Once upon a time, I built a teepee. I painted the door and filled it with things I loved. I made the poles, sanded each by hand, peeling the bark from each 16-foot sapling we had cut in our own woods.


Then I wrote a book about building it, and about life, transformation, and other things, some funny, some sad, some just whatever.

The manuscript for The 12-Foot Teepee took me about 7 months to write, almost as much time to edit, then a few more months to design the cover and the book. Getting it published, well … that’s a whole other story.

This was my teepee.


It stood, through all seasons for five years. This summer, the poles could no longer support the canvas, and the canvas itself was mildewed. Its time was over and it came down.

There won’t be another. I’m past sitting on any floor, even a teepee. It’s not getting down. It’s getting back up.

teepee book shelf

Building it was a rebirth. A physical teepee is nothing but a bit of canvas and sticks, the rest is spirit, love, and hope. I knew it wouldn’t last indefinitely. It survived for five years, which is about as long as it could in this climate. Especially since I left it up through all four seasons. Still, I miss it and always will.

I had some great hours in my teepee. My favorite was when snow was falling and I was cozy by my fire. It was the most peaceful place in my world.

You can find the book on Amazon, both as a paperback and in Kindle format. It is “The 12-Foot Teepee,  by Marilyn Armstrong.

My life has moved on considerably since then but writing it was a turning point in my life. So … that was my life. And I wrote it already. Would I read it? I’m not sure. I haven’t made up my mind about that. Yet.


My son had ADD and ADHD in the 80’s before the diagnosis came into fashion. He was going to an expensive private elementary school in New York City. He was bouncing off the walls and “disrupting” his class.


He spent a lot of time out in the hall, resulting in huge gaps in his basic reading, writing, and arithmetic knowledge … and only exacerbated the situation. Eventually the school called my husband and me into the office and told us our son had a problem. They told us we should get a tutor and a therapist to handle it. They could not (would not) deal with it.

We already had a therapist and didn’t think a tutor was the answer. We decided to move the whole family to our weekend home in a small Connecticut town where the public school system had a Special Ed Department. Shortly after the move to Connecticut, a new therapist diagnosed my son with ADD and ADHD. She put him on Ritalin in its most basic and unrefined form. The drug has come a long way since.

ADHDBlogRitalin was a mixed blessing. It had major side effects and only worked a few hours a day. At least we finally had a diagnosis and knew what was wrong.

The local public school had staff and programs to help my son academically and socially. We were surrounded by caring people who were at least trying to help.

Unfortunately, back then, understanding of ADHD and how to help kids with learning disabilities was very limited. In the end, all they could do was hold his hand and get him through each year. It damaged his self-esteem. He never developed confidence that he could succeed at anything.

We were lucky. We found a college in Vermont. Landmark College is solely for kids with learning problems. There, for the first time, my son was given tools to cope with his issues. He learned ways to work through and around them so he gained a sense of control over himself and his life. He began to function well. The school taught him how to build on each small success.

He learned to tell when he could get things accomplished and when it was a waste of time to try. He learned how to break each task down into manageable steps, to organize his time, work space, and work.

ADD positive attitude concept on cork board

He uses these skills in his job with a hedge fund in New York. He uses them to get the laundry done, to keep his house stocked with essentials.

He’s doing well now, but it saddens me to think how different he might be today if he had learned these coping skills in kindergarten rather than college. He could have skipped years of feeling inadequate, helpless, and hopeless. He might have enjoyed learning, explored other career paths. Above all, he’d feel would have felt better about himself.

Supposedly, schools and parents are better equipped in 2015 than they were thirty years go. Hopefully they have learned to support families and children with learning and behavior issues. I know there are many new drugs, presumably more refined and effective. Hopefully, new approaches to ADD and ADHD are more sophisticated. I hope kids with disabilities are given the tools to take control of themselves and their lives at an early age, before the damage is done.

That’s what I hope. Everyone talks about it, I’m just not sure what the reality is.



Bishop has laser eyes. He uses them primarily to guilt me into giving him my breakfast, lunch, and/or dinner. Or maybe that’s just the way he looks at the world.


I’ve asked him, but he just looks at me and somehow, I’m pretty sure it’s really all about my sandwich.


Or anything else I might be eating. Because when all is said and done, Bishop will eat anything that does not eat him first.



Are you a hugger or a non-hugger?

I come from a non-hugging family. So does Garry. We have learned to do better than our parents, but we still aren’t especially touchy-feelie.

books james lee burke

We tend to express feeling with gestures — gifts and offers of help — and words. Lots of words. Two writers in one household? That’s a great many words, carefully chosen … and dangerous when carelessly used.

What is your favorite toppings on pizza?

Cheese and veggies. Onions. Peppers. Mushrooms. And lots of cheese. Meat, not so much, but sometimes it’s okay. I think that chicken and pineapple have no place on a pizza.

If you were the original designer of one existing corporate logo, which one would you select?

TriStarTriStar Pictures, the movie company, has a gorgeous Pegasus logo at the beginning of their movies. I love that flying horse!

I never thought Texaco should have given up their flying horse either. Big mistake. A big star cannot compete with Pegasus.

Complete this sentence:  Where I can seek my solace is… 

Writing. Reading. Photography. Art. Sometimes, I just walk around looking at paintings, rearranging the antique pottery and other art objects in the house.

It makes me feel better, but I don’t know why.