Sunday, July 1, 2018

I LOVE Gymnastics, but...

I don't know if I should classify this as a question thrown out to the world to answer, a rant, or a call to action. I am generally not the type of person to speak out. Sure, I share my experiences, I try to advocate for others when I can, but I'm not one to get up on a soap box or hit the streets with signs and chants to demand change.

I've become more confused and irritated by something lately, though, and it A) boggles my mind that more people aren't concerned about it B) makes me wonder if I'm just missing something that everyone else understands and C) has gotten to the point where I am compelled to speak out.

My issue? Gymnastics dress code. I have been sitting, for hours at a time, through nearly a decade of gymnastics practices [so far]. Something that has remained consistent over all those years is that when the girls (of all ages) practice, they - almost without exception - all wear shorts over their leotards. There isn't much to the shorts; they barely reach the classification of "Daisy Dukes". Still...the girls just feel more comfortable with them on. It makes sense. Who wants to be doing splits in a glorified bathing suit, especially once you hit an age when you start seeing some changes in your body that you're not quite used to or comfortable with yet?

When you compete in meets, though, the shorts aren't allowed. They don't care if, say, you've just started your period and you don't feel comfortable using a tampon. You're left with the choice of either using a pad and hoping nothing shows [which would be beyond mortifying, of course] or just calling in sick for the meet. I'd call in sick every time, personally.


Men's and women's gymnastics are really two very different sports (there are 4 events for women, 6 for men, and only two of the 4 women's events are common between the genders). That being said, men and women gymnasts, alike, are generally judged on the same (or very similar) attributes - athleticism and form. So...if judges can watch a man do a floor exercise in shorts and determine how straight his legs are, his body alignment, etc. with no issues, why can't a woman wear shorts, too? Clearly it's not an issue of the shorts hiding some critical aspect of form when the woman performs a skill. If that were the case, coaches wouldn't allow shorts during practice, as they would hinder their ability to properly coach.

After all the press gymnastics got recently about sexual abuse, I thought maybe...just maybe a silver lining would be that the general "sexualization" of the sport (not necessarily intended these days, but left over from years of tradition) would be scrutinized. I listened carefully to the news reports and read through the articles with a hopeful eye. Nope...nothing. No mention of dress code. No question as to why the female athletes must wear less than the male athletes.

I went to my daughter's coach and voiced my irritation with the policy. I know of at least one family that quit gymnastics because the mom didn't feel comfortable with the competition dress code. I've often wondered how many girls quit - not because they're "done" with the sport - but because they don't feel comfortable competing with so little covering them.

My hopes soared when she responded, "They're actually working on adjusting the dress code right now."

"Really?!" I asked, lighting up with a gasp of excited near-disbelief and wide, hopeful eyes. Could my silver lining theory have possibly been right?!

"Yeah," she said, "They're trying to come up with a full-body suit option with a head covering that would allow for religious inclusion."

My shoulders slumped. My gasp turned into a frustrated sigh. Great. Apparently girls are allowed to compete with their entire bodies covered if their religion demands it. Slightly more modest attire for the comfort level of the gymnast? No. Not important enough to change the decades-old dress code. It's bathing suit or full body suit - nothing in-between. ...Regardless of what their male gymnast counterparts are allowed to wear.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Behind The Curtain ~ Confessions of A Facebook-Friendly Family

This is me phoning in my blog post.

This is me too exhausted to want to think, write, or be anything but a lump on a warm sandy beach somewhere.

Life has been full in our family over the past few months and promises to be over [at least] the next few months. We've had plenty of pretty Facebook-post-worthy moments.

I'm all about truth in advertising, though. Our snazzy snapshots don't tell the whole story. 

I despise the disgusted, disappointed, deflated  feeling of self-loathing I experience when it looks and feels like other women are so much more successful at motherhood and life than I could ever be - like they were privy to some magical advice that made it all easy for them. Advice I never happened to catch.

Maybe there are women out there like that - women who have it all, who do it all and get it all done without breaking a sweat, chipping a nail, or messing up their perfectly-applied makeup. Maybe I just tell myself they're no more real than an argument over the kids helping out too much with the housework, so I won't feel so bad when it appears I don't measure up.

