The Tallest Woman in the World With a Tail

I facilitate a book group for kids age 10-12, and Friday we discussed Betti on the High Wire. I loved the book so much. It is about a girl in a war torn country who gets adopted by American parents. She is a smart, brave, orphan girl. She is a survivor. She is also a story teller.

Betti is one of many “leftover” kids who lives in an abandoned circus camp. One of the stories she often tells is of her parents, The Tallest Woman in the World With a Tail, and her father…the Alligator Man. She longs for the day they come find her.  

I won’t spoil the book for you, but wanted to share something interesting. Out of the five kids (with me making six) all of us had a different picture in our heads of what kind of tail Betti’s mom had.

I envisioned an alligator tail. One child pictured a fox’s tail. One child thought it was a monkey tail. One child envisioned a cat’s tail. Another a lion. Another, a dog’s tail.

Isn’t that something? All of us read the exact same sentences. Each of us envisioned something completely different.

The same could be said for Betti. The author deliberately doesn’t tell you what country she is from and only gives certain physical characteristics. One child thought Betti was blond with a French accent. Some thought she was likely Asian. Of course none of us knew for sure.

Perception is an individual thing.

This book group for 10-12 year olds stays on task better than any adult book group I’ve been part of. Maybe it’s because there is no wine? Such thoughtful discussions we have. 

Two more meetings before our move. Two more books.

We’re really going to miss these wonderful reader/friends. Each with a perspective as unique as Betti’s mother’s imagined tail.


Yesterday I was so flat out exhausted. Todd knew it and offered to take over morning routine today so I could sleep. We’re good that way. I think it is one of the reasons our marriage is strong. We intuit when the other one needs help, validation, sleep. We do our best to give it to the other one. Whoever needs it most.

So I was attempting to sleep in, when my eyes popped open. Easter. It’s the Thursday before Easter, last day before break and my daughter goes to Catholic school. It’s her first year there.

Being a very sensitive child myself, I remember being traumatized by the story of the crucifixion. Why would God allow that to happen to His son? And, why would God give a crap about me if He didn’t bother to help Jesus? Riley is even more sensitive and certainly more literal than I was. We needed to talk. I hopped out of bed, rubbed my eyes and went into her very pink bedroom and shimmied under her covers. She stood there in her uniform, brushing her long hair in front of the full length mirror.

“Riley, they are going to be talking about Easter today, and they are going to be talking about the crucifixion and I want to offer you something to think about when you are hearing all of this.” She knows the crucifixion story, of course, but it hasn’t been hammered into her skull all her life. It’s been on the periphery. “God loves you” is mostly what she’s been told. It’s served her little sensitive Aspergian heart well over the last 12 years.

She stopped brushing and looked at me.

“The real story of Easter, the message of Jesus, is the resurrection. Beaten, tortured, Jesus said, Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do.”

She gives me a beautiful, soft smile.

I continue, “On the cross, Jesus had every reason to hate, but he didn’t. He saw only love. He saw only love in everyone, even those who ridiculed him. Even those who were actively killing him. He was so tapped into God, he knew so adamantly Who He Was that nothing could make him stop loving. And he said he wasn’t special. He said we all have this power inside us.”

My throat tightens. I am not into religion, but Jesus moves me. He does. The love.

“The real story of Easter is that love cannot be killed. That’s why we’re still talking about Jesus today. The real story is the resurrection.”

Riley tipped her head to the side and thought about this for a moment.

“Thank you for telling me that, Mom,” she said.

In the kitchen while eating breakfast she reiterated our conversation to Todd.

“Nothing can kill love.”


Now, I can rest.

Cheryl Strayed on Dancing With the Stars?

The new season of Dancing With the Stars started this week. If you are new here, you might not know how much it means to us, so yes…I’m going to link to this post. I’ve linked to it a million times before and I don’t care who knows it. I love my Hot Toddy.

