Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I have been asked in numerous questionnaires to name someone I admire, or who is a role model to me. Usually, I have been stumped at the question. Then, twice in the last two days, I have found myself thinking, "she's my hero!"

Yesterday, I was doing some research on a website for people who have, or think they may have, Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The site ( is the work of Heather Van Vorous, who has had IBS for over thirty-five years. She used her own research and trial-and-error experience to write a book, Eating for IBS, and to launch the website, which includes message boards, forums, and a store for her Tummy Care products. The extensive information on the site was more helpful than everything else I found. Heather is my hero because, in taking responsibility to do research and develop products that she found helpful herself, she has made the results available to others, and is making a living (probably a good one - more power to her!) doing exactly what she chose to do anyway. That is the ideal life I want, and hope to live, in the future!

On today, one of the entertainment headlines referred to Katey Sagal, the mom from Married with Children, who is looking fabulous at age 55. Clicking on that took me to a picture of Ms. Sagal in a little black dress and heels, with gorgeous highlighted hair, at the TV Land Awards. Wow. She looks better than I do (at 38). I aspire to take care of my health, and now that my kids are getting a little older, to pay attention to how I look and feel. I may not look as good as Katey Sagal when I am 55, but I plan to look better at 40 than I did at 30, which was a bit on the dumpy side (being home with a toddler and an infant was a big part of that).

This train of thought reminds me of all the people who inspire me in big ways and small ones. There was my friend Earl, a beautifully kind, loving and spiritual person. Sadly, we lost Earl to ALS last year. Knowing him impacted people for their lifetimes, and inspired us to be more kind and loving ourselves. My mom inspired me; after raising eight children at home, she started going to college part-time, and over several years she earned her Associates Degree in Music, her Bachelor's in Psychology, and a Master's in Pastoral Counseling. There are my friends who work day jobs in contracting, landscaping or retail so they can do what they love (music), the rest of the time. They inspired me to get back to writing as much as I can, even if I can't quit my day job (yet). I follow their bands, The New Familiars (Charlotte, NC) and Downtown Harvest (Philadelphia, PA) and their successes continue to encourage me.

I have been blessed this year with an opportunity to work with a Life Coach, Anne Marie Buck ( She and Martha Beck, a lifecoaching/life design expert, have modeled new ways of looking at life and processing experience, so that I might live the life I want. Finally, a favorite hero is Hero, short for Heroilda, a counselor at Women in Transition, Inc., who has worked with me as a hero in the classic sense, a fellow warrior in defeating old ways of thinking that kept me stuck in an unsatisfactory life.

When we can identify our heroes, we identify our goals and the values that we want to shape our lives. Whether they are celebrities, mothers and fathers, friends, writers, musicians and artists, athletes, policemen, firefighters or scientists, role models help us to define what we admire, so that we can become the person we want to be. Who is your hero?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Autism Awareness & our son's diagnosis

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and that may be why I have been thinking of the day I first heard the possibility that my son had Asperger's Syndrome, an Autism Spectrum Disorder that is sometimes described as having "a touch of autism." We had known from his late infancy that Jonah is stubborn, and I had begun to describe him as being like the little girl who had a little curl, in the nursery rhyme, "when she was good she was very, very good, and when she was bad she was horrid!" There were times when he just refused to do what was expected of him, especially at church.

Some very insightful observations on the part of his pre-K teacher led me to go through ChildLink in Philadelphia, to see if there might be any reasons for his difficulties with conducting himself in some social settings. I never expected an actual diagnosis, and when the evaluation team was in perfect agreement that Jonah fit the description of a child with Asperger's, I was completely stunned. I had only heard of it once or twice in the pediatrician's office where I worked, and whenever it was mentioned by one of the other administrative staff, it was with pity or a shaking head.

It didn't help that my then-husband was in the emergency room with another episode of a chronic illness. I had to get home for my older son, who was coming home from school. I kept looking at Jonah, wondering what had happened. How did I not know? Is it because I took anti-depressants when I was pregnant and nursing?

Fortunately, it only took a day for me to look back in my rearview mirror at my little boy, and realize that he had not changed at all. He was just as loving, just as funny and happy, and stubborn, as he had been the week before. There was just more information about the things that challenge him, information that would not have been so available when I was a child. I am grateful for that, that I could go online and google Asperger's Syndrome, and find information that made it more real to me, and that helped me to find the right resources for us, especially other parents with children on the spectrum. If you have recently had a child diagnosed with Apserger's or another ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder), I would encourage you to seek out other families who have been through it, and feel free to send me a message.