Thursday, July 14, 2016

Grief and Love

Grief is the price we pay for love.
Grief is the price we pay for love.
Grief is the price we pay for love.

I read a friend's Facebook post over and over again trying to find some peace and comfort.  Yoda is gone. He's gone. My Yoda is gone.

Yoda was my first baby. He showed up at my apartment in Davis in November, 1999 - my first year of law school. I'd finally lived in a place where I could have a cat, and with Ryan being gone most of the time, I figured a cat was a perfect companion. So there was Yoda... my new buddy, my new companion. Boy, were we in for a ride.

There are so many memories that involve my cat. The morning of 9/11, Yoda sat in front of the big screen TV in my living room and watched the smoke billow away from the Twin Towers. Yoda never watched TV, but he did that morning.

There were so many road trips back and forth between Los Angeles and Davis. Road trips were always an adventure. We finally realized we'd need to sedate Yoda for the long trips. He did NOT travel which. Which is funny, because he got lost at LAX once. Yep - they just couldn't find him for a while. Even at home, he always seemed to get lost or he'd sneak outside. Someone was always looking for Yoda.

Then there was that time Yoda got thrown out with the Christmas tree. My mom found him in the plastic bag with the tree waiting to get picked up by the trash collectors. And there was that time we had to amputate his tail because cats are cats and his tail had to touch everything. It got stuck in a television cabinet and he ripped the end of his tale right off. That was probably like life Number 5. 

But yeah... so many good memories. And Yoda was just always there. My wedding, law school, studying for the bar exam and passing, moving to Buffalo, moving all over Buffalo, adding two kids and another cat in Buffalo, moving home, adding another cat, settling in. Yoda was always there. He'd make sure you knew it too with his signature yelp. He never hesitated to rub that beautiful orange hair of his on your black pants to let you know he was there. Always there.

A couple of months ago we noticed Yoda was losing weight but seemed to still have a healthy appetite. He'd been diagnosed with hyperthyroidism and it explained a lot of his problems. We always knew that he'd be the first of our pets to cross over the rainbow bridge. Duke through us a curve ball - we weren't expecting that. So when I went to feed Yoda last week and this usually voracious cat sniffed his food then walked away, my heart sunk into my stomach.. After 3 days of not eating we took him to the vet for some tests. We got the results back and it was all bad news. Yoda's kidneys and liver were failing. Yoda was really struggling, but I asked the doctor if it was possible he could get better. When he answered "no," I knew it was time to schedule my cat's death. Heartbreaking. We made the appointment for the following Monday so we could have some good time with him over the weekend.

Well, by Saturday afternoon, Yoda had mad it clear that it was time. He winced when I tried to pet him. He was unstable... he'd fall over or wobble when he walked. There was this smell - an awful smell that just didn't smell right. He'd mostly sleep during the days but all of a sudden, he was up and constantly meowing. He wouldn't stop. I thought... maybe he's just hungry - he hadn't eaten in about 4 days. So I run to the store to get something he liked. I set it down in front of him and there were a few licks, but I immediately broke down and Ryan searched for an emergency vet. 

Yoda gave me signs that it was time, and that helped. Yoda wasn't a good car rider - he had a pretty horrible meow that would sting our ears all the way to our destination. Well, Yoda meowed once as we pulled down the driveway. He only meowed 3 or 4 times during the 20 minute ride to the vet.

Just like with Duke, it was all done so quickly. After he was gone, I noticed those tired eyes of Yoda's had opened up, bright like the used to be.

Almost 17 years. I cry just thinking about it. I was so blessed to have him for so long. So yes, there is so much grief because there was so much love.

RIP Yoda. Be nice to Duke little buddy.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Please Pray for My City

The past couple of days have been rough. Two nights ago I posted the following on Facebook:

Alton Sterling.
You will hear his name a lot in the coming days.
Shot, point black, while being restrained by two police officers.
Both police cams 'fell off.'
Google it. There is video.

Alton Sterling died at the scene.

Then there was the video of Philando Castile being recorded by his girlfriend who was sitting in the passenger seat of his car when he was shot by a police officer. Castile's 4-year-old daughter was in the backseat and saw the whole thing.

Philando Castile died.

Two officer-involved killings of two black men who were either subdued or complying. Naturally, many of us are yelling, "Enough."

But when these shootings happen, I don't think about the Black Lives Matter movement necessarily. I take it more personally. I think about Will. Because of his autism, I don't know what would happen if he were confronted by police officers. If the tell him to stop or getting on the ground, he will probably ignore them. What if he starts walking away? What if he tried to reach in his pocket to get his cell phone to call me? What if he didn't comply? These thoughts keep me awake at night. And it was enough to cause enough stress for a while.

But then last night happened. I'd gone to dinner by myself at a local Tex-Mex restaurant we liked. I could tell I was getting some stares for eating alone. Is it really that big of a deal? But I decided to pay for the young lady's drink next to me and I tipped my waiter $20. Small gestures to hopefully bring a little happiness during a couple of rough news days. It felt good. I felt good. I was smiling.