Anyway…our whole family loves DWTS. Ask us anything about the Rumba, the Cha-Cha, the Waltz, and now Contemporary. We’re experts, in our own minds. We’ll be walking through Target, and Riley will say of the music playing overhead, “This would be a good song for the Quick Step.” I’ll tilt my head, listen and nod. She’s right. She’s always right.

So at the dinner table last night we were talking about this first week of the new season. We all agreed the judges were too hard on Andy Dick. We all thought his dance was charming and entertaining. It was unexpected for me because I didn’t intend on liking him. I always unexpectedly like someone. Happens every season.

We discussed the other stars and the pros. No eye candy Maxim Chmerkovskiy this season. That’s okay, because his brother Val is there and he is not only dreamy…but sensitive. #iloveval

We discussed who we would want to see on the show in the future, and I said I would like to see a literary star. Wouldn’t that do great things for books? For literacy? Why are only athletes and actors and reality show people stars?

“Cheryl Strayed would be perfect,” I said.

And the kids wanted to know who Cheryl Strayed was. And so we had a nice discussion about Wild, and about The Pacific Crest Trail as we ate our tacos.

I don’t know Cheryl, but I have friends who know her. I’m wondering if she would be at all interested?

“I should start a Facebook page to campaign for Cheryl Strayed to be on Dancing With the Stars next year!” I say. “I want a writer to be a freaking star, and who’s hotter than Cheryl Strayed right now?”

Todd looks up from his plate, and says, “Of course, that might be borderline stalking.”

He can’t possibly get it.

He’s not that into books.

Healing Service with Dr. Nemeh

Last Sunday we attended a healing service with Dr. Issam Nemeh. They let the people with children go first and thank God. As we sat listening to his opening talk, Riley became very  agitated. She started to fidget in her seat and kind of stomp in her chair. I asked her to trade seats with Seth so she could be next to me and did what I could to calm her. I stroked her hair. I rubbed her arm. Two of the tools in my bag of tricks. Teary, she whispered, “I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I’m so tired.” She was up late the night before and daylight savings time had happened on top of that. Todd was working nights last week so he was very tired too.

I assured her, she was okay. Everything was okay. She calmed down, head on my shoulder.

“I’m sorry Mom.”

“You’re okay.”

When we got up in the prayer line, Riley was first. Dr. Nemeh put his hands on her and asked me if she’d been in an accident. He said there was a problem with her spine. I told him no. No accident. He prayed over her and rearranged her shoulders and felt her spine and asked me again, “Are you sure she’s not had an injury?” I said, “Perhaps a birth injury?” And he nodded confirmation. That could be it. Riley tried to get out for 26 hours, ramming her head into my pelvis the whole time, before a c-section was performed. I told him she has anxiety and he said it is from her spine being out place. He prayed and prayed and he smiled and he told me what Todd has always known and what I have tried to know, he said, this girl is going to be fine.

Next, he prayed over me. I had all these things I wanted to tell him but I let it go and just accepted the prayer, let the love wash over me, Thy will be done. Help me be what I came here to be. I felt blank, and felt total peace and quickly it was done.

Seth was next. He put his hands on Seth’s shoulders and suddenly smiled a huge grin, feeling Seth’s energy.  Seth tipped his head back and closed his eyes with a gentle smile of total surrender on his face. I meant to take off his hat, but I forgot, so there he was with his hat on.  Totally loose. With his hands on Seth’s shoulders, Dr. Nemeh looked at Todd and said, “This is a very good boy.” He got who he was, instantly. It is hugely validating when someone sees, truly sees your child. There is something beautiful and gentle in Seth, and when other people are beautiful and gentle, they recognize it. Seth just stood there, eyes closed, face up, smiling….accepting the prayer. Hit me doctor, I’m all yours.

Then it was Todd’s turn. Dr. Nemeh prayed over him. Riley and Seth and I prayed for Todd too. God bless this good man. Help him be what he came here to be.

And then it was over. We were free to leave and though I would have loved to hang out in that sacred vibe all day, Todd had not slept yet. We needed to get him home and to bed.

