A Bump(er) in the Road


Fat ass.

That’s what my car used to be.  Until 90 minutes ago.

Zelda Maleficent Jolene Fitzgerald and I became best of (car) buds in 2013, after my grandmother’s reliable and sweet Ford Taurus, Ruby, was totaled by an idiot driver who was too cool to stop at a red light, I guess.  Zelda was born, a metal, Korean-made phoenix from the smoky ashes of Ruby’s airbag.

Zelda, unlike Ruby, is metropolitan.  She’s chic.  Like her namesake, Zelda Fitzgerald, she sees no boundaries between where she is and where she wants to go.  Her middle names come from the Disney live-action remake, “Maleficent,” which spoke all-too-deeply to me about the character development and personal growth that challenges a woman who’s had her power stripped from her.  And “Jolene” is my favorite Dolly Parton song.  Hence.  Zelda Maleficent Jolene Fitzgerald.

And suddenly, today, she was no longer a fat ass.  As of 1:02pm today, she has no rear bumper.

Merging onto Los Angeles freeways is probably tantamount to the coming-of-age ceremonies in Medieval times.  If you make it successfully, you are a full human.  If not, you die.  So merging onto the 5N freeway from the curvaceous 110S freeway has always been an act of bravery, requiring steely nerves, not for the faint-of-gasoline pedal.  Alas, my time had come to endure what countless drivers have before me—the fated big rig collision on one of the most dangerous merging lanes in Los Angeles County.

I don’t completely blame him—he didn’t see me, so he didn’t slow down.  Zelda is such a sporty gal, so she really sneaks by sometimes.  I merged, with enough space between us, but the big rig was just too big.  My rear bumper came off with a heart-crushing sound and a lateral movement like swiping lipstick off my lips with a tissue.  And suddenly, the bumper was gone.  A part of her lies on the side of the 5N freeway, a witness to the Los Angeles metro scene until a lonely city worker comes, picks it up, and takes it to be recycled.  A part of Zelda, now sucked into the Circle of Life, never to be seen again.  Perhaps the metal will make its way onto another car, maybe a luxury car.  I hope she’s reborn onto Rodeo Drive—it would make Zelda’s legacy sweet.

Oh, but the day did not end when the officer said, “Adieu.”  The day had to continue.  It was, after all, only 1:30 in the afternoon.

I filed my insurance claim on the spot, like a good little insurance adjuster’s daughter.  I wrote down the information, the claim number.  My stomach sank a little at the deductible I’d have to pay, but such was the adult life, full of paying for things you really wish didn’t cost you anything.

I drove my bumperless Zelda back to my parents’ after affirming that I’d be able to borrow one of their cars for the time that my gal was in the shop.  Once I got to my parents’, I breathed a little sigh of relief as I plopped down my computer bags onto the couch.  No one was home—they were all out gambling at a casino, party animals—so I strategized the cars I’d have to move to borrow my brother’s blue Elantra, moving it from its last place in the driveway to the first.

But as I walked back outside to retrieve more bags from Zelda, a gust of wind blew through the porch, changing the air pressure inside the house, and the front door shut.

Oh. Crap.

I pressed down on the latch of the front door, knowing full well that I had NOT unlatched it and that it WOULDN’T open, but perhaps hoping THIS time I might have just pressed it hard enough to where it opened on its own.  Maybe it knew my struggle and would just open out of pity?

No luck.

I went to the back gate, where to my dismay, I found the lock latched.  I was standing outside my parents’ house, with my car keys, and no way of getting into the house again.

Or so I thought.

“No, there’s got to be a way . . . I’ll make a way . . .”

I drove Zelda up to the veeerrryyy edge of the gate without hitting the gate, stood on the hood of my car, and reached over the edge of the gate.  I unlocked the padlock, hopped off the hood, and swung open the gate.  Barrier 1, done!  I drove Zelda back onto the curb to make room for the other cars I’d have to move.

Walking to the backyard, I tried the back door.  Drat!  Locked.  But I was not defeated!  God knows I wouldn’t surrender!!!

I glanced at the windows and spotted one without a screen.  Was it . . . it was unlocked!  It stood next to the air conditioning unit, but it was too far from it for me to safely stand and push myself inside.  I’d need something to stand on to hoist me onto the windowsill.

“Think, Jackie, think . . . ”

I saw a set of folding chairs by the patio and immediately knew what I had to do.