But then I got home and immediately heard about a shooting after a peaceful protest in Dallas. Almost immediately it sounded really, really bad. As I sit here at almost 3 o'clock in the morning, I can tell you that 11 officers were shot. 4 Dallas PD officers and 1 DART officer were killed. The police were clearly targeted in a coordinated tactical attack. And now we mourn.

I've gotta be honest with you. I've enjoyed living in our bubble. When mass shootings have happened or terrorist attacks occur, it was never here. And while our hearts were always with those grieving cities, it wasn't here, so we were safe. Not anymore.

Pray for Dallas y'all. Just pray.

#Columbine #Blacksburg #FortHood #Aurora #SandyHook #Charleston #Roseburg #SanBernardino #Orlando


Friday, July 1, 2016

A Gem in Austin - Lone Star Court

I love Austin. Had I known more about it before we moved to Frisco, we probably would've moved there. The hills, food, and lakes (and my beloved Lake Austin Resort) - I just love everything about it. Except the traffic. Traffic in Austin is LA-bad... it's so bad they need to start addressing the main thoroughfare as, "THE 35." So when my agent emailed me Wednesday with an audition in Austin yesterday, I started plotting an overnight stay (driving 7-8 hours there and back just isn't my thing).

I love the area around the Domain. There are incredible shops there (Luxe Apothetique is my fave), an iPic movie theater, and great outdoor space there, so I decided to look for a place to stay overnight nearby.

I came across Lone Star Court. It's a nostalgic, retro-style boutique hotel with a ton of modern amenities right across from the shops at the Domain. From the super comfy and spacious rooms, to the free parking (seems like a luxury these days) and the pool, I loved every bit of this overnight stay. There's a cool retro car near check-in and I noticed bright food trucks parked next to the hotel - yum. After an easy check-in, I took the elevator up to my third-story room. I noticed the retro, ranch-chic style right away, as well as the full-size fridge that was stocked with everything from water and sodas to champagne. The drinks and the snacks laid out on the table are available on the honor system - and I took advantage of it. I just told them what I'd consumed at check-out.

With it's hip vibe and central location, I expected the hotel to be noisy. It wasn't at all even though my room overlooked a courtyard where people were hanging out chatting. I slept great.

After walking around at the shops for a bit and seeing Independence Day: Resurgence at iPic (the movie wasn't good - at all; I was disappointed), I made my way back to the hotel. I heard live music playing as I walked up and noticed that the bar was still open. I grabbed a cocktail then sat on the patio near the fire pit next to the pool and sipped my beverage while listening to the music. Loved the vibe. After the band wrapped up around 10, I walked up to my room and sat on the balcony in an orange rocking chair for another 20 or 30 minutes.

Then this morning, I walked back to the bar area for the complimentary breakfast. I was expecting danishes and bagels but was surprised to see fresh fruit, bacon, hash browns, oatmeal, cereal and a whole spread of other goodies. There was plenty of hot coffee and tea as well as juices (I couldn't find any champs for a mimosa, but I'm sure if I'd asked, someone would've gotten me some - had to drive back this morning so it's a good thing I didn't ask).

The stay wasn't perfect though. When I first entered my room yesterday, there was a Q-tip on the floor (ew) and the housekeepers had left a bottle of cleaning solution on the table near the snacks - the smell was pretty strong. And I swear there was someone else's hair on the floor in the bathroom (glad I had my flip flops). But these things were minor - no biggie.

I HIGHLY recommend Lone Star Court. It'll be my go-to hotel when I need to spend time in Austin.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Mother of All Play Dates!

When I think of some of my favorite things, I think about movies, rockstar moms and cocktails! So when I heard about this super fun promotion at Studio Movie Grill (one of my favorite places to check out flicks), I had to share it with you!

Studio Movie Grill is hosting the "Mother of All Play Dates," an ultimate GNO where guests will eat, drink and watch the new movie, "Bad Moms," starring Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn. Have you seen the preview for this? It looks hilarious! Gather some of your fellow moms and follow the steps below (and don't forget to invite me) - this is going to be fun! Here are the deets: 

STEP ONE: Gather your girlfriends and pick a playdate. Really, you deserve it.
STEP TWO: Pick your Bad Moms package, below.
STEP THREE: Request information today. Click here!

Girls' Night Out Package: $30/person
Movie admission; entree; appetizer or dessert; plus a glass of SMG Cellars Cabernet or Betty's Blend, or a special Mom-a-Rita frozen margarita.

Party Like a Mother Package: $33/person
Movie admission, entree, appetizer or dessert, plus a glass of Chloe Red Blend 249 or Kung Fu Girl Riesling, or a special Mother-of-all-Ritas frozen margarita with a champagne sidecar.

Click here for the movie trailer and details (included limitations) about the Mother of All Play Dates! And make sure you "Like" my Facebook page. I'll be giving away a couple of tickets soon!

Friday, June 3, 2016

Graduation Day - and an Update

My Will.