It feels good to be prayed for.

It felt familiar, like a very old memory. The priest at the Episcopal church I attended as a child used to bless all the children individually when they accompanied their parents to the altar for communion. He took his time, and was very reverent and you felt he really cared.

It felt like that.

One week later, Seth still has tics, but they are not acute right now. Riley has not had much anxiety. In fact writing this, I can’t think of a moment in the last week where she had a hard time. Todd is content and sweet as ever. It would be lying to say I have not had a big energetic shift over the last week. I hadn’t thought about it ’til now, hadn’t made any connection to being prayed for, but there it is. I have recommitted to my book and did the thing I’ve been so scared to do my entire life. I asked for help. If that’s not a miracle I don’t know what is.

And the people I asked said, “Yes. We will help you. We’d be happy to. Of course.”


* If you are interested in learning more about Dr. Nemeh read Miracles Every Day by Maura Poston Zagrans. I did a short review on my BILK page. Book # 6 on the list.


Thinking About Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar

A brilliant writer/Ph.D/published author/professional editor called me yesterday. One I deeply respect. She told me she’d just read Daughter of the Drunk at the Bar, and wanted to know why I was not promoting it. She loved it (to put it mildly, it’s almost embarrassing the gushing things she said about it). She thinks I should be getting it out there, trying to sell it more. She said she hated the back cover, it’s all caps and looks unprofessional, and she said there are five typos, but she loved it anyway. She’s the type of super detailed, super editor and writerly writer I feel most intimidated by. I’m still absorbing the things she said and am flabbergasted she took time out of her busy day to call me.

I don’t know what to do with this information. I’d kind of given up on my book. I was convinced it was amateur, and that maybe I wasn’t a real writer.

Initial reactions to the book from many people in my life were curious. Some were plain afraid to read it and didn’t. Some of the people closest to me read it and then didn’t mention it. So of course I took that to mean it sucked. Others who did read it said things like, “Oh it was so difficult to read,” or “Oh it was so painful to read,” or “I don’t usually read that kind of book,” and it filled me with shame. I felt guilty to have burdened them with my story.

The woman I spoke with yesterday said just because something might be difficult to read, doesn’t mean people shouldn’t read it. She said she wants everyone to read it. She thinks it has the potential to help a lot of people, particularly kids growing up in alcoholic homes. She freaking compared it to Angela’s Ashes. And then I fainted.

In Janurary 2012 I wrote a guest post for Lisa Romeo’s blog (which I regretted one second after submitting to her…because it was whiney and cowardly and passive aggressive). In it I discussed how disappointed I was that many writers I know didn’t take up the cause for my book.  I wondered if it was a bias against self-publishing.

My gramma used to say, “When you point your finger at someone else you have three pointing back at yourself.”

The true thing is I didn’t take up the cause for my book. IT WAS ME. I was fearful of asking for help. I was afraid of being rejected.

And I as much as I said the book was about releasing shame, I had a long way to go, because I was still ashamed, still scared of burdening people with my story.

We talked for an hour. She gave me so much to think about.

What a generous gift.

Before the Healing Service

On Sunday we went to a healing service with Dr. Issam Nemeh. I recently read the book Miracles Every Day and wanted to experience his prayer for our family in person.

Earlier that morning, as we were getting ready, Seth asked, “Will he help with my PANDAS?”

“I don’t know, Seth. It’s kind of a Thy will be done thing. We don’t know spiritually what your PANDAS is here for. Are you to be cured? To be a testament of cure being possible? Are you to be a teacher with it? Will you serve many others because you have these tics, or are you to be done with them? What did your soul come here to do? I can’t say. All I can say is be open.”

Riley says, “Mom, he isn’t going to just cure anything instantly.”

I said, “Actually he’s done plenty of that. There is documentation of physical changes, before and after x-rays. Tumors gone. Diseases healed. Lab tests to prove it.”

“I’m sorry to be skeptical,” she says, raising her eyebrows.