I just want everyone out there to know that I am NOT one of those women. We are NOT one of those families.

That being said, this is NOT a whine or complaint. I'm insanely happy with my life. It could always be better and there are rough days, but - compared to life I wrote about in With Angel's Wings? This is the DREAM life. This is a super-easy, gravy train, all rainbows and cotton candy life.

But even the best lives are not picture-perfect. Here's the truth behind our most recent pretty pictures.

April first was the big day when Ellie's first book was published. After seeing a post about it someone said, "I'm guessing she's a straight-A student, right?" Nope. She's not a bad student (A's, B's, occasional C's), but she has had to do some adjusting to the transition from elementary to middle school. When her book launched she had a D- in Science and an F in Language Arts. LANGUAGE ARTS! She wasn't just failing a little bit, either. Oh no. This was epic failure with flair.

We're currently at that time of year where it's all about the scramble for spare points...


This memory came up on my Facebook feed not too long ago. It gifted me with many fond memories...and a tsunami of self-image doubt and shame over just how much I've aged and put on weight in the 7 years since the pretty picture in the post was snapped. Ah, weight. I've grown so very weary of that never-ending battle. I wish when I got most depressed about it my first instinct wasn't to devour a full can of whipped cream in the car on the way home from the store...hoping the people in passing cars are not feeling particularly judgmental...hypothetically speaking, of course...

Okay. I know we all have these. "Chuckle posts" that have you crying inside? Haha...nobody else in the house seems to know how to pick up after him/herself. Haha...[Cry as I look around a trashed house on a daily basis, feeling completely overwhelmed by the task of tackling it...and growing increasingly inclined to just learn to live in the clutter and filth, because, seriously, why bother?]

The past 60 days have also featured two successful state gymnastics meets, followed by two successful regional meets. All good, right? How could it be anything but?

Unfortunately, while things were going so well with her physical strength, she was struggling with her mental health. We've fought her anxiety and depression for months.

She increased her all-time best all-around score by nearly a full point at the regional gymnastics meet - after having increased it by nearly a full point at the state meet. She was awarded a bronze medal for trampoline at the Regional Trampoline and Tumbling Championships. But just after the awards ceremony she cried as she explained, "I KNOW I should be happy about this. This is something to really feel proud and happy about. Just like it should have been after the gymnastics meet. But...I just can't find my happy anywhere. All that's in my head is sadness. Then I get angry, because there's NO REASON for it!!! I just want to find my happy again."

After comments like that escalated to comments like, "Maybe everyone would be better off if I wasn't here anymore," we realized that all the behavioral techniques we were attempting were just not enough. We've since adjusted her medication (with success so far).

Anxiety and depression are hereditary illnesses. And they're chronic illnesses. My battles with them were well documented in With Angel's Wings. They haven't gone away for me - no matter how much they may be hidden from my Facebook posts, and they are plaguing my kids, as well. Just this week we had to give James Xanax so he could tolerate having his braces put on (without passing out, as he did the last time he went to the doctor's office...when they tried to take his blood pressure).

Once again, I promise to write a post sometime soon that will focus more on the effects and realities of life with [a whole household of] anxiety and depression. Right now, though, I'm too in the thoes of it to find the energy to explain further. My only goal today is to prevent anyone from looking at anything I post and think, "Wow. That family has it ALL together." Because we don't. Nobody does. Everybody has their own, personal chaos hidden behind the curtains.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Grrrr...Seventh Graders...

"Mom, today at school a couple 7th grade boys asked me if I'm a furry. I asked what that is and they laughed at me for not knowing. I told them I thought maybe I am - you know - because I wear my wolf hat all the time and stuff. They laughed even harder. Do you know what a furry is?"

That was the question I got from Maddie (my 6th grader) on a recent Friday night as we walked into a store. I brushed off the question, telling her I had no idea. As we searched for the items on our shopping list, however, I began to imagine what the 7th grade boys of "my day" would have been referring to. It didn't take too much imagination or time to come up with a really good guess.