He graduated from Purefoy Elementary School this morning and I couldn't be prouder. This kid even snagged a couple of awards - he made the A/B Honor Roll and received a Certificate of Excellence in Science. After the program this morning, we could tell Will was struggling with what to do - he didn't know if he wanted to stay at school with his friends or leave for the day and join some friends at Jumpstreet (the 5th graders/new graduates were allowed to leave). He was so torn. Autism tried to creep in (we had to calm him down and asked him to make good choices) - you could feel his anguish. He finally decided on McDonald's and just coming home.

I remembered to bring tissue in case I started crying, I managed to keep it together for the most part - I teared up was during the slide show when they showed Will's kindergarten and 5th grade school pics and ALL his friends cheered for him. But goodness... I lost it when we got to Will's classroom. His special education teachers and paras responsible for him the last two years were all standing there when Will started crying and said, "I'm going to miss my friends." We were all done. This moment reminded me that autism doesn't define this kid. Because of autism, he's not supposed to have feelings, let alone be able to communicate them. But there he was, sad because he was going to miss all of his friends next year.

Which brings me to an update about where he will go to school in the fall. A lot, and I mean A LOT, of people saw my blog post about my sadness and frustration regarding Will's middle school placement. I've waited to post an update out of fear that Will would find out from someone else and not us that he is, in fact, going to Pioneer Heritage next year. I know he's probably heard us talking about it but we haven't actually had the discussion yet. We were hoping for a little separation from his elementary school friends before breaking the news. After receiving a lot of feedback and input from people who have worked with Will, we are comfortable with his placement (although we still REALLY think he belongs at Griffin next year).

So here's the deal... we arranged a meeting so I could go check out Pioneer Heritage and meet the teacher. We had a chance to sit and talk about some of our frustrations and concerns. I felt like we were being heard and that the school district is aware that their system for placing students with special needs and constantly moving them around needs some attention. I think the teacher at Pioneer Heritage is phenomenal and that Will is going to do great in her class. At our ARD meeting this week, we also discussed and addressed concerns with the hopes that we will make Will's transition as smooth as possible. 

We've maintained from the outset that our concern about Will's placement stemmed from a lack of consideration about his particular needs, strengths and weaknesses. We're still concerned about Will leaving his peers and having to move yet again in a year or two, but we strongly believe that these conversations should be happening before the placement is ever made and hopefully voicing our concerns will help in the future. I'm still very, very sad about Will not continuing on with his peers at Griffin. So many of his friends came up to him today and said how much they'd miss him. And it broke my heart every. single. time. Not just for him, but for them - I know how much they've learned from Will these last two years. But I keep reminding myself that hopefully, Will will be in school again with his peers. If all goes as it should, he may meet them again in high school.

So thank you all for your thoughts, prayers and messages. We're feeling the love. Your support has made it clear that this is a fight worth fighting, not just for Will, but for all of the kids here in our district. I'm not done yet.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

An Open Letter to Will's Friends at Purefoy Elementary

Dear Purefoy,

You probably don't know me, but I'm Will's mom. Will is graduating from the 5th grade tomorrow morning and I just want to say, "thank you." For everything.

I'm sure you guys know by now that Will has something called autism. Will's autism has made some things very difficult for him. Over the years it's been hard for Will to make friends. But you were always so nice to Will and always looked out for him. You cheered for him when he zip-lined at camp and when he received the "Grit" award. He loved it when you said "hello" to him as you were walking down the halls at school. He really liked sitting with you during lunchtime in the cafeteria. Will would come home every day and tell us how much fun he had with his friends at Purefoy. He may not have told you this, but he's going to miss you next year. A lot.

Will couldn't wait to get to school to hang out and learn with you every day. You probably noticed that he needed extra help with group projects and taking tests. But I bet he was pretty helpful with some things like geography because Will knows all the countries all over the world. He even knows what their flags look like. But thank you for being patient with Will and including him. 

Thank you for not treating Will like he was different. 

And can you do me a favor? Please thank your mom and dad for me because they've taught you to be kind and not to make fun of kids like Will who just need a little extra help in life. And please thank your teachers and administrators too - they really helped Will a lot these last two years.

Thank you... for everything.


Will's Mom

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

8 to 12 Weeks

Duke is gone.

We didn't want a dog. Not yet. We were still trying to get settled in Texas after moving home from Buffalo. Bryn was still a baby and with two cats and trying to get Will situated, it just wasn't the right time. But one night, Ryan pulled into the garage and parked his truck and as he walked around the back of it towards the door, this dog ran up to him wagging his tail and hoping to make a friend. He was a breed we were unfamiliar with - we'd later find out that he was an English Pointer.. probably not a breed we would've picked (he apparently picked us). We put him in the backyard thinking we'd find his owner the next day. Surely this happy dog who appeared to be potty trained with the red collar around his neck was missed. It was August 25th, 2009.