I grabbed the nearest one, but was worried about the efficiency of climbing through a window with a long maxi skirt.  So of course, I tore off my skirt like a cabaret dancer, stood on the chair, and pushed up the window.

The window wouldn’t stay open, so I glanced around for something tall and steady with which I could prop it open.  I looked inside and saw my mom’s cookbook nook.  I grabbed the tallest one I could maneuver reaching, vertically standing it up to hold the window up.  I pushed one leg through the window.  The book dropped, but just in time, I grabbed the window with both hands, and held it above my head as I swung my other leg through.  Then I gingerly closed the window.

What an absolutely terrible 90 minutes of my afternoon!  But everything was okay.  I was safe and unharmed, the claim had been filed, and eventually my car would be fixed.  I stood up and took a breath of gratefulness that I was okay.  And then I realized I wasn’t wearing my skirt.  I unlocked the back door and went outside to grab it from the swing where I’d placed it.  Hope the neighbors didn’t see!


A ‘Seismic Force’ in a Red Wrap Dress

wrap dress

Dresses — oh how I loved to dress in dresses!  Five years old, I knew nothing about fashion, but I knew the bigger the skirt, the more fabulous I’d feel.  I wore colorful dresses, pastel dresses, short dresses, hand-me-down dresses, and they always boasted bustly princess skirts.  I’d visit my grandmother, loving her attention as I twirled and twirled and twirled just to show them off to her!

“Mija,” she’d smile, “you’re spinning so fast in your dress!  Be careful or you’re just going to fly away from here!”  I’d drop to the floor like a ring around a rosy, giggling as she clapped and giggled back.

Public policy had appeared on my radar not more than three years ago, when I was invited to a conference on the futures of Regional Centers in California.  From that moment, stars had continually aligned, connecting me with contacts in and around my behavioral world, each offering me a tantalizing taste of policymaking until it was MY turn to talk to THEM, on that rainy Sacramento weekend, discussing how the brothers and sisters of people with disabilities would transform the way this world looked at family support.

A neuroscience major, I’d long practiced telling myself that I was ‘excited’ rather than ‘nervous,’ because the circuitry through the brain is the exact same for both emotions; our experiences of the emotions simply depends upon our labeling of them.  I always felt better telling myself I was excited, not nervous.  And that’s what I told myself in the days leading up to this policy conference — the time spent practicing the speech I believed to be aimed at parents, teachers, and general community members who were interested in a general update to the developmental disability world.

Oh, was I wrong!  I saw neither anyone ‘general’ nor ‘public’ when we stepped into the Holiday Inn’s ballroom arena.  Imagine believing you’re just going to make a run to the grocery store, when you open the door and walk right into a Victorian ball.  I had been raised in the ways of private school; however, nothing could have prepared me for the surprise of seeing the fellow mountain-movers that were making up my audience.

I suddenly felt underdressed — something I hardly ever allow myself to feel, as I’d internalized it as a sign of insecurity — but I felt it then.  I scanned the room feverishly for a sign of hair that wasn’t speckled with grey, but felt a small stone plunk into my stomach; I was the youngest attendee in the whole ballroom.  The other wonderful ladies on our Executive Committee were not much older than I, even though I was the youngest of the four of us, and collectively, we were the youngest by about fifteen years.  Oh, I felt underdressed and babyfaced and over-cleavaged, having attempted to make myself as presentable to the public; perhaps I was showing off a little too much assets in a sea of professionals who would have underestimated my lack of a dinner jacket, because I looked too much like a woman, and weren’t we all reliving the Peggy Olsen roller coaster of Mad Men, just in different hairdos???

So ran my anxious thoughts, but then I heard my grandma, almost standing beside me and not sitting hundreds of miles away — oh her Craftsman home, the stability and steadfast love that shaped me like the flames that present the phoenix: “Mija, I feel like you’re going to fly right out of here!”

I had never felt more powerful as a child than when I was spinning in my ballroom dresses, a childhood princess, ready to fly on powerful wings and pintucks pinned with tucked-in little flowers!  I had inherent power, my grandma told me so.  I’d been practicing, and she’d been priming!

Our speech delivered, our energy palpitating through the room, we curtsied to a round of cheerful applause.  We. Had. Arrived.

Later that night, having celebrated our fame on Twitter (on accounts that weren’t ours!!!), I ran into a Los Angeles contact, one of the instrumental leaders who had sent me flying toward the Capitol years prior — “Sacramento better watch out, Jackie!  You really are a seismic force, taking things by storm in a wrap dress!”

All I could do was grin.