As we headed back to the car, purchases in hand, I said, "Maddie, I think I know what those boys at school may have been referring to. Usually when boys that age approach a girl and ask questions that don't seem to make sense and/or elbow each other in the ribs as they laugh with one another, it generally means they're referring to something sexual. My guess is they're talking about puberty. Puberty includes the growth of under-arm and pubic hair, and I think maybe that was their crass, rude and completely inappropriate way of asking you if you've hit that stage in puberty yet."

"Well, that's STUPID!"

"I know. It is stupid, and stupidity like that doesn't even deserve a response. ...Unless it makes you at all uncomfortable; in that case the response it deserves is telling a teacher or parent what is going on."

When we got home I decided to have a chat with James (my 9th grader). I told him about Maddie's experience, then said, "James, I'm confident that you don't partake in inappropriate and disrespectful behavior like this, but just to be 100% clear, guys are earning exactly NO brownie points when they pull crap like that on girls. It's not cute. It's not sexy. It's not attractive in any way. It's gross, uncomfortable and stupid, and that's exactly what girls think when they encounter it."

He said, "I get it, but...a furry is a person who dresses up like an animal. Geez, Mom; get your head out of the gutter!"


"Yeah. Here. See? It's kinda...a meme thing." He held out his phone with the definition scrawled across the screen as he shook his head at me with a scowl of disappointment that screamed, "I'm embarrassed to even call you 'mother' right now".

"...Oh. Well...still. Don't be disrespectful to girls; it will get you nowhere."

I was mortified. I couldn't believe I had called it so wrong! All weekend I pondered...could all the trends of teachings about anti-bullying and respect-for-all be having such a significant effect on this generation that I don't even recognize the behavior patterns against those of my own generation?

On Monday panic struck when I realized that I had forgotten to tell Maddie NOT to share my furry theory at school. If the whole conversation with the 7th graders had been innocent, I shuddered at the thought that I could be responsible for introducing a more inappropriate subject-matter to her classmates.

No such luck. Maddie promptly reported as soon as she hopped off the bus that a [girl] friend asked if she had figured out what a furry is. Maddie told her what I had said, but explained that she finally found out the real definition from her older brother.

Once again...mortified.

Tuesday when Maddie got off the bus, I immediately grabbed a plastic bag and handed it to her. She was completely green and looked like she would vomit any second. I groaned inwardly. She had recently missed a number of gymnastics practices due to issues with her anxiety (more posts to come on that subject, by the way), and I did NOT want to have to call her coach - once again - to say she wouldn't be making it to another (a week before her regional meet!). I asked her what was going on.

She said that during a snack break (it happened to be the week of their standardized testing...of course), the "ring leader" of the 7th grade boys, Andrew, cornered her and said, "You don't even know what a furry is, do you?" Maddie told him she thought she did and prepared to walk away, but his response stopped her in her tracks. "No you don't. A furry is someone who wants to do it with animals. That's what you are."

Maddie was devastated. She immediately assumed that the entire school thought this of her, and that's why they had kept targeting her, specifically. She took my advice and told a teacher what had happened. The teacher took both kids to meet with the assistant principal. After that meeting, Maddie went back to her standardized testing and "tried her best" to focus on the questions asked.

I don't hold a lot of hope that she performed very well on her testing that afternoon, if her emotionally beaten and anxiety-ridden appearance at the end of the day was any indication of her level of recovery. She barely managed to keep from vomiting on the drive home from the bus stop, and she refused the freshly-made chocolate chip cookies I offered her when we got home. As all parents know, there's no more sure a sign that there's something legitimately wrong than your kid refusing sweets.

I was heartbroken for her, angry with the boys for upsetting her so, but I also felt some vindication. As I mentioned in a previous post (My Son The Statistic), kids are exposed to so much on the net from such an early age now, that it should be no surprise that boys have skipped over the stage of middle-school-teasing about puberty and moved right on to accusations of bestiality...anti-bullying and respect-for-all training be damned.

About 45 minutes later it was time to go to gymnastics practice. "I can't go, Mom. I feel like I'm gonna puke any minute," she protested weakly.

