Theater Arts Camp – A Success!

Today was the last day of theater arts camp. Riley was the only kid with special needs and she was with an aide she didn’t know previously and kept the fact she had an aide undercover. Her aide was young, and everyone thought she was just another conselor. Riley’s super duper memory and ability to easily learn lines is no doubt what scored her the leading role. The play was an original story with a hodge-podge of familiar songs and show tunes. Riley played “the teacher.”

Eariler in the week it was touch and go. She had an issue with her microphone, and almost couldn’t get past it, but she was able to articulate her feelings and we came up with a solution, and she got through it.

She had a beautiful solo in the beginning, and here she is in one of the numbers which she performed with the camp counselors. This one blew me away, because just the noise at the beginning of the scene would have derailed her not so long ago.

Yes. I cried.

And Seth. My baby. Look at him attack the mic and do Michael proud. I love this boy. I love everything about him. I love him and I like him, and I think he’s cool.

And how cute were the tiny kids? Impossibly cute. Our friend Jancy came to cheer the kids on. It was so nice of her to want to be there. The kids had only seven days to actually rehearse.

The Cleveland Music School Settlement is a place which truly supports those with special needs. It is an organization with a heart. A lot of people jumped through a lot of hoops to make this camp happen for Riley. They were all rooting for her to even get into this session, and then…she blows us out of the water by auditioning for the lead.

Riley has no concept of how amazing she is. She doesn’t know she’s breaking down barriers. She doesn’t know she’s a freaking miracle. She’s just plugging along, being Riley. Doing her thing. Full of sweetness and love.

I am so blessed to be her mom, to have front row seats to watch her fly.

Introducing Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

So, I did it.

Over the last several weeks I’ve had my head buried in all things indie publishing. I’ve read ’til my eyeballs ached. And ultimately, given the state of transition the publishing industry is in, and given the fact that I am not Kathy Griffen’s mom(don’t get me wrong, I love her), Chelsea Handler, or God help us, Flava Flav, I came to the decision self-publishing is the way to go for me. From here on out I am going to call it indie publishing though, because it sounds better. Like an indie film. No one thinks you’re pathetic if you make indie films, now do they? No. They think you are cool.

Then there was figuring out the process on a technical level. Formatting issues. Do it myself? Or pay someone. Making a cover. Buying rights to photos. More research. More eyeball ache. It’s been fascinating and so worth it. I’ve loved the learning.

Soooooo. Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar is now available as an e-book on Smashwords. Smashwords, if you don’t know, is a site where authors can publish their own material in ebook format. Readers can buy the book on Smashwords using a credit card or Paypal. Smashwords formatting allows you to view it on-line on your computer, on your Kindle, and using most other e-reading apps.

My book will also be available on Amazon in the near future. If it matters to you, I get more royalties if you buy it on Smashwords. I apologize for telling you that, but thought you might want to know.

Oh…and I made a little webpage, just for the book.

Much, much, more to come on this. Just wanted to put it out there. Dip my toe in. Get used to people knowing. That kind of thing. I’m going off to pretend I didn’t just post this, because basically I am terrified.

La, la, la, la, la…..

Nice day today, isn’t it? A little hot here in Cleveland but it’s supposed to cool off in a few days. Any vacation plans coming up? Really? You do? Awesome! I have the perfect thing for you to read on your trip. TTFN.

Lovingly yours,


Two New Blogs to Love

It’s All About Me. It’s All About Me, is all about Chris Vartorella. She is a friend from chorus. She is hilarious. She’s an actress and she has performed with Dancing Wheels, an amazing local dance troupe which features those with disabilities. She broke her back thirty years ago, and was told she’d never walk. But she walks. She lives in chronic pain from her injury, but she spends her time making everyone else laugh. She also spends her time stalking Marianne Williamson, Wayne Dyer and Cheryl Richardson, and has somehow managed to personally interact with all of them. Her blog posts will crack you up, and sometimes make you cry.