The next day I posted his pic on Facebook with the caption, "Who's your daddy?" We put signs up all over the neighborhood. We called around to shelters to see if anyone was looking for him. A neighbor even offered to take him to see if he was microchipped. We posted on neighborhood message boards. Nothing. After we'd had him for about a week, we decided to take him back to the vet to get him checked out before trying to contact some rescue organizations. We weren't ready for a dog. We found out this sweet boy had heartworm and would need to be treated... otherwise, his heart would eventually explode. So for a month, we nursed him back to health and realized we'd fallen in love. We named him Duke, and he became a part of our family. We vowed to fight for him if anyone showed up later trying to claim him. First day of kindergarten, waiting for the bus, dressing up for Valentine's Day... so many memories and Duke is in them.

Fast forward... we took Duke to the vet on April 26th because his breathing seemed a bit labored and his neck was swollen. Allergies? A cold maybe? We were given devastating and completely unexpected news. Cancer. Lymphoma. Duke had a history with cancer - we removed an ear several years ago because of a growth. He'd grown a couple of tumors around his groin that we were monitoring. We figured it would become a bigger problem at some point. But we weren't expecting this...

Duke had 8 to 12 weeks to live.

Ryan and I cried so much that day. We discussed chemo as an option but realized that we'd just be prolonging the inevitable. The vet prescribed twice-a-day steroids to help with the swelling in his lymph nodes. It worked... for a while. Following doctor's orders, we reduced the steroid pills to once a day and within a week, the labored breathing was back. Our sweet boy, who usually rushes towards the front door when the doorbell rings now simply lifted his head and then laid it back down on the floor.

Ryan took him to the vet yesterday morning and we were given no hope. Duke was dying. All I could think to myself is that he had 8-12 weeks but it had only been 4. No. Not yet. No. We discussed some what-ifs and maybes... what if we up his steroids again, then maybe he'll be okay? Our conversation about the possibilities was short. We knew what we had to do. We'd always promised that we wouldn't let Duke suffer. And he was. We cancelled our afternoon plans and waited for the kids to get home so they could say their goodbyes. We decided to take a family pic and let Duke run around a bit. Sure enough, some neighborhood dogs were out for a walk and Duke did what he always did... he ran back and forth (albeit slowly) along the fence. He's done this so often he's created a path for himself. We smiled as he happily ran back and forth knowing that this would be his last time.

The drive to the vet's office was too short - maybe a mile? Duke just laid on the floor in the backseat of the truck. Normal Duke would be trying to hop on my lap in the front to get a better view. We walked in the building and someone was waiting for us. We were escorted into a room and Duke laid on the cold floor. A tech came in to take Duke to get an IV inserted into his paw. While he was gone, we were asked what we wanted to do once Duke had passed. We could bring him home and bury him. Yeah, no. Cremation - that was it. But then we had to pick out an urn. Too many decisions. We quickly chose the wood one with a gold name plate on it. It's so small. They also had the option to do a paw print. Yes, we decided without hesitation. They could have offered just about anything in that moment and I would've said yes through my tears. I wasn't ready. It's only been four weeks. We should've had at least 4 more.

They brought Duke back into the room and they told us to take as long as needed for our goodbyes. Duke laid there as we kissed his forehead and scratched his ears. We told him how much we loved him. I asked myself 100 times if we were doing the right thing, but as I looked at Duke sitting in the corner struggling to breathe, there was some peace. There would be no more suffering. It was time.

The vet came in and asked us if we were going to stay. Of course. He explained the process and told us it wouldn't take long - maybe a minute. He explained that as he pushed the first drug into Duke's arm, Duke might look around the room a little bit and become a little disoriented. Then he explained that after about 15 seconds of pushing the second drug, he would check Duke for a heartbeat. "Are you ready?" No. But okay. Everything went as expected. I cradled Duke's face in my hand where he took his last breath. He looked like he was asleep, laying in the position he's so often laid in on our living room floor. It was all so peaceful. So quiet. So quick. Too quick. The doctor listened for silence... and then told us that he was gone. There is no way to describe the pain of experiencing the moment your pet leaves this Earth. It is absolutely heartbreaking. Did we play with him enough? Did he know how much we loved him? Was he in his crate too much? Did we give him the right food? Was he happy? I will remember that moment forever as one of the toughest I've ever had to experience in my life.

So many good moments happened in my life because of this dog. Duke would often look down our street when he heard a car approaching, and if he saw one of ours, he would jump in circles and run towards our gate. Last night we turned the corner onto our street, and we could see our empty backyard. It sunk in that we wouldn't be greeted by Duke anymore. I walked into the house sobbing. You see, Duke often waited for us right by the door if he was in the house, and even though I always knew he was there, he'd scare me and I'd let out a little, "woo." Every single time. He was such a good dog. He never tore up a shoe (although Bryn's toys were fair game if she left them on the living room floor), he never went upstairs (off limits because we were afraid he'd go up there and pee). There was always unconditional love and joy.

