Goodnight, Sweet Prince, see you soon…

My sweet boy, Chevy, the Goldendoodle, got very sick and was put down yesterday. This dog was the sweetest dog I’ve ever had the pleasure of being friends with, and I’ve had a lot of dogs.

He most likely will be my last large dog. We are getting older, and as you know, large dogs need a lot more attention and exercise. It’s not fair to them not to be there for them during the day. You’d think our lives would be winding down in our old age, but instead, we find ourselves busier than ever.

This past week has been a really tough one. I’ve been quite ill with a very bad bronchial infection and missed an entire week of work. I’m still not 100% yet, but I can’t miss any more work so hope to get back in the saddle on Monday. Have you ever been sick and mourned at the same time? It is absolutely the worst.

I don’t know how people do it without the hope of Jesus. I’m so grateful I have my faith.

I haven’t written on this blog in awhile for several reasons. For one, I don’t believe in putting drivel out there. I don’t want to waste my readers’ time. For another, I honestly don’t know which topic to write about and I get overwhelmed. I’m passionate about so many things, but which ones do my readers want to know about?

Another reason is technical issues with this site. Those are being rectified, and I hope to have a shiny new site in the coming months that will be a lot more user-friendly for my readers.

In the meantime, I needed to let you know that Chevy went home to wherever dogs go. I hope they do go to heaven. I hope that I’ll be reunited with my pets in the afterlife. Chevy got me through so many hurtful things these past eleven years. When I could find no comfort, when friends left me, Chevy calmed me. All I had to do was lean into him, bury my face in his soft fur, and I felt better.

I never felt scared or afraid with Chevy in the house. For a gentle dog, he had an enormously scary bark. He was my security alarm. When my family was away and I was alone, I never, ever had to worry about uninvited intruders. As soon as anyone so much as put a toe on the driveway, Chevy would sound the alarm.

He didn’t have a mean bone in his body. He never showed an inch of aggression. But strangers didn’t need to know that. His bark was enough.

He hated swimming. He was scared of his own shadow when we got him. We drove all the way to Kentucky to fetch him. All because I’d seen my first Goldendoodle on a motorcycle trip to Mackinac Island with my husband. As soon as we got home I looked for rescues online. That’s how I found Chevy.

Chevy a few months after we got him and my granddaughter, Trinity

He hadn’t been well socialized and was kept in a cage most of his puppyhood. He was 11 months old when we got him and terrified of everything. He shook just going for a walk. He shook when someone new walked into the house. He was terrified of balloons. And the groomer. And water. And men he didn’t know. And he was afraid of women, too, but would warm up to them faster after a while.

Chevy wasn’t very brave, but he was my best furry friend. I do have a menagerie. I still have my pug and my Boston Terrier. And they are my friends, but Chevy was a heart dog. Chevy was my sweet, loyal buddy. He was a quiet presence. He demanded so little and gave so much to me.

He loved trash. Nothing delighted him more than getting past the kitchen gate to rummage in the trash bin. We’d come home to garbage scattered wall to wall. But he was so sweet, I could never get mad at him. It was our fault for leaving garbage at his disposal. Naturally, he thought we’d done him a favor.

He always had to carry something in his mouth. A ball. A sock. Trash. A shoe. Whenever we were missing a shoe we’d look in the backyard. Most of the time we’d find it there. He never chewed them up. He just carried them.

When we brought the kittens home four years ago, he kept track of them. One time I accidentally put a load of clothes on top of them in a laundry basket and Chevy emptied the basket to get to them. I was aggravated with him until I figured out what he was doing. He always had a good reason for doing things. He never did it for some dumb dog reason or for plain naughty reasons.

Except for trash.

When the twins brought home their pet rats about a year ago, Chevy was keenly attentive to them, and protective. He was like a nanny dog. Oh my goodness, this dog’s heart! I’d never had such a sweet dog. Jake, the Boston Terrier is a narcissist. And Frankie, my pug, he’s just into naps and laps. Chevy was the caretaker of our brood. I miss his big rug-like presence on my couch.

Chevy put up with Jake’s bossy orneriness. I felt bad sometimes because before Jake came (Jake has his own story of how he got here), Chevy was the boss. Jake would have none of that, of course. And Chevy sweetly submitted. Chevy was a lover, not a fighter. I never, ever saw him get angry. Ever. How many humans can I say that about?

I guess that’s why I love my animals so much. They never hurt me. They don’t care what I’m wearing, what I look like, or whether or not I meet a deadline. They don’t know if I’m rich or poor, fat or thin. Their only expectations are food, water, shelter, and scratches behind the ears.