Marginal Considerations is the bouncing baby blog of Jan C. Snow. I’ve written about her here, when she was  teaching Riley to knit, and she is the composer in this post which seemed to resonate with many of you. She is a writer, artist, musician, dance critic, with talents too vast to mention. And yet, you have to dig to find out about all that. She isn’t pretentious. She is appreciated for her humorous radio commentary, also called Marginal Considerations on WCLV, the classical music station here in Cleveland.


She Even Bought Me Breakfast!

What does author, mother of three girls with autism, and autism advocate Kim Stagliano have in common with the guys in the Cleveland cover band Almost Famous? Besides fake Slash’s curly hair?

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Both were on Fox News this morning. It was bizarre. There was the band, singing Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy (BTW….Seth always thought the lyrics of that one were “Shave a horse, ride a cowboy”) and in the middle of the sexified raunchy song, they stopped immediately and cut to Kim. And then they showed a picture of poop.

Kim looked smashing in her plaid wool suit. Ultra poised and dignified, in stark contrast to the band,(not that there is anything wrong with dressing up like Slash, Elvis, Poison or AC/DC if it brings you joy).

We tweeted during the show and within an hour Kim and I were having breakfast at Tommy’s, a wonderful Cleveland establishment. Always a pleasure to see her and have time to talk. We packed family, books, autism triumphs, tragedies and puzzles, and lots of laughs into our conversation and enjoyed a kid free meal together. Then she was off to be keynote speaker at an autism conference held here today.

Tomorrow she has a book signing at The Learned Owl in Hudson at 1PM. If you are in the area, do attend. She never disappoints.

She’s superwoman.

Go, Kim Go!

Camel Toe Nation

I feel sorry for females in tight clothes. One of the things I love about being 42 is my absolute refusal to wear anything uncomfortable. To hell with that.

At a recent Indians game, as we baked in the sun, I looked around as I’m prone to do, at the people. So many girls/women in short shorts. Thighs sweating, and sticking to the hot seats. Shorts just too damn tight.

I remember being a teen, and smooshing myself into clothes that didn’t fit. Cut-off denim short shorts, with too short crotches, (and my Dr. Shoal’s sandals finishing off the look). It was unpleasant. How did I stand it?

I watch females do that awkward walk, ever so casually lifting a leg unnaturally as they step, trying to dislodge a camel toe. Or sometimes they actually have to stop and tug the thighs of their shorts down. Because they creep up, and let’s face it, thigh chafing is nothing to mess around with.

I’ll have none of that.

I want my shorts mid-thigh. Even knee length. I want them lightweight. Elastic waists are nice, though drawstrings are also good.

The heat index here today is somewhere between 105-115. It’s uncomfortable enough. No one needs to squeeze into ill fitting garments.

‘Cause the only thing worse than how a camel toe looks, is how a camel toe feels.

Ladies? Don’t do this to yourselves.

The Teacher

At the end of four weeks of music camp, staff approached us and asked if we might consider sending the kids to two more weeks of theater arts camp. Music camp is an inclusion camp for typicals, and kids with special needs. There are aides assigned to the kids who need them. Riley’s former aide from public school has accompanied her there for three summers now.

Theater arts camp is not an inclusion camp. They don’t generally take campers with special needs. We decided if all the pieces fell into place, they found an aide (Riley’s aide had plane tickets and was heading west for a family visit), we found the money, if Riley and Seth actually wanted to do it….if it was all meant to be, it would happen.

It happened.

Today was their third day of theater arts camp. Riley is paired with an aide she does not know. An 18 year old who will be off to college soon. All the better since she blends right in as a counselor and Riley no longer wants to be identified as the kid with the aide.  As far as the other campers know, this girl is just staff.

So yesterday, when I picked the kids up, one of the main directors of this session signaled to me. She wanted to talk. In private.

My stomach sank. Maybe Riley had a hard time. Maybe being with an aide she didn’t know had thrown her off. Maybe she’s worn out from the four weeks of camp before this. Walking in the door, I braced myself. Four staff members were there waiting to speak with me.