“It is okay if you are skeptical. I just ask that you join us, and that you be respectful.”

She nods, okay.

I add, “I’m never going to tell you what to think.”

Riley replies sincerely,

“Thank you.”


My mom had twins in 1983 when I was 15. We used cloth diapers for a while. It was disgusting. It was the old rectangle of a diaper, safety pins, with rubber pants on top. They leaked. They stunk. You had to rinse them in the toilet, and then stick them in a pail of soapy/shitty water reeking in the bathroom until laundering them. She was attempting to breast feed twins (which brought us to five kids). She had a husband that never changed a diaper once or ever did a load of laundry in his life. Cloth diapers were a herculean effort. The relief I felt when God-knows-who donated disposable diapers to us! My 15 year old “second-mother” self rejoiced.

When HT and I started our own family, I knew there was a “movement” toward cloth diapers, vaguely, peripherally. I knew it was better for the environment, obviously. But I had a really hard baby. The thought of adding more work to my life was heart sinking. And I thought about all the toxins being pumped into our environment from corporate America with no consequences. I felt the teeny bit I might help the environment by diapering my baby in cloth was a joke. And I resented the guilt trip being put on women to use cloth diapers. I saw it as another way to keep women so busy they wouldn’t have time to truly look at disparities in the world, like unequal pay for equal work, etc. I’d read Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth. This was just the next chapter. Cloth diapers = voluntary oppression. That’s what I thought.

The idea of toxins actually in the diapers, seeping into my baby’s skin? Now, that didn’t occur to me. The idea that they actually make cloth diapers these days that are functional….I did not know that. The fact that “child centered” (aka delayed) toileting promoted by a very famous and beloved pediatrician sounded so crunchy granola, but was really a well thought out campaign to sell more diapers for more years? Nope. It wouldn’t have occurred to me. (Not that it would have mattered because potty training for kids on the spectrum is just a whole other ball game).

I’m reading an advanced release copy of The Business of Baby by Jennifer Margulis. Oh how I wish this book had been out when I was a new mommy. Oh…the heartache it will save so many new parents in the future! She covers many topics of great concern to me, and others I had not put much thought into. Like diapers. I’ll be doing a real blog post/review/interview something or other on this book next month, but I just wanted to write this little bit about the diapers while it is fresh (hee-hee)because it illustrates that we are always learning and always growing. I mean, we can be, if we’re open.

Sometimes I feel sad about my lack of professional achievements over the last decade. But when I think about where I was when I started this parenting journey and how my consciousness has evolved, I can’t honestly feel unaccomplished. I’ve studied more as a mother than I ever did as a student (and not to brag, but I graduated college with high honors). The stakes are higher. I know so much more now.

Full-soul parenting.

And I’m not the only one. So many of us are waking up, and learning to trust our own Inner Guidance. Books like this are making it into the mainstream publishing world. I love it. I want to see The Business of Baby outsell “What to Expect.” I really do.

Knowledge is power.

New parents are getting smarter. They’re getting more power.

Can you feel it? I do.

And it makes my heart sing.

When I was growing something wild and unruly….

I miss the Dixie Chicks. The kids and I have been listening to their CD’s in the car lately and my heart just soars with every song.

I read somewhere recently that Natalie Maines said she doesn’t think the Dixie Chicks will get back together. She kind of gave up, saying their last tour wasn’t a success because they lost their huge country music fan base in the whole calling out G.W. on his shit moment, and she’d rather go out on a high note than sputter.

What about the true fans that weren’t necessarily country music fans to begin with, but were Dixie Chick fans through and through? Don’t we matter? Aren’t we enough?


The Dixie Chicks to me represent a time in my life when I was falling in love. Big love. It was the first time I let someone truly care for me. Cowboy Take Me Away (pharmacist, take me away…it works). I had gone back to school for nursing. I was leaving behind a lifetime of pain and starting to fly. I searched that summer for a pair of cowboy boots, and after weeks of looking, I found them. Black. Had to drive an hour to find the right ones.