Animals always put life in perspective for me. And Chevy was my soft place to fall these past ten years. It’s been rough. And he kept me grounded.

“C’mon, Mom, let’s snuggle.”

“Mom, you don’t want that whole hamburger, do you?”

“Donuts? Did you say donuts, Mom?”

“Chips? What chips? Ohhhhh, you mean the ones on the end table I didn’t think you’d miss?”

“Mom. Mom. Mom. Wake up. Wake up. I gotta pee.”

Chevy never once had an accident in the house except for once, and when he did, he was sick and terribly embarrassed. Toward the end, he was vomiting a lot, and he felt awful for doing so. We never scolded him because it wasn’t in his nature to leave a mess like that.

Unless it was garbage. That boy loved his garbage.

I keep mistaking the lumps of blankets on the couch for his presence. It’s going to take a very long time for this house to readjust itself around the vacuum of his absence. Amazing how one beast can change the atmosphere of a room. A house. A life.

I miss him. But I rejoice that I got to know him. And love him and cuddle him and run with him. He had the most beautiful run. There are so many things I wish I could do over. I wish I could have spent more time playing with him. I hope he forgives me for not doing that more.

And I really do hope he’s somewhere now frolicking pain-free and happy. And carrying as many shoes in his mouth as his heart desires.

I miss you, Sweet Prince. Rest in peace.

As I see it: a view through the special educator’s lens

There are some things that happen in public education that I will never understand.

I realize I come from a background very different than most public school teachers. I was fortunate to start my teaching career in small, private schools, where imagination and creativity by the teacher was encouraged. Ironically, I started out teaching in a rigorous program in the 1980s. I was an all-day Kindergarten teacher in a private school that pushed academics in Kindergarten long before the trend became the norm in public schools. I didn’t have children of my own until I’d been teaching a few years.

I became a very different teacher after I had my own children. I perceived children differently. I empathized more with their developmental level and realized how truly young a 5-year-old is. I mourned for their loss of playtime and moments of being a free, imaginative kid.  I changed my teaching methods to include many more hands-on projects and more interactive learning-play, and a lot less worksheets. (Frankly, I despise worksheets.)

As my family grew I became a mother of kids with disabilities – autism, ADHD, dyslexia, mental illness, and others. I got a crash course in the importance of differentiation. My scope as an educator improved and special education and differentiating became a passion. So much so, I gained another bachelor’s degree in special education. It meant that much to me to work with children and help them succeed. I was convinced that all students, regardless of their academic level and ability, could learn the same content if it was presented to them in an accessible way. And my students’ positive growth and response to my hands-on, interactive, student-centered lessons proved me right.

Before my special education degree, I ran my own cottage school after homeschooling my own children for several years. When I pulled my twins with autism out of public school (long story, but it’s in my book, A Pair of MiraclesI knew they needed much more than the public school was able to provide. I was fortunate to have that luxury. I invited other children with special learning needs, from giftedness to severe emotional disabilities to join us. For seven years I ran a one-room school with 15 students grades K-12. It was an amazing experience.

Click book pic to order

Every student in that school had an individualized plan for learning. I found out how much fun it was to differentiate content in a way that all the students could get it. They all learned the same things at their own level of ability. In history and science we all learned the same topic in a way each student could get the same content but in their own way on their own level.

I guess because differentiating is so second-nature to me, I struggle to understand why in public schools teachers insist giving tests that students couldn’t possibly pass no matter how hard they try. The academic language is way over their heads. It’s a waste of my time and the student’s time to wade through a test they don’t understand.

It’s like telling an English-Speaking person to take a test in French. It’s just noise and marks on a paper to that student. It’s discouraging.

It is, in a word, demoralizing.

“de·mor·al·ize:  (verb) to cause (someone) to lose confidence or hope; dispirt.”
Synonyms: dishearten, dispirit, deject, cast down, depress, dismay, daunt, discourage, unman, unnerve, crush, shake, cow, subdue.
My heart breaks every time I have to help another student read a test like that. I watch as they choose answers at random (on multiple choice) and write sentences that make no sense (because they can’t read or write).

I hope someday soon I’ll be able to build relationships with the general education teachers in a way that they will be willing to get input from me about appropriate forms of assessment. There’s so much more to learning and teaching than simply regurgitating information. There are many more ways to assess students other than using worksheet tests or online exams.