I sit with quiet hands. 


Monday through Friday, I get to play God. That is my job–in a manner of speaking. As a Behavior Analyst, I am counted successful when my clients do as they are told. “Sit down,” “Tell mom,” “Put your shoes on,” “Write your name,” “Keep your underwear on.” If my clients don’t do as I ask, I have to “help” them complete their tasks. I train the Instructors on my team in the art of Tough Love. They have to show the clients they care about them, but will not stand for their bull shit. 

Perhaps this is where my God complex arose. (Note: these statements have not been evaluated by any Behavior Analyst governing body.) My salary, my success, and thus my worth are tied to how well I can exert CONTROL. The beautiful seven-letter C-word. 

Yesterday, one of my most aggressive and manipulative clients brought me tears of joy. We sat at his Clinical Team Meeting, evaluating his incredible progress, when his Instructor showed me some of his work. He had written out the steps to completing his homework (as part of the Executive Functioning curriculum of Sequencing), and the last step read, “I sit with quiet hands.” That’s a key term we in the field use to bring clients to a calm and coping state–better able to comply and less likely to throw something at my head. “I sit with quiet hands.” 

The phrase took on a broader meaning, and I was swept into a metaphorical sea of meaning and God and symbolism and consequence. 

Four months ago, something terrible happened. I’d only experienced watching it play out in TV shows and movies, yet after one life-changing moment, I was faced with experiencing it in real life–in my life, in real time.
I did what I thought best considering the drastic circumstance–called on the savage strength of my favorite female heroine. But I was unstable. I became radioactive, dangerous to my own touch and ideas of how to beat and control what I’d been told was my inevitable dissent into emotional monstrosity. 

I tried everything different than what had previously existed in my normal life, channeling Scarlett O’Hara’s refusal to let Destiny plot her fate without her two cents. 
But I did it wrong. What I used to accomplish with unflappable bravery was now desperate flailing gunshots. Attempts at control backfired because I wasn’t ready to think through my decisions–I simply acted. Hysteria loomed close, exhaustion held me in its grip even though I refused to sleep so I could control slipping into nightmares. 

Finally, after far too long, Melanie Hamilton slapped Scarlett across the face and told her to shut up. She tied her hands behind her back, tied her shoes together, duct taped her to a chair and forced her to listen . . . to herself. Myself. My strength. My Self. The one who inherently knew what to do, the one who never fought against the tide but had always sat and listened to my inner awareness, the knowing that I had exactly what I needed to move my mountains. No more, no less. 

I was reminded to sit, to sit with quiet hands. 

Hollywood Golden Girl!

Lord knows I can be dramatic.  That’s not news.  But who ever dreamed I’d one day be a Hollywood Golden Girl?!

Okay just kidding, that’s quite a stretch.  But I WILL be going on television—Autism Live! TV, programming efforts of the Center for Autism and Related Disorders (CARD) in Woodland Hills.  My high school friend connected me with her friend who heads programming for CARD (God bless Facebook) and, two messages later, I was booked as a guest THIS Thursday, August 27th, at 11:15am.  What’s more, he’s a USC School of Cinema alum!  What could be BETTER?!

I’m going to be talking about my book (Pieces—find it on Amazon!), about my non-profit efforts with the California Sibling Leadership Network and the Frank D. Lanterman Regional Center, and my work as an Applied Behavior Analyst with Behavior Frontiers (boy, I’m busy!).  I’m so excited to be getting the word out there and drawing attention to Siblings, autism, special needs, and . . . me!  (Just kidding . . . kind of . . . )

Hollywood here I come!!! (Maybe.)

See you on the other side of the camera, daahhling!



Where have all the blog posts gone?


Actually, I have a better question—where has all this TIME gone??


I can’t answer these questions in full, unless I start tracking what the past few months have meant for my sister, CASLN, and myself.  Even then, such a whirlwind has gone by, I don’t remember half the month of June!


Back in April, I was busily setting up new clients at work (private behavioral therapy agency) and starting the transition process with current clients to a substitute manager.  I was traveling to Europe from May 15-June 12, and needed all my ducks in a row before boarding that plane, or so help me God.  I spend early April submitting my application to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, received my approval to sit for the exam, and nearly had a heart attack when I discovered the FIRST available spot to take the exam was the DAY before my Europe trip, 100 miles away from me in San Diego.