I asked Ryan to put away Duke's crate (which sits in our kitchen near the back door) and food bowls - I didn't need the reminder that he was gone. But as I type this, I look into the living room and see that his dog toys he so often threw around the living room are still there. All of them. So many reminders today - like the painting of an English Pointer I came across in a home visited, or the woman walking her pointer dog around the neighborhood, or the pointer puppy my friend just got. All reminders of the sweet dog who chose us one hot, Texas August night.

The house is too quiet. I keep thinking I need to open the back door and let Duke in the house. He'd stare if we weren't quick enough. I dropped a Pringle on the floor this morning - I could count on Duke to clean up after us when we dropped edibles. Not anymore. We often joked that Duke's tail was a lethal weapon - he whipped that thing on the floor, in his crate, on your legs. I never thought I'd miss it. But I do. And the only time Duke ever howled was when Will would sing a little song that went, "Duke, is a Duke." Will would sing it over and over again and Duke would sing along. Can't believe we won't hear that again.

A good friend shared this with me when we got Duke's diagnosis last month... it's A Letter to My Humans On Our Last Day Together. This letter, from the dog's point of view, is perfect. The line that got me was, "To you, I was simply a part of your life, but to me, you were my entire life." Thank you Duke, for everything. We didn't know we needed you.

Friday, May 20, 2016

We Should Be Celebrating, But We're Not

It's been a while since I've posted.

I've been planning to get my new blog at up and running so I can start posting there but life has been a little crazy... between Bryn's 8th birthday, health issues and neighbor woes, it's been a crazy month. Stay tuned though - the new blog will be up and running soon. In the meantime, I'll do my best to keep posting here. You all have missed SO. MUCH!

But today... I've got to get something off of my chest. I cried three times this morning before I even had breakfast, so I figured I'd take my frustrations out on my keyboard.

A couple of weeks ago, we got a phone call from Will's teacher informing us about Will's "placement" for next school year. It's common practice in Frisco ISD to wait until the end of the school year to inform parents of special education students where their children will be going to school in the fall. We are at the mercy of the school district... we go where they tell us to go. Optimally we should be at our home school - but Will has been at 5 campuses since we returned home from Buffalo in 2008. Never once has he been at our home school.

"Will is going to Pioneer Heritage next year," Will's sweet teacher said over the phone. Silence. Ryan and I looked at each other, confused. More silence. Finally, I said under my breath, "Where the f*** is Pioneer Heritage?" It's not our home school. I grabbed my laptop and Googled it. All of my fears as a mother of a child with autism manifested and filled my eyes with tears as I turned to Ryan and said, "We don't know anyone there. No one."

We asked more questions. Was anyone from Will's current class going to Pioneer Heritage with him? No. None of the teachers or aides? No. Do you realize Will thinks he's going to school next year at Griffin with ALL of his friends? Yes. How are we going to tell him that he's not? Silence.

We've watched Will struggle for a decade trying to make meaningful peer-to-peer relationships. Friendships. For years, there were no birthday party invites. There were no friends outside of those in his special education class asking to hang out. It was heartbreaking. So when Will got to Purefoy Elementary School a couple of years ago and he started talking about his friends when he got home from school every day, we got so excited. He was finally connecting with his peers - something that has been so difficult for him to do in year's past. We sent Will off to school every day knowing that he'd be safe from bullies because his friends would protect him and that he'd have friends to hang out with. It felt normal. We exhaled.

The week after the placement phone call, Will led us through the halls of Purefoy on Open House Night. "Hey Will," a friend called out. Will waved. "What's up Will?" Every time we turned a corner, Will was greeted by a friendly, knowing smile. He probably didn't notice me wiping tears from my eyes, because every time one of his friends said, "Hello," I was reminded that I was going to have to tell him he wasn't going to school with them next year.

Will is in what's called a Functional Academics class. They do not have this type of classroom at our home school so the school district has to look at the next closest campus that has the program. The next closest school is Griffin. Griffin Middle School is where Will's peers will go next year, and not just from Purefoy, but also from the school he attended before Purefoy. The schools where he was placed by Frisco ISD.

We've been told that there are already 9 students in the FA class at Griffin, and there is "no way" Will can go there. I later found out that the school district, in fact, has some discretion - they could place Will at Griffin. But we've been told over and over again that it's not an option, and everything about it makes every single mommy warrior alarm go off in my body. Pioneer Heritage has "space," and it's the next closest campus with room, so that's where Will will go next year. It doesn't matter if ALL of his peers are going to Griffin - so we've been told. There was no input from us or his teachers to make sure this was the best placement for Will. There was a spot available... so Will will go to Pioneer Heritage without any consideration for how this might affect him, his education, his behavior, or his progress.

And we get it - we understand that Frisco is one of the fastest growing cities in the country. We get that the special education department has to do what it can to make placement decisions for all of our kids. But the question that keeps going through my mind is, "Why is that Will's problem?"

Fast forward a couple of weeks. There have been lots of phone calls with administrators and such and no change in placement (yet). We got an email that Will would be receiving an award in assembly today so Ryan and I dropped Bryn off at school and made our way to Purefoy early enough to get front row seats. We'd surprise Will - he didn't know he was getting the award or that we were coming.


