First, there was dropping Katie off at her school. Which you won’t see a picture of, because let’s be honest, if I’d snapped the photo that I was Oh my God SO tempted to snap of my newly minted eighth grader (I know, what the …?) walking confidently into school, her long hair swaying with each self-assured step, said newly minted eighth grader would not have been happy. But yeah, eighth grade. High school next year. I repeat, what the …?

And then there was this …


And she’s off.

Image is a photo of Brooke and Luau on the walk to school this morning, her first day of middle school.

We walked her into her classroom and lingered there until other kids began to arrive. As reluctant as we were to leave, we knew their presence was our cue to make ourselves scarce.

As we made our way out into the hallway, we were greeted by a cacophony of voices, talking, shouting, whispering, lockers, opening, closing, metal on metal, sneakers squeaking on waxed floors, books, dropped and retrieved, laughter, shrieking, greeting, kids stopping and going and turning on a dime to head in another direction, narrow miss after narrow miss.

“You okay, babe?” Luau asked.

I nodded. It was all I could do.

We kept walking.

I wanted to go running back and grab my girl and bring her home.

A ship is safe in harbor, but that’s not what ships are for.*

We kept walking.

She’ll be okay.

I need to – I have to – trust that she will be okay.

Tell me she’ll be okay.

Like = She’ll be okay.

* William Shedd

And then this …


Success. Huge, complete, utter success.

{image is a photo of Katie and Brooke together after Katie came with me after her school let out to pick Brooke up from hers. (That may or may not have been English. I trust you to translate.) Brooke is giving a thumbs up.}


Thank you all so very much for your support and love today. It means so much.

But in between, there was something else.

You see, the night before, there was this …


{image is a photo of Brooke romping in the surf at Surfside Beach last week, which she wouldn’t go near without one of us to cling to last summer.}

Yesterday. Katie was playing with an app into which she entered each of our birthdays and, in return, got a single word to describe us. It was all very scientific, of course. <sarcasm> Her word was “creative,” Luau’s was “loyal,” mine was “powerful,” and Brooke’s was “fearless.”

I winced as Katie laughed our loud at the description of her sister.

“Honey,” I said, “Brooke is one of the most fearless people I know.” Katie searched my face, looking for … something. And then she spoke.

“Mama,” she said, Brooke has awful anxiety. She’s afraid of everything. The fact that she does it anyway makes her BRAVE, not fearless.”

I always thought I would teach my children. I had no idea how much I would learn from them.

And this ….



I can’t believe that tomorrow morning these two will be in middle school. The good news? They’ll be there together.

{image is a photo of Brooke with her arms around her friend, Becky who is taking a night-before-school selfie of the two of them. Brooke and Becky, who is also autistic, have been together since preschool. Their friendship is far too extraordinary to be wrangled into words.}

The fact that Becky would be in this class with Brooke was part of what solidified our decision to send her. Becky is one of only a handful of kids that Brooke knows at the new school. Everyone they grew up with is in another place. But they’re together.

At dismissal, the kids came teeming out en masse. I scanned the scrum for my girl, but standing at eye level with most of them (and her standing well below eye level of nearly all of them (what can I say, I don’t grow em tall)), it was impossible to find her in the crowd. Becky, however, stood on a step above the group and I spotted her easily. As soon as I made my way to her, her mom said, “Oh, good. I saw Brooke but I didn’t see you, so we were waiting for you. She went back inside because it was too much out here.”

Extra eyes on my girl.

Trusted friends.

Even in this new place – a village. 

These are no small things. 

(Yes, we addressed the fact that Brooke appeared to be flying solo. Moving on.)

But someone else was there too.

Becky’s little brother.

The one that Brooke used to be, in her words, so scared about. “Remember when I was so scared about Jamie?” she asks again and again. Yes, baby, we remember.

He is a toddler. He is unpredictable. He is loud. (It’s in the How To Be A Toddler Handbook – Page One – Be unpredictable and, above all, be loud.)

The one whom she now is not only scared about anymore, but asks to go see.

The one who came to school with his mom to pick up his big sister and who wound up like this …




{images are photos of Brooke with her arms around little Jamie, who is very, very happily ensconced in her embrace.}

You can see it in the photos …

The glow of the day’s success.

With her first day of middle school behind her.

With anxieties and fears …


And pretty damned sea-worthy ship …

and a welcoming harbor when it’s all too much.

Yeah, she’s got this.

They both do.

To my Katie and my Brooke,

May you each, in your own gloriously different ways, have the times of your lives this year.

May you grow and flourish and make mistakes and learn from them. May you feel joy and freedom and lasting victory and fleeting defeat.

May you feel hope and have faith and revel in the pride of your accomplishments. May there be many, many accomplishments.

May you find new friendships and deeper connections and an unquestioned sense of belonging. May you be proud of every part of who you are.  

May you stand up for yourselves and each other and what you know is right.

May you feel empowered to always, always speak up. 

May you feel frustration and heartache and longing. May you find out that you can feel all of those things without breaking.

May your sails be full, your harbors welcoming, and your journeys real, true, messy and beautiful. 

Yeah, you’ve definitely got this. 

And Daddy and I have your backs, every step of the way.

I love you so much and I am so, so proud to be your mama. 

9 thoughts on “sea-worthy

  1. I am so glad it went well. With the right help, support and encouragement each person can reach their potential which is what it is all about.
    I might be looking at sending my little ship out into the seas again but this time we learn from past mistakes and use the new legislation to help not hinder….
    I am being to look to rally the troops that will help.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and your worries…It helps to hear none of us are completely alone.

  2. Oh my, just clicked through to the suggested post, “Ode to a big sister”. What beautiful pictures, wonderful sisters, and yes, brave faces.

  3. How do I find the words ? To describe how a complete stranger get me. You get it, you so get it! I find in you what I struggle to find around me . Understanding . I thought it was just me losing my mind . The daily questions if how old is he? Wow he doesn’t act his age. Why does he scream, cry , act Like he is in his own world? Just tell him to toughen up, get over it , deal with it , man up. I constantly have these questions and comments thrown in my face . As I read your posts it feels as if you are there ready to kick ass with me. You don’t hide the hard or the painful. You are always there even though you don’t know it. I can’t tell you how many times your posts have brought tears to my eyes because I have been there. It how many gut laughs I have because well it’s great to laugh . You inspire me . You encourage me . And I thank you from the bottom of my heart I thank you.

  4. Hi there! I can’t find a place on the blog or facebook to share with you a neat program that is being done in Columbia, SC…so I’m popping it in here. This link will take you to info about a sensory-friendly production of a show at the Harbison Theater. Click on the link for the Harbison Theater Social Story. I’m thrilled that this kind of inclusiveness is happening in my own neighborhood. I think the social story is incredibly helpful and wish we’d had such readily available resources when my son was young and far more sensitive. Check it out!!

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