If my heart breaks when these kids go through the pain of testing, I can’t imagine how they must feel. A lot of my students just give up. They quit trying. Because, what’s the point? It’s obvious to them no one wants them to understand the content. They just want them to jump through the same hoops as everyone else. And I get that we only have so much time in a day. It’s not all the general education teachers’ fault. They have X amount of material to cover so kids pass the state exams. They don’t have time to slow down the content or take advantage of teachable moments. State assessments make teachers teach curriculum instead of students.

You wouldn’t ask a student to run a race without legs. You wouldn’t ask a blind person to read a test without braille. It’s the same with hidden disabilities. It’s wrong to expect students with learning disabilities, who read at a low grade level, to understand the same academic language as typical, grade-level students.

In my quest to be a highly effective special education teacher, I need to learn how to advocate for my students in a way that gets results. I’m not there yet. And it frustrates me. I want to earn the general education teacher’s trust. I want them to see through the eyes of their special needs’ students and understand how brave they are just to come to school each day.

I admire my students’ courage and learn from them every single day. I only hope I can have the same influence on them. Until the general education teachers I work with see clearly through the eyes of my special needs students, I’ve not fully succeeded. So my prayer, every day, is to be that for them. A successful advocate. A lens through which educators can see in vivid focus what my students need: access to the same academic information their peers without disabilities have access to, in a way that they can understand.

What makes a writer great

There’s not a reputable writer out there that doesn’t want to be the best in their craft. One way we scribes measure our success is by how many awards or best-sellers we have under our belt. Others measure it by how many books they’ve published or sold. A top-ten Amazon ranking, a New York Times Best-Seller list: what writer hasn’t drooled over those prospects?

But as I’ve written before, being God’s writer involves much more. And today, I’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite writers. You probably don’t know her because you won’t find her writing at Barnes and Noble or Amazon. But you will find her words in hundreds of homes and hearts. Maybe even thousands.

Her name is Marcia Ousley. I want you to remember her name because when you are in the depths of despair during times of rejection and frustration in your writing career, remembering her will put your writing gift into perspective. This writing journey isn’t all about us. Never was. Never will be.

Marcia was my dear friend who passed away on June 6, 2017 at 12:32 a.m. I miss her much more than I imagined. Marcia was a cheerleader. I could always depend on her to ask me about my writing life, my teaching life, my life in general. I never heard her say a harsh word or criticize anyone. She was soft-spoken, gentle, and the absolute epitome of what Jesus is like in the flesh. Oh, I know she wasn’t perfect. But she was as close as any mortal could be.

Cancer struck Marcia fast and mercilessly. Within months of her diagnosis she became very ill and passed away. Sadly, hundreds of people in Indiana and elsewhere lost their strongest and best encourager. This is because Marcia had, and shared, the gift of writing through penning dozens of handwritten letters and notes each week. In this day of email and texting, Marcia still used her precious hands to hold a pen and write loving and very personalized messages to those she loved and cared about. She even wrote to those she didn’t know very well.

Marcia and her husband, Homer, didn’t have children. But she was a highly educated schoolteacher and taught in the public schools for nearly 30 years. Twice she received the coveted Distinguished Dekko Award for Teaching Excellence. Twice! She thought of each one of her students as her own, and never lost touch with them. She followed their lives all the way through adulthood, showed up to all their graduations and open houses, and attended their weddings and baby showers. She never stopped sending encouraging letters and cards to them even after they were grown with families of their own.

At our church she was in charge of the card ministry–a ministry that has yet to be filled. Writing encouraging notes with her own hand inside each card, she didn’t simply sign, “Love, Marcia,” but wrote a truly heart-felt paragraph or two to lift up the receiver. She never stopped writing. It was her gift, and she used it wisely. When she wrote for the church she didn’t sign her own name, she signed, “Love, The Congregation of Christian Fellowship Church.” Whew. That’s a long signature to write over and over again by hand.

When this earth lost Marcia, they lost one of the greatest writers that ever lived. I still can’t believe she’s gone, and it startles me how very much I miss her. Even though we never really “hung out,” I just knew that Marcia had my back. She never judged anyone. She was there for you through thick and thin. She was Jesus with skin on. If there’s anyone on this earth I wanted to imitate, it was Marcia. She was not only a writer but her outreach included volunteering at food pantries, visiting shut-ins and spreading God’s love everywhere she went.

As I sat in her funeral service, I found myself whispering in a repeated prayer, “When I grow up, I want to be like Marcia…” before it dawned on me, ahem, I’m more than grown-up now. And if there’s anyone I should want to be like, it should be Jesus.

But the thing is, Marcia was so much like Jesus, that it’s not a far reach to want to imitate her, too. Just as the early Christians imitated the apostle Paul:

“Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).