The Dixie Chicks are the soundtrack of that time in my life.

Todd convinced me to stop going at a crazy pace (I was on track to become a nurse in one year through an accelerated bacclaeurate program) and enjoy our first year of being married. It wouldn’t matter down the road if I completed it in one year or two. Don’t miss our first year. I dropped back to regular time and felt totally sinful for not being stressed to the hilt. Contentment? A concept so foreign to me. I made him dinners. We spoiled our puppy. For the first time in my life, I felt relaxed, and beautiful.

Oh those early years! I loved Natalie Maines and her feisty “let it rip” in your face, attitude. I could relate to that. I loved the soulful ballads and I loved the balls to the wall songs. Hole in my Head. Sin Wagon! Their humor, Good-bye Earl. Emily with her banjo was OMG before OMG. Martie commanding emotions with her fiddle more than words ever could. Natalie’s comment a few years later on the verge of the Iraq war didn’t surprise me. I didn’t see why it was such a big deal. It just got turned into this huge propaganda moment by the war machine and the un-thinkers in the country music world. Part of me is like, So what Natalie? Where’s your fight? Why do you care? Screw them.

And part of me knows that people like Natalie, such big big personalities are often very sensitive on the inside. The toll the whole thing took on her, had to be immeasurable.

She’s given us enough already, even if she never sings another note. She owes no one anything.

But I miss them. I miss their unparalleled synergy and talent.

I took it for granted at the time.

I’ll forever be appreciative to The Dixie Chicks for accompanying that sweet blip of time in my life when my only responsibilty was to study a bit, make a nice dinner for my man, and let him love me.


What’s Been Cookin’

So the big news is…. we are moving. We are doing this so Riley can attend a very specific kind of school. It’s not the first time we have moved for a school, and it is less scary this time around. We know if it doesn’t work out, there are always other options.

The last several weeks have been a whirlwind, researching the school, taking a trip south with Riley to have her assessed. Checking out schools for Seth. Getting Todd’s resume out. Studying for my nursing boards (tuition for two private schools in our near future). Preparing to sell our house. Breaking the news to beloved friends, and to the current schools. And the everyday business of life on top of that.

We are hoping all the vitamin D from the sunshine will help boost Seth’s immune system.

We will miss so many people in Cleveland. Truly.

We will not miss the snow. Having grown up in NY, and having spent most of our adult years in snow states, we are more than happy to go somewhere warm. Yippee will be thrilled.

So many details still unsettled, but we’re going. We put a non-refundable deposit down for Riley’s school. In our estimation, this school could mean the difference for an independent life for Riley, or not. We have always, and continue to believe in our girl. We love the places she’s taken us and look forward to this newest adventure.

We leave at the end of the school year, and will get settled over the summer. I don’t think I’ll be blogging once we get there. When we move it seems like the logical time to stop. For one, I’ll surely be very busy. For two, it just keeps getting more clear that I can’t write about the kids so much anymore, now that they are getting older. When I started blogging they were teeny. Blogging was pretty new. My writing teacher said, “write what you know,” and truly my family was my life. They were what I was up to. They were what I knew. And they still are. But it is different now.

Maybe I’ll eventually start a new blog. An anonymous one? Or one just about Hot Toddy? I’m sure he wouldn’t mind at all. Or a blog about returning to nursing after a ten year hiatus? Or maybe I’ll actually finish that inspirational book I’ve been working on. I don’t know. I’m not done here yet at Full-Soul-Ahead, but the writing, as they say, is on the wall.

I stopped this blog once before, and then regretted it. I wasn’t ready. In some ways I was running away from a few things back then. My book, for one. And a couple of other things I won’t mention now. This time it feels like I’m going toward.

I don’t see myself writing a grand finale like I did last time(I’ve felt totally sheepish about that since I started again in 2011). It will be a much quieter exit.

It feels like the right thing to do.

But not just yet.