Will didn't come into the auditorium with his special education class (none of whom will be attending Pioneer Heritage next year. In year's past, we've not had too much of a problem with the constant movement because there was always some sort of continuity - either the teacher, aides or whole class moved together. Will was never alone) - he came in with his 5th grade class. Every time someone announced that it was the last assembly or that there were only 8 days of school left, the kids all cheered. Will did too as he sat among his friends. My heart broke. And I wiped away tears.

When Will's name was called for his award and the auditorium broke out in applause, I silently wiped tears from my eyes as Will ran towards the stage. Did the mom next to me see me using my sweatshirt as a tissue? I don't know. But Will was so happy. His smile was so big as he stood on the stage, so proud. And my heart broke. A tremendous sadness, even guilt maybe, tugged at me. He should be able to go to school with his friends. It's not his fault he has autism. Why is he being punished? It just doesn't seem fair. Or right.

I'm heartbroken y'all. Mama bear is feeling like she's not doing enough to make sure her son continues to thrive. Every bit of what's happened over the last couple of weeks with this school district has caused me to lose hope and question everything about our special education program. And you know what else scares the hell out of me? For some reason, kids' "asshole" switches get flipped when they hit middle school - they are mean. And I'm worried to death about my son to the point where I'm not sleeping at night. Tell me something - do you feel this way about your kid(s) when you go to sleep at night? It's an awful, horrible, heartbreaking feeling. So on top of all the normal pressures of starting middle school, my son has to do it alone.

Monday, April 18, 2016

What an exciting weekend!

I love my city!

I gush about how much I love the city of Frisco, but I mean it - there's always so much to do!

We started out our weekend at the Roughriders ballpark for the second game of the season. The weather was perfect (actually, almost a little chilly) and the Riders won! Afterward, we were allowed to go down onto the field to watch fireworks. It was magical - I got a little emotional as I sat on the field with my family. I thought, "These are the moments they are going to remember when they grow up."

Here's our family selfie - Ryan wasn't cooperating.

On Saturday, Will got to attend a special needs soccer clinic with a superstar!!! Sydney Leroux Dwyer was in town. Not only is she a fellow Bruin (yeah!), she's also a world champion. Will had a bit of an #autism meltdown and did NOT want to go to the clinic, but once he was there he had a blast! He even got to partner up with Sydney! We're so grateful that she spent some time with our special kiddos!

Today was a chill day - it's pouring here in Texas so most of our plans were cancelled (a bummer, but that's Texas this time of year).

I'm working on updating my blog so stay tuned!

Friday, April 8, 2016

Stacy Fawcett

I'm on a plane right now heading to LA to participate in a friend's autism conference tomorrow. I was running around packing this morning when I got a text...

"Did you see this?"

"What," I asked.

Attached was this link...

No. No way. This is something you see on 48 Hours or Dateline. It doesn't happen to friends, right? Just... no.

I read the article in shock... and so much sadness. Stacy was a friend... and the news of her passing is beyond devastating. She was an incredible presence in Dallas and everyone seemed to know Stacy the foodie.

Everything about this situation is tragic. My heart is absolutely broken.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Why We #LIUB Every Year

It's April - Autism Awareness Month. And today is World Autism Awareness Day. Years ago, Autism Speaks started the Light It Up Blue campaign to further promote awareness of this neuro-processing disorder. Like pink is to breast cancer, blue is to autism. And we live with it every. single. day. No need for awareness in this house.

But not everyone likes to light it up blue...

Many in the autism community say, "Enough with awareness. We need action." True. Many don't support Autism Speaks because they think it is merely a money-making juggernaut that doesn't actually do much for autism families. Well, maybe. We need acceptance and inclusion, not awareness. Sure. But I think we need all of these things AND awareness more than ever. And that's why we light it up blue every year.

We light it up blue because I want my neighborhood and community to know that my son has autism. I want them to protect him. I want them to teach their kids about autism so that they will be kind. I want someone to call me instead of the police if they see Will wandering the streets and they think he shouldn't be (more on wandering in another post).

The police. We light it up blue because we want to remind the city of Frisco that it has a lot of residents with autism... more than 700 students alone in our ISD. I want the police to understand that our kids wander and they may not be compliant if stopped. I don't want any of our kids to get shot for not doing what they are told to do by a police officer. Yeah... I back the blue. I hope they back our blue.

We light it up blue to show solidarity with other families dealing with autism. And it makes me happy and warms my heart when I see others LIUB, especially those who have not been personally affected by autism (yet). To me it says, "We hear you." And I like that.

We light it up blue to show support for families who have faced persecution because of autism like the family in California who was sued by neighbors who said their son with autism was a "nuisance." 

We light it up blue because Autism Speaks has been instrumental in procuring legislative reform so that our families don't have to worry about whether or not their kids' autism treatment coverage will be mandated under state law. Did you know that mandated coverage varies from state to state (Texas was one of the first to mandate coverage). Did you know that not every state has an autism insurance mandate? What does this mean? Insurance companies have been able to decide that they will not cover autism treatment. But many states now have laws requiring them to. But for the work of Autism Speaks in this area, we'd be years behind on this issue. And we light it up blue because we still have a very, very long way to go. None of these laws are perfect.