As far as I know, Marcia never won an award for her writing or saw her name on the Best-Seller List. But her name made the most important list of all: the Lamb’s Book of Life.

That’s The List we all should strive for, whether we’re a writer, carpenter or toilet scrubber. That list matters most of all, along with the words from our Father, “Well done.”

Please click to tweet: What makes a writer great?

A Pair of Miracles: Isaac got a job!

Main View Restaurant, North Manchester, Indiana

When your identical twin brother has a job and you don’t, it’s a tough row to hoe. Let’s rephrase that. When your identical twin brother with autism has a job and you have autism, and you don’t have a job yet, it’s super hard to process and understand. 

Last week Isaac started his new job! This has been a long road for both boys. But thanks to Vocational Rehab in  Indiana, the boys are now both in job placements and succeeding. At least for now.

Autism is unpredictable, and while we keep our fingers crossed and are hopeful they will be able to stay in their positions, things come up that could change all that.

But today, we don’t focus on that. Right now we celebrate.  Isaac has a job! This was something I was told long ago that he’d never do. Just look at these miracles now!

Isaiah works at a convenience store/gas station about three mornings a week. And now Isaac is working at a locally owned restaurant. At the gas station, Isaiah cleans and stocks. At the restaurant Isaac does dishes several evenings a week.

Excuse me while I Snoopy dance!

We are thrilled that God has been gracious to us. And the boys are thrilled, too. Things are a lot less stressful around here now. Isaac is no longer upset and moping about  not having a job. With identical twins with cognitive disabilities, who often see themselves as one entity instead of separate human beings, this has been a difficult season for us to handle.

I had no idea parenting adult children would be so challenging. Sometimes I really long for when they were all little. Things were much simpler! Am I the only one?

Oh, and Isaac’s not the only one who  started a new job! Yesterday I attended my first training for my new teaching position as an 8th grade resource teacher at Indian Springs Middle School! I’ll send more details about that later.

In the meantime, check out the twins’ book. It’s about how God proved the doctors wrong. And how there is always hope and grace. Always.


Please click to tweet:  Autism grows up: getting a job

The (not so) glamorous life of a writer

Hello, beautiful people!

Today is LAUNCH DAY!

Yep, today is the day my new book, A Pair of Miracles, the story of my twins’ journey with autism, ventures out into the great big world.

(Did you get your copy yet? Huh, huh, huh, did ya, did ya, did ya?)

Okay. Maybe a bit too much coffee this morning???

Since so many people think I lead a glamorous life as a writer, I thought I’d share the run-down of my day so far. (Okay, so most people know I don’t lead a glamorous life, but  it makes good copy, so bear with me.)

6:30 AM — Hit snooze button

7:30 AM — Finally walking upright. Make coffee. Stumble through house looking for the house phone.

7:31 AM — Forget I’m looking for the  house phone. Forget I made coffee. Do hygiene stuff.

7:35 AM — Take laptop to office, look for interview confirmation, get out notes for the radio interview, get distracted by email and forget I’m setting up for a radio interview.

8:00 AM —  Look for house phone. Again. The radio stations always want you on a land line, not your cell phone.

Time out. Let me explain something.

Our house phone is cordless. There are two of them. I can’t find either one. I never, and I mean, never talk on the house phone. I think the last time I spoke on  the house phone was 1999.

8:15 AM — Panic. Wake  up the twins. “Where’s the phone???”

8:20 AM — Find the  phone. Go to office with it. Set the red flashing light outside my office door so twins will know I’m on an interview/recording.

Yes, I actually use this outside my office door. No one in my house understands the words, “Do not disturb, or bang on my door, I’m recording/interviewing.” This visual signal works for everyone but the two cats.

8:31 AM — I suddenly realize the ringer is off on the phone. I DO NOT KNOW  HOW TO TURN THE RINGER ON! This is not a smart phone. This is a clunky land line phone that has no icons. HOW DO I TURN ON THE RINGER! I don’t know how to check to see if the station has already called me. HELP!

8:32 AM — Yell down at the twins for help. “I don’t know how to turn the ringer on, why is it off?? HELP!”

8:33 AM — Isaiah turns the ringer  on. I run back to my office and shut the door, and try to slow down my breathing.

8:35 AM — The radio  station calls. On the air. Do I sound ridiculous? Do I sound like a know-it-all? Do they like me? Huh, huh, huh, do they, do they, do they???? Man am I thirsty. I forgot to bring water into the office. My mouth is full of cotton. Breathe, Karla, breathe. But not into the phone. Do. Not. Heavy. Breathe. Into. The. Phone. People do not want to hear heavy breathing in their car on the way to work. Breathe sideways. Smile. Put a smile in your voice. They can hear the smile…Slow. Down…

Somehow I survived the first interview of the day. I hope the radio station did. And the listeners. Especially the listeners.

