Exceptional Children’s Week: Peer Buddies

As I continue to celebrate Exceptional Children’s Week, I wanted to re-post one of my most popular essays. “What Were You Doing In Middle School?” was originally posted on this site two years ago, as a part of my Autism Awareness series. It was also featured on the front page of the of Huffington Post Parents. This is the essay from which I have received the most feedback. I received so many texts and private emails asking for more information about how to start a program like this at other schools. In fact, I have a friend who was taking a class at the University of Georgia, and the professor referenced this essay. How cool is that? I’m not mentioning this to toot my own horn, but rather show how important inclusion is to the lives of special needs student. Bear moves on to high school next year and we’re going to miss our peer buddies very much. I cannot thank our middle school enough for supporting this program!

P.S. Today is Bear’s first track meet of the season!

Autism Angels: The Peer Buddies


A few weeks ago, I shared a post about my son Barrett’s first track meet.  In that post, I explained that Barrett wouldn’t be able to be on the team, if it weren’t for the village of people who support him.  One of those villagers is a young man named Tommy Rhodes.  Tommy’s been going to practice with Bear and running with him in the meets, even though he’s not on the track team.  Tommy is an autism peer at Barrett’s Middle School.  He’s one of many.  Forty students volunteer in the Awesome Class, the school’s adopted name for Barrett’s class. Continue reading Exceptional Children’s Week: Peer Buddies

Celebrating Exceptional Children’s Week

Yesterday kicked off Georgia’s Exceptional Children’s Week.  During Barrett’s elementary years, I was the PTA Chair for Exceptional Children’s Week and very active in the promotion of the event. I helped plan and host various celebrations of these special students and raised money for their programs.  Even though I’m no longer a committee chair, I still believe in celebrating the teachers, administrators, therapists and students who make up our special education programs. This week I’m going to re-post a few articles I’ve written in the past, which highlighted the special education programs and teachers in our county.  Barrett has been very lucky – he’s had exceptional teachers and support from our school system.

This year’s them is “Helping Education Fit.”

Celebrating Exceptional Children’s Week

Exceptional Children’s Week is an annual celebration of students with exceptionalities and the professionals who serve them.  The week-long celebration is a national movement started by the Council for Exceptional Children (CEC), which is a national group that serves as the voice and vision of special education.  The state of Georgia also has a Georgia Council for Exceptional Children (GCEC), which leads the celebration for our local schools.  This year they designated March 10-14, 2014 as Exceptional Children’s Week (ECW).  Many Forsyth County schools use the week as  opportunity for education, fundraising and celebration.
Continue reading Celebrating Exceptional Children’s Week

Books of My Life: Susan Mallery

107-Susan Mallery Head Shots 2015-Annie Brady-trade and hardcover#1 New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery writes heartwarming and humorous novels about the relationships that define women’s lives—family, friendship, romance. She’s best known for putting nuanced characters into emotionally complex, real-life situations with twists that surprise readers to laughter. Because Susan is passionate about animal welfare, pets play a big role in her books. Beloved by millions of readers worldwide, her books have been translated into 28 languages. Susan lives in Washington State with her husband and two ragdoll cats. Visit her online at SusanMallery.com. Continue reading Books of My Life: Susan Mallery

She Turned the World On with Her Smile

MTM2MTYzNjc0ODcxMDU4NTI5Yesterday the world lost one of my favorites, Mary Tyler Moore. I know it’s going to sound corny, but she really was one of my idols. I was too young to watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show when it originally aired on Saturday nights, but I remember my mom watching it. I always thought my mom looked a little bit like Mary – they had the same hairstyle, and they dressed alike. My mom 2 first introduction to Mary was in syndication. I was probably ten years old when I started to watch the re-runs and I quickly became obsessed

As I’ve written about on the blog a few times, the show inspired me and made me want to work in a newsroom like Mary Richards. I only applied to colleges that had Schools of Communications and ultimately decided on attending Loyola University in New Orleans, because they had a TV station. At the time, they had a broadcast campus news program. That was a big deal in 1987. I remember talking with fellow students and everyone wanted to be a broadcaster. Not me. I wanted to be an Executive Producer. As the story goes, I didn’t light the world up with my smile like she did. It’s a long story, but I eventually ended up in business school. I did, however circuitously, end up working in a newsroom – sort of. Okay, next to the newsroom. When I worked for Tuner Broadcasting, my office was in the CNN Center. Whenever I ate in the cafeteria, I got to walk past the newsroom. One wall of the newsroom was covered with huge windows and anyone who had a badge could pass by and watch. I used to stop and observe the interactions of the writers, producers, and anchors and wistfully think of what might have been, if I hadn’t been so easily intimidated in my youth. I also remember my first day on job. As I climbed the steps of the CNN center, felt quite spunky. I couldn’t stop smiling. Even though I was heading to the finance department, I felt like I had indeed made it after all.