We light it up blue because in years past, we have participated in the annual Walk Now for Autism Speaks and have seen thousands of thousands of people touched by autism and supporting our families coming together in solidarity.

We light it up blue for the people who think it's still cool to call someone, "retarded."

We light it up blue for the friend who got mad at me and didn't speak to me for a month because I suggested her daughter be evaluated for a speech delay.

We light it up blue for the people who have no idea that there child who isn't speaking by the age of 3 isn't just "slow" or a late talker. We do it for the people who have no idea what the autism red flags are. Those people are out there. They exist. A lot of folks won't know what autism looks like until it's blank staring them in the face.

We light it up blue for the moms and dads who will hear the words, "Your child has autism," and will have absolutely no idea what to do or where to turn to for help.

We light it up blue for the folks who thank us for being so open about our journey because it helped them with their own children.

We light it up blue because our son who is 1 in 42 boys on the autism spectrum.

I don't always agree with the stance Autism Speaks' take on some issues, but there is no denying that the work they have done has helped increase funding and awareness for this disorder that has so significantly altered lives. Yes we need inclusion, action, acceptance and all that good stuff... but we get none of that when our kids are having a meltdown at the mall and the side-eye bystanders don't recognize that it might be one of our families in crisis. We don't need anymore awareness in our house... but there are still so many people who do. 

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Life Keeps Happening... In Progress

I realized earlier that while I'm in the process of setting up my new blog, I should keep posting here because life is still crazy exciting. For example, Ryan and I make a cameo tonight on A&E's Donnie Loves Jenny. The reality show featuring Donnie Wahlberg and Jenny McCarthy showcased Generation Rescue's Autism Education Summit. Ryan and I were on the celebrity panel - we've been so blessed to be a part of this amazing autism organization!

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

The Gridiron Goddess is Busy

...busy making changes to the blog. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

It's the time of year - SUPER BOWL!

I'll be in the Bay Area next week for Super Bowl festivities, including this year's Off the Field wives' fashion show. Stay tune for details - it's a little different this year! We've teamed up with the NFL for an apparel show. I'll be hosting this year and there will be several hall of famers in attendance. Stay tune for details!

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Everything Happens for a Reason... Even 2015

This year kind of sucked.

In March, the matriarch of my family died. I think about Granny just about every day. I miss her. Within a week of her death, The Broadcast was cancelled. Talk about a bummer. I loved that job and I hated to see it end. The week after that, I was still mourning the loss of my job and my income while laying Granny to rest. March super sucked.

Then in June, I started having those familiar hyperthyroidism symptoms - fatigue, hair loss, heart palpitations, insomnia. I knew it was back. CRAP! I'm confident that all of the stress I'd dealt with earlier in the year triggered it. Then I had my hysterectomy in October. Between surgery and my thyroid being all out of whack, I still don't feel like me. I'm tired of being tired. I'm so over it.

But there were so many amazing things that happened this year. We continue to be blessed by our fellow warriors in the autism community. We continue to be inspired by everything organizations like Generation Rescue, KultureCity and the Autism Treatment Center are doing to make our lives better.

I worked a lot this year. From hosting the FC Dallas pregame show and web segments for CultureMap to working on several other projects including commercials and industrials, it was a good year.

I'm finally ready to get back to work and I've decided to open a solo practice focusing on special education advocacy. Creating the practice will be my number one goal for 2016. I've missed work. I've missed helping people. I'm ready to jump back in the saddle.

I hope that 2016 brings me better health. I'll start by following the Myers Plan and making some major life changes when it comes to food. I'll blog about my journey - I'm a sugar addict and a major Pepsi-holic. It will be hard to give up gluten and cheese (I love cheese) but hopefully my health will improve when I do.

I'll be competing in Mrs. Texas again in 2016. My 8th go-round. I wasn't thrilled with my top ten finish last year, so I'm hoping for a better outcome this time around.

I don't know about you... but I'm over 2015. Bring on the new year.

And I'll write about the Myers Plan tomorrow. I'm certain it's what will get me back on the road towards good health.

Happy New Year Everyone! Make 2016 spectacular!


The hair loss started back in June. I'd wash my hair and clumps of curly strands would be entwined in my fingers. It was more than usual. 

Then the heart palpitations picked up. They were constant and kept me awake at night. 

Then the insomnia picked up. Even after popping an Ambien every night I'd still be up at one or two o'clock in the morning. And the exhaustion... there is a reason why sleep deprivation is a form of torture. I was always tired and had very little energy to do more than lay in the bed. 


Walking up stairs... by the time I made it to the top of the staircase in my house I'd be out of breath. 

And I lost weight... and I'm talking a LOT of weight. Between my hysterectomy recovery and my thyroid issues, I'd lost about 15 lbs. It was cute... I looked sick. Totally lost my booty.