Turns out they wanted to cast Riley in the lead role for the final production. They wanted my opinion to see if I thought she could handle it. It’s a big role with solos and tons of dialogue.

There had not been a problem. Our girl is kicking butt!

So after talking with Riley some last night to feel her out, and determining she’d be okay with it, and after talking with the staff to make sure they have an understudy prepared, just in case….Ms. Riley O’Neil was announced as the lead role at camp today.

Her part in this original production?

“The teacher.”

Renaissance: : “a movement or period of vigorous artistic and intellectual activity.” -Webster’s

My computer is acting wonky, and I’m not even sure if this will post, so I’m keeping this short and sweet. The last day of camp the kids put on a Renaissance performance. Riley was a lead. Seth had lines too. It was cute. She’s been invited back for two more weeks of theater arts camp. This one not an inclusion camp. She’ll be the only kid with special needs and the first one ever for that block of camp. She has no idea how cool she is.

I panicked about Renaissance costumes and then remembered Janet and Brian’s wedding.

I did some cutting and pinning, and voila! Did I mention Riley was the lead girl? The Queen? She was.

Anyway…gotta go fix computer issues. Hope everyone is having a great weekend!

Lovingly yours,


Proud Little Mermaid

If any of you read my contribution to the Special Gifts anthology, you would know about our early experiences with swimming pools and Riley. The sensory bombardment of a locker room, a hot day, bright sun reflecting off the water, people splashing, the strong smell of chlorine, kids squealing, cold water, adult chatter. It was pure hell for Riley as an extremely sensory defensive toddler.

Throw a new baby into the mix, and us living in an area with no family what-so-ever for support and swimming was put on a back burner. Important, yes….but so many other things had to come first.

She’s taken private one-on-one lessons but it was a delicate thing. With her intense anxiety, if you pushed her too hard, you would never get her in the pool again. So, she’s eleven and still can’t swim.

We went for her second lesson this week with a new teacher. It is a different way to learn.

It almost reminds me of the floor time we did when she was little. The teacher rocks her like a little baby in the water. Riley looks completely blissed out. The point is to get her to enjoy and be soothed by the water. When you are tense, you can’t move your body effectively to swim. So by relaxing her, I mean REALLY relaxing…I swear her brain is being re-patterend.

As Riley walked over to the pool to meet her teacher Monday, Seth and I joined hands, closed our eyes and I led him on a gorgeous meditation, where we saw him and his sister on vacation somewhere beautiful, swimming freely, enjoying the water. We imagined Riley underwater like a little mermaid….pure joy.

After that we read a little from a Cricket Magazine someone had left on the table. The next time I looked up, I saw my daughter go underwater up to her goggles. Mouth and nose submerged.


I held my breath.

The next time I looked up, I saw my daughter go completely under water, remain there for a second, then come up smiling.


And then she did it again. And again. And again.

And I cried.

This was her second lesson. And no, she can’t swim yet. But she has overcome the most monumental hurdle, and it won’t be long.

Great, now I’m crying again.

Talk amongst yourselves.


Jingle is soooo famous

A puppy in Denver has a mad crush on Jingle. Read about it here.

My Memoir Revisited

I heard something once, and I can’t remember where…but it was the notion that children, when they can’t sleep and keep demanding your attention…the glass of water….the “I can’t get to sleep,” and on and on….what is really happening is they didn’t get enough of your attention during the day, so they are unconsciously, (or maybe deliberately) trying to get it at night.

So when Seth came down, unable to sleep the other night, I didn’t send him back upstairs. We’d technically been together all evening, but I hadn’t really “been there.”

