!

Seth took a class called Discovering your Artist’s Eye. He learned about positive and negative space, drawing using different sides of the brain by turning objects upside down and sideways. Using grids to ensure correct proportion. That kind of thing.

Other classes offered included Spanish.


There was even a class on “How to be a knight,” which was adorable. A bunch of rambunctious little boys learning how to be chivalrous, all while using homemade swords they helped saw, and shields they cut out themselves. They even sewed their silver knight costumes!

There were other classes too, one on theatrical and other games, there is a Girl Scout troup that meets during Block B. A nursery for the little ones and a class for preschool age kids. I’m probably forgetting something. Classes change up every session and parents are expected to teach or assist or help out with set-up/clean-up. There are between 40 and 60 kids in this co-op at any given session. I’ve so enjoyed meeting all the parents.

It has truly been a blessing to us. (HT got verklempt the first session, seeing Riley sitting in a small classroom, relaxed, engaged, learning without intense anxiety and fear).

On the way home Friday, in the van, I said, “Riley, I am so glad you have Asperger’s. There was so much about school that didn’t make sense for any of us, but if you’d not been such a sensitive person we never would have realized it. It’s because of you that we are homeschooling, and we get to go to co-op, and do so many other amazing and fun things together, and spend time with so many nice people. I appreciate you.”

She’s taken us down a different path and many gifts have come with it. She is such a blessing.

She thought about this for a minute, then said,

“And I couldn’t do all the things we get to do without your support. I appreciate you, Mom.”

Imagine, from where we’ve been, to this?

A sense of calm came over me. We’re okay. Rolling along, I felt all doubt melt away. We are where we need to be right now.

Things have a way of working out.