Still in April, I prepared for two presentations: one for my alma mater, Flintridge Sacred Heart Academy, and one for Dr. Barbara Wheeler’s class at Cal State Los Angeles with my colleague, Eunice Im (check out her amazing blog post about it)!  I was invited back to my high school to speak at their Autism Awareness Assembly, and I spoke about what ‘Disability Awareness’ means to me and how we are all called to embrace differences and accept—no, celebrate!—people for the uniqueness inside them.


Then came the month of May—mad, manic May.  I was studying for the BCBA exam, transitioning cases to a substitute, prepping parents for my upcoming four-week leave, all while trying to balance some regular sleep each night.  I read the Cooper book feverishly, attempting to catch up to colleagues who had been studying (supposedly studying) about five more hours than I had been.  I packed for my overnight in San Diego, I packed for my European excursion.  The first two weeks of May were a wild and crazy mental tornado, but somehow, I managed to get to May 13th.


When I left the exam room after taking the exam, I was glad I was finished with it, but now came the monumental task of driving back up to Los Angeles to finish packing for four weeks away.  I did sleep, but had nightmares of forgetting the most basic of basics, like toothbrush or underwear.


In a word, Europe was monumental!  I had never visited any other continent before, and I was seeing Europe for the first time through the eyes of a queen!  My parents took my brother and me to some of their favorite spots, and I got to fall in love with some of my very own.  I was humbled.  Traveling in Europe was no longer something trendy and glamorous that celebrities did between working on sets.  I was in another country, visiting another continent, living a whole different way of life, and I got to experience it as a foreigner, a visitor, someone who was looking to a whole other world for the way to exist in theirs.  It was truly inspiring.


When we came back, the work only multiplied, as I hit the ground running with my cases at my agency.  I started to manage the details of my cases, the tedious minutiae, like which columns to place next to each other in my clients’ Excel files.  I was fine-tuning myself as a manager in a way I hadn’t been able to prior to my trip, because my focus had been on getting the cases ready for the substitute.  Now, the cases were all mine to personalize, to own, to sign, to mold, to create, to recreate, to master.  My role as a new manager had begun.


Then I got the news!  I was driving on the 134 freeway heading toward Old Town Pasadena when my phone dinged in my cupholder.  The email subject line flashed at me: BACB EXAMINATION RESULTS.  I’m pretty sure I almost killed like, fifty people, I was so excited and nervous and afraid and excited and AHHH!!  My friend was celebrating his birthday that night—would it be selfish of me to open it and see what the results were before heading to the bar?


I drove off the off-ramp, made my turns onto Green Street, and safe in my Pasadena happy place, I opened the email, not even realizing I had been digging my nails into my wrists through sheer nervous excitement!


“We would like to congratulate you on passing the BCBA . . .”


I started crying.


Years of hard work and dedication to this process had led me to this moment!!!  When people spoke of others’ working toward a passionate ambition, they spoke in admiration of them “going places.”  Well now, here, there, in that moment, I knew that I had arrived.  It felt like graduation all over again, the commencement, the beginning at the end of the path when I’d reached the pinnacle of all I had done to go, to be on my way, to prepare, to create a life of change, to march the destiny I’d created for myself through years of paying my dues!  I was here.  I had arrived.


And now, after a couple weeks of celebrating (when you pass this exam, you get ALL the attention from everyone in this field for a solid month!), I am back.  Where have all the blog posts gone?  They’ve been working toward this moment.

Council for Exceptional Children, April 2015


The FIRST thought that crossed my mind when my alarm went off at 4:00am was, “ohmygosh, I’m awake before Starbucks  opens.”


My morning was going to be busy and full, but incredible!!  Driving down from Los Angeles to San Diego, I was excited for a breakfast date with Julie Payne-Neward, my co-founder with the California Sibling Leadership Network, and two other researchers in the field of ID/DD and Sibs: Zack Rossetti of Boston University and Sarah Hall of Ashland University.  I didn’t even know how we’d come across the opportunity exactly, but the Council for Exceptional Children was taking place at the San Diego Convention Center the weekend of April 11th, Zack and Sarah had contacted Julie (and she’d contacted me!) at some point, some months ago, and they’d asked if we were interested in presenting!  Oh boy, were we ever!!


Earlier than I remember ever getting ready in recent memory, I styled my hair, topped off my thermos with a (caffeinated) tea latte, dolled myself up, and hit the road at . . . 4:58am (it was all worth it!).  Google Maps gave an ETA of 6:55am from LA to the SD Convention Center.  I drove off into the darkness, anticipating the sunrise I’d watch over the 5 freeway in the coming hour.