For the last couple of months I’ve been revisiting my memoir. It started with my friend Tanya, wanting to fictionalize it for her new publishing company, and with me taking it off the shelf, and looking at it, and liking what I saw after some time and distance. Initially I agreed, and then as I went through it, the thought kept coming to me…. “this isn’t fiction.” It seemed inauthentic to pass it off as fiction. A friend teasingly called me “a reverse James Frey.” Fiction seemed like a good idea to protect some of my family members. But it also seemed like hiding, and untruth, and shame. The more I wrestled with it, I knew…I couldn’t pass it off as fiction. Tanya’s vision for her company is to only publish fiction, so we parted ways on the project. She gave me wonderful suggestions during the process which make the book stronger, and I appreciate her so much for getting me into it again.

So I’ve had a lot on my mind. I’ve been doing intense research on self-publishing. It is no longer merely the domain of those whose writing is not up to snuff, and can’t get published traditionally. The publishing industry is in a big period of transition. The way we read books is changing. There are writers making very deliberate choices to go it on their own, and who are reaping the financial rewards, particularly in ebooks. There are other writers I talk with for whom the publishing industry’s stamp of approval still means everything. For a lot of good reasons, I’m not so sure I’m one of them.

I’ve been studying and absorbing and learning. And in the meantime, I sent a few queries out, and got a request for pages from one agent, but by the time the request came, it was almost a disappointment, so jazzed was I about self-pub. Have not heard back from that agent, so I am going forth with steps to publish independently, (and in doing so, evidently I’ve been neglecting my little boy).

So, instead of sending Seth back up to bed, I took him onto our screened in porch and held him on my lap in the plastic green Adirondack chair, the back of his head against my chest. We felt the breeze and watched the clouds go across, in front of the moon. We talked about stuff. Summer camp. My book.

“Seth, for a long time I put my book away. I kept thinking about Law of Attraction, and I thought maybe a book about my childhood was focusing on what I don’t want, and maybe I shouldn’t do it. I didn’t want it to be a big victim story for the sake of entertainment.”

He nodded, with understanding.

“But over the last year I’ve really started to believe the role of the storyteller is a sacred one in our society. Stories connect people. They cultivate empathy. If we learn from them, our stories can be very important. They can heal. There are probably a lot of people who had childhoods like mine, and feel shame about it. When they read a book like mine, they see they are not alone, and the shame kind of lifts. Books can do that.”

Seth snuggled into me more, and let out a sleepy sigh.

“And even people who didn’t grow up like I did, reading it might give them more compassion and understanding for others. So, I’m actually feeling good about the book again. I just had to clear some things up in my head.”

“Mom. How old do I have to be to read your book?” he asked.

“Hmmm….I’m not sure. How about we revisit it when you’re fifteen and see if you’re ready? It’s definitely too old for you now. Where I grew up there was a lot of swearing, and I write like people talk, so that’s in there. And there are other situations in the book you are just too young to read about.”

He nodded, okay.

It wasn’t so long ago the thought of my children ever reading my memoir had me frozen. I felt it would be too much of a burden for them to bear if they read it. I didn’t even let Todd read it, in any of its many incarnations (and there have been many) until last year.

Now, somehow, all that resistance is gone. This is my story, and I am entitled to tell it. Something in me feels compelled to.

The book is in no way an effort to punish my parents. I had to really get clear about that. I had to know it in my bones. And I do. I did not write it in anger.

I’m also finally at the point where I believe the book should not be held back in an effort to protect them. It’s interesting how children protect their  parents, even at their own expense sometimes. Even as adults. My mother has given me her blessing to go forth with the book, 100%. I cannot say how much that means to me.

I worked really hard on this book. I lived this life. I get to give the story meaning, and turn it into something beautiful, and share it. That’s what artists do.

And what’s wonderful is I no longer feel like the insecure “girl” begging and wishing a literary agent would snatch me up. I feel confident my book will land where it is supposed to, and don’t feel super attached to the outcome of how many sales it generates. (Though of course it’ll be great if it sells like crazy and I would love that).

Seth and I sat there a long time. Talking. Watching the moon, and the clouds. Feeling the breeze. He sang me a verse from the hip hop version of It’s a Hard Knock Life. They’re working on it at camp. He’s even got a couple of solo lines.

