“Lighten up, just enjoy life, smile more, laugh more, and don’t get so worked up about things.” – Kenneth Branagh

Okay so that last bit is hard, I’ll admit. I get worked up quite a bit because well that’s my temperament and life in general especially when you have loved ones you care for with more challenging needs.

That being said, I definitely full on embrace the idea of lightening up, enjoying life, and smiling and laughing more.

So funny story that totally put my life into perspective and just how I’ve “coped” with being surrounded by constant stress.

I go to my local supermarket one day, just buying a bunch of stuff for yet another event I have with kiddos and their families for The Tommy Foundation, and all of a sudden I notice that my cashier can’t stop staring at me.

Me: “Is something wrong?”

Cashier 1: “Um, sorry I was just… um, aren’t you the lady that came in here once dressed as Hermoine from Harry Potter?”

Before I can answer…

Bagger: “No, no, she came in here dressed as Katniss”

Cashier 2 (next aisle over): “No, she was a minion!”

Me: “Okay, I’m going to save you all some time—they were ALL me.”

Confusion and stifled laughter…

Me: “I work with kids and adults that honestly can use a little joy in their life, so I feel that the more free and ridiculous I allow myself to be, the more freedom I give people to let go and not take things so seriously and maybe even embrace some childlike part of themselves.”


My words could very well have gone over the heads of the 3 “kids” helping me that day with my groceries. The oldest couldn’t have been over 20 and the concept of an older woman dressing up all the time and GASP! Not caring enough about what other’s thought of her probably left them reeling.

So why do I dress up?

Good question. In looking back at the 11 years since I’ve founded the non-profit I spend so much blood, sweat and tears on, I can recall times when I was more “professional” and blended in just a wee bit more to the community that has now been my home for over 20 years. It IS Amish country after all, I could do a better job blending in, I suppose.

Well first off, I like it. Yes, I’ll be honest, there is still a huge part of me that wants to play pretend and have fun and truly feels alive when I read books and watch films and then can somehow bring them to life. I wanted to be an actress in a former life, so there’s that too.

Two, it genuinely puts a smile on the faces of kids I work with to see me not only excited to see them and welcoming, but also being completely up to making an utter fool of myself for their amusement.

Three, it’s okay to take something that upsets you or that confuses you or that isn’t always happy and make the best of it.

There are days I don’t want to work.

There are days I don’t want to be “on”.

There are days I just want to stay in, cry and heck maybe even drink wine.

There are plenty of statistics and stories and even support pages and groups and social media updates that would condone me doing any of the things I already listed.

Studies Show…

One research study in The Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders noted that moms of kids with autism have PTSD that is so high that it is similar to that of soldiers in active combat!

Excerpt from the New York Times on the study, states that:

“Researchers from the University of Wisconsin at Madison followed a group of mothers and their autistic children (adolescents and adults) for eight days. They were interviewed at the end of each day, and saliva samples were taken every four days.”

Among the findings:

  • The levels of chronic stress experienced by the mothers were similar to those of combat soldiers. The greater the child’s behavior problems, the worse the mothers’ stress.
  • Mothers of those with autism reportedly spend at least two hours more each day caring for those children than a comparative group of mothers whose children were not autistic.
  • The mothers of the autistic children were interrupted at work an average of once every four days. For the other mothers, the frequency was fewer than one interruption every 10 days.
  • The autism mothers were three times as likely to report a stressful event on any given day, and twice as likely to be tired.

There is probably at least a study a day that comes out with some reason why 1) we are to blame in some way for why our loved one has autism or 2) we should totally be miserable.

What’s the point lady?

The point I am trying to make is that life is too short to waste finding reasons to stay miserable.

I get it! I’ve read the studies.

I get it! I’ve been to the meetings and conferences and so on… our lives are crazy and some days we don’t want to adult. It’s hard.


You don’t have to dress up and act silly but find whatever version of your passion it is you have inside you—whatever part of self-expression you’ve lost throughout your years and bring it back into your work, your life and your children.

 Don’t Let Anyone Dull Your Sparkle!