I said, "Frankly, I'm too afraid to call your coach again today. We have to try to get through this. I will personally go out there and clean the equipment, myself, if you upchuck. You've missed too many practices lately. Besides, this is how champions are made. They face adversity (a.k.a. the idiocy of 7th grade boys) and they don't let it get them down. They fight back by going about their day as if nothing ever happened." I figured there was about a 13.7% chance those words would have any effect on her. I braced myself for her to stubbornly dig her heels in, refusing to go...and an awkward, uncomfortable call with her coach.

Maddie surprised me, though, when she threw a leo on and headed straight for our car. She went on to have an absolutely amazing practice.

The next morning when I got her up for school I asked, "Do you want me to pick out clothes for today or do you want to do it?" She said, "I want to pick them out. I want EVERYTHING animal. I'm gonna show those boys they are NOT going to beat me!" She grabbed her rainbow leopard print boots, her pug t-shirt, her cat sweatshirt and - of course - her wolf hat. I beamed with pride as she put them all on (steadfastly ignoring the entirely mismatched nature of the ensemble).

That day after school, Maddie reported that she heard from someone that a few of the boys (including Andrew) had written her apology letters. She said the teachers insisted they hadn't forced the boys to write them, but she suspected either the faculty was being less than truthful or the boys' parents had made them write the letters. She assumed what would be written on the paper wouldn't really be the words of the boys, themselves, and she felt she deserved their apology. So she marched up to them at their lunch table, crossed her arms over her chest and said [in a tone dripping with attitude], " you boys have something you want to say to me in person?!" She said one boy looked down to his shoes in shame as the other nervously looked away, whispering, "sorry".

That's my furry. HEAR HER ROAR!

Sunday, April 1, 2018


This is it!!! Ellie's book is NOW AVAILABLE!

The book is Daisy, Bold & Beautiful and it's the first in Ellie's Middle Grade/Young Adult Greek mythology fantasy series!

Who is Ellie? She's my 11-year-old daughter. Learn more about her here on her new author website!

She's also on facebook:

Daisy, Bold & Beautiful is on Amazon and is soon to be available on Barnes & Noble, iBooks, GooglePlay, Kobo, as well as other popular bookish spots!

Ellie aspires to work for Blizzard Entertainment, making video games someday. She animated the book trailer to Daisy, Bold & Beautiful, herself. I think it'll look very nice on a resume sent to Blizzard someday!

We're very excited, proud and thankful, as Ellie's first review has rolled in - a phenomenal five-star review from the popular book blogger, Sandra Vattimo (of the famed Feed My Biblio-Diction blog), no less!

A few brief words from the author, herself:

Fun story: Ellie's first copies of Daisy, Bold & Beautiful arrived in the mail Wednesday. I had to pick her up from school, so I took the box with me, knowing she was anxious to open it. Herresponse in the hallway as she tore into the box was priceless, and I regretted not recording it to share with her publisher. That night, before bed, I asked her to describe for Mr. Geez and the rest of the folks at Fresh Ink Group, how she felt when she got the books. Here was her response:

Happy April, everyone, happy Easter and please help me to wish Ellie a very happy Book Birthday by checking out Daisy, Bold & Beautiful!  :)

Thursday, March 1, 2018


I have posted a few times over the past few months about my youngest daughter's book. It's a project we've worked on together since late summer, and it has been an amazing journey. We've had fun and - more importantly - we've grown closer. I planned to publish the book for her, but a wonderful publishing company, Fresh Ink Group, offered their assistance, so now we have a knowledgeable, savvy and supportive team to help us with the areas of publishing I'm not as familiar with.

The book is the first in a middle grade fantasy series. The release date is April 1st, 2018, and HERE is the cover!

Here's what will be written on the back of the book...

D.J. and her dad moved far from the small town and only home she ever knew. Now she's starting middle school in the city with kids she's never met. She tries to make friends, but they all appear to be slaves to screen time. D.J. just likes to garden, nurturing plants, watching them grow and thrive. It seems she'll never find a way to fit in, but then she awakens in a gorgeous garden where she meets Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She must be dreaming; her new friend can't possibly be real - and what could she know about getting along with gamers? D.J. really needs some ideas, or she might never find her own place in a complicated world.

