Meet my sister Kristin!

On November 23, 1984, I met a girl who would become one of my best friends.  Her name was Kristin Ann, but I wanted to call her Tustin, who was the boy who lived across the street from my aunt and uncle’s house.

Kristin was three years younger than me, an age gap that didn’t always bode so well for us while we were growing up.  We fought a fair amount (although not as much as Kristin and our brother Kevin did!), and she always felt left out.  I have these hilarious memories of her– I would get to stay up/out later than she did, and when my dad and I would drive down the driveway, Kristin would be waiting up for me, staring out the window.  Dad would get mad because she was supposed to be asleep, but how funny and pathetic is that image?  Little sister waiting up for big sister to come back home!

We shared a room from the time she was three until I graduated from high school.  We have so many RIDICULOUS memories of this– from the way we would decorate our room (her half was Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls and Taylor Hanson posters; mine was devoted strictly to Zac Hanson), how it would get so messy that we’d get in BIG trouble with the parents, how we’d read by the “amber light” coming in through the window after our lights were off (it never occurred to us to turn the light back on at that age), playing Princess Pat while dangling upside down from our beds, and when we were older, having Kevin tantrum every night, “TURN THE LIGHT OFF!!!!”

Now that we are older, we get along GREAT!  She is one of my favorite people– so loving and caring, so FUNNY, and my prayer warrior!  She loves God and books and family time.  Kristin is the one who will always instigate, “Let’s go around the table and say something nice about one another,” which has become a family tradition.  Speaking of traditions, the girl holds to them like the world will end if we don’t do our EXACT ROUTINE every holiday.  She is a delight, and I absolutely adore her.

Happy 32nd anniversary to my parents!

After reading this post, some of you will be envious of me.  And perhaps you should be.

You see, I happen to have the most wonderful parents in the whole world.

Tom Sommers: my crazy, sometimes spacey dad who loves Jesus, my mom, his kids, Disney World, the Indianapolis 500 and NASCAR racing, his sports card collection, long walks, his lovely little hometown, and a horse named Secretariat.  My dad is one of the most generous people I have ever met, and I love to watch the efforts he puts into making people’s day … especially when there are kids involved!  I have learned so much from this man, and I am so proud to call him Dad!

Ronda Sommers: my crazy, high-energy mom who loves Jesus, my dad, her kids, exercise, Junior Mints, her kindergarteners, the Kimball Church of Christ, anything crafty, SAVERS, and Sgt. Anderson from Tour of Duty.  My mom is lovely, really, truly lovely, and she’s one of my best friends.  I can tell her anything.  She is a prayer warrior.

And they are both hilarious to boot.

I know that these days most people can’t boast about their parents’ marriage, but I can honestly say that these two have an incredible marriage and a wonderful friendship.  They have given me and my siblings an incredible example of what it is like to be committed to each other and to choose love every day.  I can honestly see that each year they love each other more than the last.

Thank you, Mom and Dad, for your commitment to each other and to keeping God at the center of your marriage.  Congrats on 32 years together … here’s to the next 32! 🙂

not only neurotic, but a writer too

If you subscribe to my blog, you know that my posts revolve around obsessive-compulsive disorder and that I sometimes post scenes from the book I’ve been writing about OCD.  Tonight, instead of writing about OCD, I want to write about writing.  Meta-writing … now there’s something an OC can latch onto!  Haha!

Words have been important to me since I was young– summertimes, my mom would have to yell at me to go play outside, since all I wanted to do was lie in my bed and read.  We met halfway: I took my book outdoors.  My sister and I and the neighbor girl would play “library,” setting all our books out on the stairs to the deck, carefully each selecting one, “checking it out,” and retreating to various areas of the yard to read.  They would abandon their books long before I would.

When I was in third grade, I remember creating a whole made-up family of characters so that I could write stories about them.  In junior high, I started to mess around with poetry.  In high school, I wrote an episodic soap opera and passed it around for friends to read.  When the notebook made its way back to me, I wrote some new scenes.  In college, I studied creative writing and finally discovered a true family of other writers, who– let’s be honest– are all a little strange.  It’s not mean.  We just are.

In 2008, I began chicken-scratching some thoughts about my latest Paxil-induced obsession, which turned into a four year novel-writing project that I’m pretty proud of.

Well.  That is, until I read some fantastic new book.  Then I feel like I will never be more than mediocre.

Readers love books.  Writers do too.  But sometimes writers kind of hate them as well.  Take, for example, last night when I read The Fault in Our Stars, the latest by John Green, and found myself simultaneously DELIGHTED by it and MORTIFIED as it revealed my own weaknesses.  One of my greatest desires in life is to be a good writer, and so, reading great writing from others is wonderful/horrible, an honor/shameful, a gift/a rebuke.  I would never “forfeit” the opportunities to have read The Book Thief,  Jellicoe Road, The Last Unicorn, For the Time Being, Peace Like a River, and absolutely anything by Billy Collins.  Doesn’t mean I didn’t seethe with envy while I read.

I complained to my friend Kyle, who wrote me You can trust a good giver that He’s given you what you need. So, take heart, and write.

And my friend Erica patiently encouraged Remember you are part of the body of Christ and have greater purpose.  I totally believe in your writing.

Both were needed reminders for this neurotic writer.

PANDAS

The PANDAS that I’m talking about has nothing to do with these guys …

 

 

 

 

 

… and everything to do with childhood strep throat.

PANDAS = Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections

Say what???

PANDAS describes a set of children in whom an ordinary bacterial strep infection can turn into a neuropsychiatric disorder.  The strep seems to cause the body’s immune system to build up antibodies that – who knows why – turn traitor and attack the basal ganglia in the brain.

In other words, a simple case of strep throat gone to hell.

Sometimes a child gets strep throat, and the body gets confused– instead of fighting off the bacteria, it attacks the basal ganglia … which leads to obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The first time I had an intake with a psychiatrist, she asked about my past medical issues.  “Ummm … I broke my elbow twice,” I said, thinking how a broken bone had nothing to do with my head issues.  I reached: “And I’ve had strep throat like a million times.”  I felt a little stupid and way too thorough.  Keep it to related issues, I thought to myself.  Duh.

But my psychiatrist perked up.  “Did you know there’s a strong connection between strep throat and OCD?” the doctor asked me.

Apparently, this is a little controversial, and some doctors aren’t convinced.  But come on– how many cases of strep-followed-by-rapid-onset-of-OCD do you have to see before you raise an eyebrow at the connection?

My doctor– Dr. Suck-Won Kim, the absolutely brilliant OCD expert at the University of Minnesota– believes there is a strong correlation, and I’m in his court.

A scene cut from my book:

“You have heard of PANDAS?” he asked.

            “I have,” I said, although I couldn’t remember at the moment what it stood for.  “It’s when kids get strep throat and then OCD.  Or something like that.”  I realized that I probably sounded stupid, explaining PANDAS to an OCD expert.

            “So many PANDAS studies … it has to be solved because far more OCD cases are strep-linked than people know.”

            “Yes, I had strep a lot as a kid.”

“YOU DID? YOU SEE?!”  Dr. Lee became animated as if a moment ago I’d said no such link between strep and OCD existed but now he was proving me wrong.

“The first time I met with a psychiatrist, she asked about my medical history.  I didn’t have a lot to share, but I happened to throw it out there that I’d had strep throat a lot, and she said it was probably connected.”

“She knew that?” asked Dr. Lee, impressed.  “That is uncommon.  Most doctors have no clue.” 

For more information on PANDAS, feel free to check out

I think I had strep throat nine times as a child.  Can anyone beat that?  Leave a comment!