We snuggled some more, and I wondered if for writers, our stories aren’t a bit like children, not leaving us alone, until we give them time to be heard.

Frankly, I don’t know how people who don’t write survive.

I’ll keep you posted…


Checking in…

Busy week here, so I’m just going to post some pics from the last several days….Lake Erie at sunset…

Mr. Seth swinging on a rope….

Gearing up for the July fourth bike parade.

July 4th Indian vs. Yankees game (nosebleed seats)

More when I come up for air.

All is well.


Love Thy Neighbor

For over two years, the house next door to us was vacant. The previous owners foreclosed, and left in the dark of night, never to be seen again.

Neighbors took turns mowing the lawn, making it look “not” vacant. And we waited. And we hoped. And finally a lovely young woman bought the house. Hurray!

Over the last several days, she has proceeded to have three of the gorgeous very mature trees on her property cut down. Trees that provided our yard with privacy and shade. Todd and I have felt sick watching it. Like we’re standing by witnessing a slaughter. The trees are what make this neighborhood special. The lovely, old, huge, trees. The house is small. She’s a young woman. This is likely her “starter” home, and she’s going to hack down something that’s been there probably a hundred years?

To add insult to injury, they’ve been cutting them down, all day, during the precious time when the kids are at camp, the only time this homeschooling mom has to herself to enjoy peace and quiet all year, and I’ve got to listen to the buzz of loud chain saws. It’s been deafening. We don’t have A/C and I can’t have the windows open or the sawdust floats in. Grr.

The other day I noticed our disgust had trickled down to the kids. Seth was peering out the window, shaking his head, and his fist, and something inside me said, enough of this.

A lesson from A Course in Miracles went through my mind, “I do not know what I am looking at, so I cannot judge what I see.”


After sorting it through in my head and heart for a while, I decided to talk with the kids. We really don’t know why she is cutting the trees. Perhaps they are dying or diseased, and she was advised to do so. Perhaps they are in danger of damaging her home. Perhaps she’s afraid the next wind storm will bring a big limb onto our house? Perhaps she has seasonal affective disorder and craves sunshine and couldn’t get a blessed speck of it with all that glorious shade. Perhaps none of this is true and she’s just totally unconscious and doesn’t think twice before she does things. Even if that were so, is it reason to hate? No.

Either way, the trees are coming down. I can make myself sick over it, or I can entertain the possibility I don’t know everything, that I’m not better than anyone else, that just because I would choose differently doesn’t make another person wrong. She seems like a good person. Like everyone else, she’s a child of God, living her life and going about her business. Which, BTW, is none of my business. Even if I can no longer walk by my upstairs windows naked.

The kids and I talked and talked and during our conversation, we all felt more expansive. I told them how my Grandmother always said… “When you point the finger, you have three pointing back at you.”

We discussed what we don’t like about this situation? And how are we demonstrating the very qualities we don’t like, in our own lives?

She isn’t seeming to consider the value of the trees or how destroying them will affect her neighbors.

Are we considering her desires for her yard, when we judge her?

Crappity crap crap.

So, the O’Neil’s are letting it go. She’s got a lovely yard, with a gorgeous coi pond which she’s restored beautifully. She’s a good neighbor, never a problem. She’s a nice person. She has a vision for her yard, which we don’t understand, but which is none of our business. We’ll honor that with love, as her vision unfolds.

The whole situation has inspired us to plant some trees in our own yard, which is truly the only thing one can ever tend to.


Mayfair Seat Co 4296331 Round Wood Seat Ni Hng

Behold the Bemis. The Bemis “Whisper Close” toilet seat.

No more being startled awake in the night to the sound of lid slamming on porcelain. Oh Bemis! Those days are over.

Much to Todd’s delight, it’s “seat fastening system” promises never to loosen.

And…much to Riley’s delight, the box says it’s anti-mircobial.

HT installed it this afternoon, and each time we pass each other in the house, we share a quiet, knowing, “Shhh…….”

If only it cleaned itself, we’d be all set.