And sweating... I was always hot and sweaty. Any time Ryan says he's fine and I'm burning up, I know it can only be one thing...

After about 8 months of feeling pretty good, my thyroid decided to act up again. I wasn't surprised - the months leading up to my thyroid problems were full of stress. The Broadcast ended and my granny died within a week. It was devastating. And stressful. And I'm certain the stress triggered my issues.

My endocrinologist ordered an uptake scan a couple of months ago to confirm my thyroid was working overtime again. I'd put it off but figured I'd get it down since I'd met my out-of-pocket expenses on my insurance. Uptake scans are interesting. You swallow a pill full of radioactive iodine. The thyroid is the only gland in your body that sucks in iodine so if a bunch of it ends up in your thyroid, it's overactive. The normal uptake range is 5-20%. Mine? 95.7%. My thyroid lit up like a Christmas tree on the scan. My Grave's disease was confirmed. It's an autoimmune disease that causes the thyroid to overwork. And I have it and it's screwing up my life.

The technician was really nice, but she starts going into her spiel she gives everyone in this situation. "You have two options. You can take another radioactive iodine pill with a stronger dose that will basically kill your thyroid. But you'll have to take medication for the rest of your life. I can give you that pill today... It started sounding a bit like Charlie Brown's teacher to me. Womp, womp, womp, womp, womp. "Your other option is just a band-aid. You'll take medication and you'll gain weight and your thyroid probably won't ever get better." Womp, womp, womp, womp, womp.

I stated that I was going to wait to talk to my doctor before making any choices. The options given to me today seem like last resorts. I have another plan... and I'm hoping and praying it works. I'll write more about it tomorrow because it's going to be a difficult journey but well worth it if it works. So check back tomorrow for deets!

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Texas Tornadoes

Earthquakes. In California where I grew up, we worried about occasional earthquakes. There were always little tremors - I dare say I kind of got used to a little ground shaking every once in a while. Occasionally though, there were bad ones like the Northridge earthquake in '94. But it was California, and earthquakes happen.

I guess the same can be said for Texas and tornadoes. They happen occasionally. The tornado sirens will go off and we'll take cover in our downstairs closet. It happened about a month or so ago - right in the middle of the night. We woke the kids up and hustled them down the stairs and into the closet. We put them back to bed after the sirens stopped, and then five minutes later they went off again. Back into the closet. At times, the drill seems like a bit of a nuisance... the tornadoes haven't really gotten THAT close to us since we've lived here (the closet was about 30 miles or so a couple of years ago). But tornadoes happen... and they happen here... in Texas. 

Last night's storms were forecast. Weather folks on the news have been warning about them all week. But I don't think anyone expected them to do what they did yesterday. So far, 11 are dead; homes and businesses destroyed. Because tornadoes happen in Texas.

We had plans to attend a hockey game with some friends of ours from out of town. We'd already told Will about the game and he was so excited to go. The first tornado touched down way south of us a little after 5 pm. Just as we were ready to leave a little before 6 when our city's sirens starting going off. Ryan and Will ran to the closet while I tried to corral the cats. It didn't work.

The sirens went off for a while (20 - 30 minutes on and off it seemed) and the entire time Will kept asking when we were leaving for the game. We finally decided to leave around 6:30. Sure enough, the second we hit the tollway, the sirens started going off again. We kept driving. We made our way to another highway in another city and sure enough, the sirens started going off. We were watching a local news broadcast the entire time and knew there wasn't an actual tornado near us (the closest was about 30-40 miles away) so we made our way to the game. We made it safely, but as we watched the news in our game suite and saw that cars were tossed off a freeway as a tornado churned by (at least 5 people died this way last night), we'll just have to deal with Will's disappointment because we won't do that again.

Please pray for the folks in North Texas. The damage is horrifying. 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

CONTEST: Concussion Tickets

I'm giving away two pair of tickets for an exclusive screening of Will Smith's new movie Concussion. The screening is on Wednesday, December 16 at 7:00 pm at the Angelika Dallas. Two winners will win a pair of tickets each. So here are the rules:
  1. "Like" my Dawn Neufeld fan page of Facebook.
  2. On the Dawn Neufeld fan page under the Concussion thread, tell me a little bit about what football means to you. Include the hashtag #ForThePlayers with your post.
  3. Make sure all entries are received by 5:00 pm on Sunday, December 13th.
This contest is open for folks in the DFW area who can actually make it to the screening. Ryan and I will review the entries and pick our favorite two. I'll let the winners know on Facebook Monday.

This is going to be an amazing movie. Will Smith stars in Concussion, a dramatic thrilled based on the incredible true David vs. Goliath story of American immigrant Dr. Bennet Omalu, the brilliant forensic neuropathologist who made the first discovery of CTE, a football-related brain trauma, in a pro player and fought for the truth to be known. Omalu's emotional quest puts him at dangerous odds with on of the most powerful - and beloved - institutions in the world.

Please let me know if you have any questions.