Breakfast at the Broken Yolk Cafe was pleasant and fun!  Zack and Sarah were warm and welcoming and funny.  Julie had brought along her roommate from grad school, Anna, who was reserved but extremely sweet and genuine.  We talked about our Siblings, laughed about weather patterns and our California sensitivities to them, we “oohed” and “aahed” over Zack and Julie’s pictures of their firstborns, and walked from the cafe to the Convention Center once our breakfast was done. (Shameless plug for the Broken Yolk–my Eggs Benedict were DELICIOUS!)


We found the presentation room (33C) and set up our chairs on the other side of the table for a more intimate ambiance.  Once we got going, I felt like we were simply telling stories to old friends—the vignettes rolled off our tongues, and instead of simply answering questions, we seemed to be sharing understanding.  The actual audience was small but intimate, and I was glad to see that the people who stayed and asked questions were REALLY interested in what we had to say.  They all had personal ties to Siblings, people with ID/DD, and how to involve Siblings in the processes of Sibling care.  I felt privileged to hear Sarah’s and Zack’s stories, and though Julie and I had already shared much of our histories, I was happy to hear fresh perspectives on her attempt to balance her many roles as mom, wife, daughter, and sister.


When the presentation was over, I felt like I’d gained two more friends in Zack and Sarah.  Even more possibilities opened up for CASLN, as a licensed psychologist came up to invite Julie and me to an international conference in Santa Rosa next year!  Zack gave us a sweet ‘thank you’ letter with his business card, asking us to stay in touch and promising to stay in contact so our respective organizations can further support and empower each other.  Sarah and I seemed to have been fashioned from the same “over-achiever” cloth, having grown up with an extra motivation to overcompensate for what our Siblings couldn’t naturally do on their own.  Sure, I had woken up at 4 o’clock that morning, and had spent about half the morning driving, and had about three more hours of driving ahead of me, but I would do it all over again.  Maybe not this week, but definitely again!

Re-Reading Eileen

I don’t ever remember hearing about Eileen Garvin’s book, or reading about it in some bookstore review, or receiving an email alert from some site’s “Recommended for You” feature. I simply remember thinking, “Oh my gosh!!  FINALLY!!” and staring, delirious amounts of hope pumping through me, at the two little girls on the cover.

There was no way I could have known that, in 2011, I wasn’t ready for Eileen Garvin’s book.  I closed the cover on “How to be a Sister: A Love Story with a Twist of Autism” and wanted to cry, scream, and—had it not been so sacrilegious against all books—throw the copy against the wall.

 I was critical to an arrogantly persnickety level:  “The back-and-forth between past and present was dizzying!”  “RIGHT at the end, change the narrative from third to first person?!  That’s not allowed!”  “It was SO. RANDOM.  None of her stories connected to anything except, “Oh this happened because my sister’s autistic.”  We get it.”  “Who died and made her ‘Queen of Sibling Relationships?!”  “There are literally NO commas separating her clauses!”  Had Eileen herself walked into my room at that moment, I would have laughed in her face.  I vowed never to read her book or mention it to anyone again.

Well.  Four years later, I wanted to read it again.  The allure of my “self-banned book” whispering to me, I was curious to reassess such powerful dislike for a book when I’d just finished writing my own book about growing up with an autistic sister.  The subject matters were identical, so why did I hate it?  I picked it up again, reversed the curse, and decided to give the book another read.

The second time around, my pen nearly ran dry from all the underlining and margin notes I scribbled.  Icons like stars and hashtags, words like “yes!” and “true!” marked the paragraphs where I related, almost identically, to Eileen’s own experiences, reflections, frustrations, and insights.

What had changed the second time, when I read the book at twenty-five?  For starters, my age, and therefore my experiences.  Time had created some distance and maturity of perspectives from when I’d first read the book.  The difference was like walking a cobblestone street in stilettos, and then blaming the street for a broken ankle.  Nowhere in my twenty-one-year-old consciousness had there been room to entertain the possibility I simply needed to change the way I traveled along the road.

At twenty-one, I was belligerent and argumentative with anyone who dared tell me they “understood” my sister’s and my situation.  Never would I ever have given anyone the credit that they “totally got” my very unique circumstance.  By the same token, I tired of people discussing their own experiences without offering me some insight I might take for myself.  When Eileen discussed that this was HER situation, HER fight and battle, HER sister, HER attempt to create a relationship with Margaret, I rolled my eyes at her disconnection from all the other Siblings, like myself, who were looking to her to tell them “how to be a sister.”  But had she tried, I would have barked back that she had no right to tell ME “how to be a sister” because she didn’t know me at all!