And her is the author bio:

Ellie Collins wrote this debut novel when she was turning eleven and just beginning sixth grade. She wrote amid a very busy extra curricular schedule, including a spot on both a gymnastics team and a trampoline and tumbling team, as well as taking weekly piano lessons. She's an avid gamer who loves hanging out with friends. Her love of Greek mythology inspires her writing.

The book has been very well received. Ellie has been featured on two book blogs and had an author interview on a third. She has been offered two more book blog read/review/interviews, thus far, too! The beta readers have been pleased with what they have read, with consistent feedback like this:

Huge thanks to Stephen Geez and all the rest of the very supportive team at Fresh Ink Group!

More updates to come from this proud mama, so stay tuned!

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Roles, Responsibilities and Resentments

I'm faced with a dilemma that I don't feel conflicted on, but I feel like I should be. Maybe you can help me decide.

Anyone who read With Angel's Wings knows that my relationship with my ex-husband (Emily and Hannah's father) was contentious. If you didn't read it, here's a quick synopsis to catch you up to speed: Boy and girl meet in high school. Boy and girl get married way too young and for all the wrong reasons. Boy and girl have a baby girl. Boy and girl hang on the edge of divorce. Boy and girl decide [poorly] to have a second child. Boy and girl have an extremely ill baby daughter. Boy has nothing to do with baby and offers little to no support.[Sample conversation from years past: Girl: We need to decide whether or not to do life-saving open-heart surgery for Hannah. Boy: I'll leave that decision to you. You're the one emotionally involved.] Girl has mental breakdown. Girl leaves boy. Girl attempts to facilitate relationship between boy and his daughters. Boy has very little to do with older child, nothing to do with younger child. Boy gets a girlfriend who is interested in children. Boy starts requesting visitation with older child. Older child routinely comes back from visitations extremely distraught, describing verbal and emotional abuse from boy. Girl reluctantly allows continued visitation, trusting boy's girlfriend to keep abuse at a minimum.

Since the end of the book: Kevin (boy) and Stacy (girlfriend) get married. Stacy and I continued to have a relatively close relationship. Stacy even flies from New Hampshire to Washington for a week-long visit.

Okay. That brings us to the end of the epilogue. Now here's the more recent stuff.

Then Emily reached name only. With her diagnosis of high functioning autism with mild to moderate developmental delay, she cannot live independently. Daniel and I are her legal guardians, so little has changed in our relationship. I told Emily if she ever wanted to fly back east to visit her father and Cindy, I'd do what I could to facilitate the travel. She generally kept the once-per-year, few-days-to-a-week visiting schedule she had kept in her teen years.

Then Kevin unceremoniously kicked Stacy out in favor of whatever girlfriend he was cheating on her with at the time. It was the dead of winter in northern New Hampshire and Stacy had no savings, no job and nowhere to go.

I provided as much emotional support to Stacy as I could. We became closer than ever; I love her like a sister. I couldn't help but notice that, as this was going on, Emily kept a very close relationship with Stacy, too, but she made no request to call, write or visit Kevin.

Since that time (about two years ago), Emily has had multiple visits (multiple per year, even)...with Stacy. She has not once stayed with Kevin since his [latest] divorce. She saw him one time during one of her visits with Stacy (she went to dinner with him), but wanted noting to do with visiting him after that.

Here's the part with the [potential?] dilemma. Kevin has occasionally texted me, telling me Emily isn't answering his texts (I'm unclear if he has tried actually calling her). Just the other day I got one of these texts. He requested I "have Emily" contact him, because she wasn't doing it on her own.

One of his past texts asked me why Emily wasn't responding to him. I didn't feel up to starting WW III, so I shrugged off the question, but here's my thought on the subject: You reap what you sow.

I was very careful over the years to never talk poorly of Kevin in Emily's presence. That was tricky when it was Emily crying, asking why he did the things he did and said the things he said (that were clearly and obviously BAD and HURTFUL). I wanted to give her every opportunity (within the confines of safety from his abuse) for her to develop her own relationship with her father. When she became an adult I didn't want her to ever resent ME for keeping her from her father. Well...she definitely doesn't resent me. And she wants nothing to do with him. That's. Her. Choice.