I have to be honest. Interviews are hard for me. I think they are for most people. Writers, especially, would rather write words than say them out loud. Okay, maybe not all writers, but this one is much more clever when writing.

What? Still too much coffee?

After the interview I sent the twins to McD’s on their golf cart. They love doing this. We celebrated with a launch day breakfast and (more) coffee. Okay, fine, frappes. We had caramel frappes. There. I said it.

And here we are. I have more interviews today. I have located the phone. My papers are all lined up in a row so I don’t miss a call.

Problem is, living with autism as I do,  the phone could disappear in a heartbeat. And I could still be doing some heavy breathing.

Life isn’t glamorous. But it’s certainly never boring.

Please tweet:

Click: The (not so) glamorous writer launches a book!

It’s almost time for lunch, er, I mean, launch!

You know me. I’m always thinking food…

But seriously, tomorrow is Launch Day!

:::Cue balloons and music:::

A Pair of Miracles will be available everywhere books are sold all over the world.

Wow. Think of it.

:::Karla sits and ponders:::

Actually, I can’t wrap my mind around that internationally-available thing. So, I’m going to have a live feed pajama party tomorrow night and you’re invited!

I will give away four copies of this book tomorrow night at my Facebook Live launch party.

Besides all that, I’d love to have you join me.

See you there!!!

Jake Says:

“I hope everyone likes my paw-jamas!”

Frankie says:

“The party is going to be paw-sitively paw-some!

Pip says:

“I’ll bring the pup-corn!”

Chevy says:

“Did somebody say lunch?”

(Chevy needs to work on being punny…)

Please tweet:

It’s a paw-some launch paw-ty!

What do I have in common with a breakdancing gorilla?

Did you hear that? That was me breathing a huge sigh of relief.

I finally finished four huge papers for my Master’s Degree. I’ll have a few weeks off and then I’ll be back to the grind of writing papers again.

In the meantime, I may or may not have celebrated like this exuberant gorilla. I’ll wait while you watch:

That looks like so much FUN. I want to get right in there with him. Don’t tell me animals don’t have emotions. Look at that joy!

Speaking of fun, I’ve been making myself indulge in some. My husband has figured out how to get the pool water the perfect temperature and I have had wonderful evening swims with the grandchildren and even by myself. Swimming is my favorite.

July 4, 2017 with the grandchildren and granddog! That’s Mr. Himself in his robe. Hee hee.

In other news, my next book launches next week! Stay tuned for some giveaways and spread the word! If you can come to the launch parties, I’d love to see you! Here’s the info:

Official launch day is July 25! 

The twins are so excited. I am trying not to be nervous. But as Mr. Himself said, “You’ve worked hard your whole life for this moment. Enjoy it.”

Okay. Breathe. Breathe.

Until next time: dance like a gorilla! Splash  in a pool! Get out there while you can, kick up your heels and have some FUN!

Please tweet: Get out there and dance like a gorilla!

Proof: teaching sign language and communication works

In my last post, Teaching autism: first things first, I talked about the importance of teaching sign language and communication skills first.

After I posted the video, I found the following inspiration:

I’m passionate about kids getting early intervention and getting it consistently. Indiana education systems need to wake up. There are too many students who don’t get the chance that the young man in the above video got.

Kids with autism can learn to communicate if they’re given the appropriate intervention. It’s time to stop dragging our feet. It’s time to help kids like Ben.

What do you think? Weigh in!

Please tweet: What other autism questions do you have?

I’d love to meet you! You’re invited to my autism book talk on August 3! Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook:

The book launches on July 25. You can purchase it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere books are sold. The twins are so excited to sign books. They’re adorable about it. “Should we practice signing our name, Mom?” I can’t wait for you to meet them and see how awesome they are. And I can’t wait to meet you!

Teaching autism: first things first

What do we do first for kids with autism?

Teach them to communicate!

Meet their sensory needs!

Here’s the video I created to share with those who work with your child with autism. I hope it helps!


Let me know what videos you’d like to see by leaving me a note in the comments below.

Please tweet: What other autism questions do you have?

I’d love to meet you! You’re invited to my autism book talk on August 3! Here’s a link to the event page on Facebook:

The book launches on July 25. You can purchase it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and everywhere books are sold. The twins are so excited to sign books. They’re adorable about it. “Should we practice signing our name, Mom?” I can’t wait for you to meet them and see how awesome they are. And I can’t wait to meet you!