I wasn’t ready for this book at twenty-one.

When I read Eileen’s book at twenty-five, I connected with her vignettes, visualizing my own sister and my own memories with her that were colored with the same concepts.  Perhaps my sister never obsessed over records the way Eileen’s sister, Margaret, did, but my sister held on to a backpack or bag du jour like it carried the Secret to Life.  If that bag got lost, SHE lost her shit.  Perhaps my sister never threw up her dessert in a restaurant like Margaret did, but there were plenty of restaurant visits where screaming, bolting, and crying all came before the waitress ever took our orders.  Maybe my sister couldn’t talk the way Margaret could, but to Eileen and myself, the struggle to connect emotionally with our sisters was only slightly less impossible than teaching pigs to fly.

I related to Eileen in a way I hadn’t allowed myself to relate to her four years ago, probably because I was stuck in what she accurately referred to as the “hope that was, more likely, denial.”  I hadn’t come to the realization yet, as she had, that there was no right way “to be a sister.”  I read the title of her book as a self-help manual, an answer guide, which she herself admitted to have once longed for and desired.  I never read it as a question, one she asked herself, but instead read it as a statement she was imposing on other sisters.

At twenty-one, I was caught up in my Abnormal Psychology classes, convinced that I held the key to my sister’s autism, which Eileen admitted she’d long realized she could never have.  I didn’t want to read that someone so relatable to me had accepted the feelings I feared.  And I didn’t even want to admit I feared them.  So it was easier to hate Eileen’s story for being the “other,” the “wrong” kind of way to accept being a sister to an autistic girl, and to detach myself from her story, as relatable as it was to mine.  It would have challenged me to accept, as she had, that I had no magic spell, and had no hope of ever coming to one.

My own book about growing up with my sister has stylistic elements similar to Eileen’s because, just as she did, I longed for a connection with a sister whose emotional desires were impossible for me to read.  The last chapter of Eileen’s book is written in first person, from Eileen to Margaret, the same way the first person diary entries in my book, written from me to my sister, offset the third person accounts written about her.  I saw that Eileen and I possessed a similar desire and anxiety: a true intimacy with someone who cannot cross the threshold of social connection in the way we neurotypicals want and do.

Somehow, someway, in the four years between my two readings, I’d come to the maturity of understanding the only experience I could talk about was my own, not to discredit the experiences of other Siblings, but rather to give them a reference, a glossary of concepts and feelings from which they could extrapolate and to which they could relate.

“I always thought I just needed to try harder . . . If I try harder, we will get along and be happy.  I’m just not being patient enough, smart enough, diligent enough.  I’m borne forward on the false hope that you will get better someday.  Somehow, there will be a measurable improvement if I just keep trying.  Be a better sister.  Help your sister.  Take care of your sister.  You’re not trying hard enough.

“I looked at you and thought, ‘This is it.  This is you, and here I am.  This is what we’ve got.  And it’s got to be enough, because this is all there is . . .’  I had been completely wrong about all of it.  Your autism was nothing special, nor was the chaos it brought into this family.  It was just life.  We had it worse than some, better than others.  There was nothing to wait for.  This was it.” (pp. 247-48)

The sharing of our experiences is the only thing we Siblings can do, but if we’re open to it, it can be a tremendous gift for all involved.  That’s what Eileen Garvin did—accept and learn from her circumstances as they were—and what she tried to do for me four years ago.  I just didn’t understand it at the time, but she was telling me I was exactly as I needed to be, and that I could put down my boxing gloves and stop fighting with my shadows.

Reach out to Jaqueline’s organization, The California Sibling Leadership Network, and read these and other blog posts about Siblings, by Siblings, at http://www.casln.org.  Fill out the form below for more information.



Born in a Coffee Cup

The year was 2011.  I, a bright-eyed and bushy-tailed senior at the University of Southern California, walked into one of my last Writing 340 classes of the semester.

“Hi Professor!  I have an idea for my creative project!”

The idea was a blog, and the idea was born in a coffee cup.  I’d been staring into mine the previous night, wondering what my “takeaway project” was going to be once I exited those exposed-brick, hallowed halls.

“I’m going to write about my sister!”

That was about all the clear objective I possessed.  Years of growing up with a sister with autism had shown me I had a lot to say,  and I was going to find out a way to say it all . . . somehow.