Here's the rub, though. She is an adult in name only. Emotionally and maturity-wise, she's much more like a 12 to 14-year-old. One could argue that she is NOT mature enough, then, to make the choice for herself. One could argue that it is still my responsibility to facilitate their relationship. I don't think so, but I want to be sure my decision is based on Emily's best interest (and not resentment that I have for my ex-husband who verbally and emotionally abused Emily...while absolutely ignoring Hannah [his other daughter that he has conveniently forgotten s he has for over 22 years now]).

There is also safety to consider. I was reluctantly okay with Emily visiting Kevin when Stacy was there. I shudder at the thought of damage he could do to Emily without Stacy's calming, sane influence. [Conversation from years past: Me: You have very little patience when it comes to Emily's challenges. Kevin nodded emphatically in agreement. Me: Right now that doesn't worry me too much, because I know Stacy has the patience to deal with it. Kevin: She has more patience than me, but she gets pretty f***ing frustrated, too. Me: That's the concern. What are you going to do if Stacy isn't there to help with those frustrations? Kevin: Well, as she grows older , we won't have to worry about it, because she'll grow out of it. Me: What do you mean? You don't 'grow out of' autism!]

Yeah. I can't see myself pushing Emily to reach out to her father. She's delayed, not stupid. If she wanted to return his texts, she could easily do so. If she wanted to call him she could easily do so. If she wanted to visit him, she knows she could ask me (or she could coordinate a visit with him when she's with Cindy). She doesn't want to, though. I can't fault her for that decision. Feel free to share your comments, but as I write this, I'm even more confident that I'm making the right decision by following my daughter's instincts and wishes.

Sunday, January 7, 2018


Introducing a bright and fresh new face in the publishing world - an author with a creative and unique voice and viewpoint!

Ellie Collins, 11, is preparing to publish her debut book, Daisy, Bold & Beautiful, the first in a series of middle grade books.

Who is Ellie?

First and foremost, she's a gymnast, on both a girls gymnastics team...

...and a trampoline and tumbling team.

She plays piano...

And she studies hard in the sixth grade.

And when she's not doing any of that, she's playing video games or hanging with her friends. She always finds time for reading, though, and she's a huge fan of Greek mythology. It was that genre that inspired her upcoming book. Until it hits the shelves (tentatively scheduled for April 1st, 2018), she'll be by to share a bit of Greek myth trivia with you each week. Just like this:

Join us next week for another exciting Greek Mythology Minute with Ellie. She'll have her book description ready to share for the first time, too! Have a wonderful week, everyone!


Hi everyone! Here's this week's edition of Greek Mythology Minute! As promised, I'm including the description for Daisy, Bold & Beautiful. Please tell me what you think and let me know if there's anything I can do to make it better. Thanks! Have a great week and I'll see you back here for next week's EXCITING episode of Greek Mythology Minute! Oh, and you can also see that update (and others) on my brand new Facebook author page. Check it out!  :)

Daisy, Bold & Beautiful ~

D.J. and her dad moved far from the small town and only home she ever knew. Now she's starting middle school in the city with kids she's never met. She tries to make friends, but they all appear to be slaves to screen time. D.J. just likes to garden, nurturing plants, watching them grow and thrive. It seems she'll never find a way to fit in, but then she awakens in a gorgeous garden where she meets Persephone, Goddess of Spring. She must be dreaming; her new friend can't possibly be real - and what could she know about getting along with gamers? D.J. really needs some ideas, or she might never find her own place in a complicated world.


Hi everyone! This week's edition of a Greek Mythology Minute is a message to Zeus. Check it out and I'll see you all again next week!  :)


Hi everybody! I had to record a "quickie" video today before my coach yelled at me!


Playing piano today inspired me to think of Apollo...and rodents...


For all who are suffering long, sleepless nights contemplating nymph paternity...


The Greek gods seem to have some things backwards. Like, you'd think the Goddess of Marriage (Hera) would be totally happy with her husband. Nope. She's stuck with Zeus - the one who cheats on her all the time. And you'd think the Messenger God (Hermes) would have a symbol like a cheetah or something, showing he'll get messages to you FAST. Nope...