Speaking of After All, it happens to be the title of Mary Tyler Moore’s first autobiography. I read it when I was in my twenties, and I enjoyed it. Mary has many sad stories, and in my mid-twenties, that was hard for me. Now I realize we all have many sad stories. I really appreciated her willingness to be so candid. She was a champion for those who suffer from diabetes, have lost a child, and those who’ve struggled with alcohol.

In addition to broadcasting dreams, Mary Richards inspired me with her single-girl-living-on-her-own image. I always wanted to live on my own. A lot of my friends didn’t share this desire with me, wanting to have roommates. Not me. As soon as I could afford it, I got my own place, just me. I had three single girl apartments, and can proudly say I made it on my own for four and a half years. It was cool.

I used to go back and forth as to which of Mary’s apartments I liked better. The cute cozy studio apartment in Phyllis’s home, or the high rise apartment, where Mary finally had a bedroom. I always wanted to live in a high-rise, but I never found the deluxe apartment in the sky (I know, different show). I did always have my own bedroom, although I would have killed for a sunken living room. When I was really young, I was enchanted with Rhoda’s little haven in the attic. I desperately wanted a beaded curtain in my bedroom, but alas another dream that never came true. Instead, I bought striped yarn, cut it up, and taped it to the ceiling of my bedroom, for a similar affect. It lasted until my brother tour it down in one of our adolescent battles.

During my twenties, I got to revisit The Mary Tyler Moore Show when Nick-at-Nite ran the reruns (along with those of the show Rhoda). I appreciated the show more the second time around. The writing is so smart and funny and relevant, even today. WOMEN SHOULD BE PAID THE SAME AS MEN. I’ve have seen every episode of the series. I can’t pick a favorite character. I love Mary, Lou, Murray, Ted, Suzanne, Phyllis, Rhoda, and Gordy (even though he was only on for one season). Okay, I admit, I wasn’t a fan of Georgette. My favorite episode was Chuckles the Clown. Like Mary, I have a habit of laughing hysterically at inopportune times. Often when crying would probably be a better reaction.

When I was in grad school, I lived with one of my best friends, Barbara, and her dad. I went to school during the day and worked nights waiting tables. When I came home from my shifts, I’d watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Barb would tease me. During this time, I had my heart broken. I mean really, really broken. I was devastated. All I wanted was time alone. One of the girls I worked with offered me her house for a weekend, because she and her husband were going out of town. I barely knew these people, but jumped at the chance. Once there, I realized that being alone with my tears wasn’t the best idea I’d ever had. I called Barb, crying, and she suggested I watch my favorite show. I turned on the TV, and guess what I found? A Mary Tyler Moore Show reunion. I grabbed a beer, sat down, and hung out with my friends for two hours. I cried some more, but they were happy tears, and I laughed a lot. I also felt inspired, because one of the topics the cast discussed was how Mary Richards never got married, but she was still happy and fulfilled. She didn’t need a man, so neither did I. I found solace in this and (yes this seems dramatic to me now) decided that I’d be okay. Eventually. Even if I never found love again or got married (dudes, I think was 23 at the time – drama), I’d be okay, because one day I’d have a good job. And I’d always had good friends. Always.

When I moved to Fort Lauderdale, I once again thought of my girl Mary. Fort Lauderdale was a big city for me at the time. I was moving there to go to graduate school, and my car was packed with almost everything I owned. I have a vivid memory of getting on the I95 North Ramp. I was driving east from Naples. The off-ramp was super high, and I was nervous. I mean I kept driving up, and up, and up. We didn’t have crazy interstate exchanges in little ole Naples. As I rounded the curve at the summit, I caught sight of  the Fort Lauderdale Skyline. And YES – I started signing the theme…

In 2012, Minneapolis was on our road trip itinerary. The kids had heard of the Mall of America, and that’s where they wanted to go. My motive in visiting the twin cities was to see all things Mary. I visited her statue in downtown Minneapolis, and I stalked the house where they shot the exteriors of her first apartment (in the Lindstrom house). I’d done my research, so I knew it was a private home – and that the owners did not appreciate fans of the show. There were no trespassing signs everywhere. I was very bad, and cannot reveal my tactics, but I got my pictures.



Every time I’ve moved on, from a job or a city, and there’ was a group good-bye, I’d always say something about how this reminds me of the last episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And you know what? Everyone inevitably starts laughing and goes in for the big group hug. It gets me every time.


Rest in peace Mary Tyler Moore. Thank you for inspiring my dreams and my independence.