Letter to myself in 1997

December 19, 1996

Hi honey, it’s yourself, 18 years in the future.

I’m writing you this letter on your son’s 9th birthday to let you know that everything is going to be all right and to show you a picture.

Graduation 2014

Look what happens 18 years from today. Your baby boy is a Virginia Tech grad. Can you believe it?

I know right now, you can’t believe it. Things are not going well on the motherhood front.

Your biggest fear right now is that the grad in the photo is headed for trouble, real trouble. Your days are busy chasing interventions, therapies, special diets, and programs that may turn things around. You have no dreams of graduation. You have dreams of avoiding jail. Life is scary right now.

But look at how far you’ve come already. Since the first diagnosis of autism at age three, your baby has learned to talk, read, write, and tolerate new situations. He’s going to move on and make the honor roll soon. He will eventually break out of that fight-or-flight reaction and learn to manage his stress well enough to really enjoy high school. His college entrance essay will make you cry.

And as you can see in the photo, he’s going to be a Virginia Tech graduate, just like the grandfather for whom he is named.

So hang in there, mama. Trust your gut. You have the stuff, girlfriend.

Love you,



Hot Flash: Rock n Roll Mama

The very first video from my mamaband, Hot Flash.

Many thanks to Steve Pendlebury for his mad production skills. Props to Brian Johnson for the audio. Applause to Patrice Moerman for creating this awesome song. And hats off to Katy Johnson for her rhythm, vocals, and set decoration.

See it on youTube at http://youtu.be/Fq9Zu5KiJ8A

Letter to myself in 1987

Viqui and Keith Dill September 27 1987

Viqui and Keith Dill September 27 1987

September 27, 1987

Hi honey, it’s yourself, 25 years in the future.

I’m writing you this letter on your wedding day to let you know that everything is going to be all right.

I know you’re confused and I know you’re scared. So I want to tell you a few things that will help you have courage in the coming days.

But first of all, I gotta tell you girl, you are rockin’ that dress and your hair looks perfect today. When I think about how you could go bra-less today in that backless gown, I am so envious. Enjoy that while you can because it will not last.

Now, about the next few years: they will be challenging. Your new husband will wound you deeply and it will be about relationships. I don’t want to say too much about the ways he will disappoint you in the early years, but I will say that you will work it out. You have the stuff, girlfriend. You will not be alone and you will not be abandoned. Don’t be afraid to get help wherever God provides it, because He will provide it, and in surprising places. On this road, your friends will forsake you but you will find new sources of support. Your greatest strengths will prove to be liabilities and you will have to learn to lay them aside, finding new ways of living and loving. But don’t be discouraged. You will find everything you need just at the time you need it. And hang in there, it will all be worth it.

Now before you start thinking you’re going to become some kind of passive victim, let me say this:  inasmuch as you will be disappointed, you will also be a disappointment as a wife. And it will be about money. Sorry honey, but your fear will get the best of you and you will commit your share of transgressions. When it happens, don’t be too surprised. Accept the anger and eventual forgiveness that you will be given with grace. Forgiveness is the best gift ever. And hang in there for this, too, it will all be worth it.

As I write this letter, you will be happy to know that 25 years from now, my biggest problems are trying to find money for putting your kid through college and trying to deal with the sadness of having an empty nest. See? That’s not such a bad problem set to have. There’s a happy ending in your future.

So smile, pretty girl. Enjoy this day surrounded by the love of your friends and family. There will be time enough to deal with tomorrow’s problems tomorrow. And when troubles come, you can say “Bring it on.” You’re up to it.

Love you,



I like wearing your clothes when you’re not around

Jim stands outside West Eggleston dorm

Today I dropped my only son off at Virginia Tech for his last year of college. These are the times when I feel so very happy and so very sad all at the same time and I wonder how my heart can hold this much emotion and not burst from the weight.

Before I left town, we did a little shopping. In addition to making the usual Walmart run of microwavable coffee, cleaning products, and a few odds and ends we forgot to pack, we made a stop at the t-shirt store near campus to buy him a new hooded jacket. See, I had a clever plan to buy him a new hoodie so I can have his old one.

And now I’m wearing his old jacket, wrapping myself in it like a hug.

I own hand-me-down clothing from other folks I love: a sweater that once belonged to my father, a shirt from my mom, jeans from my sister, and other bits and pieces of loved ones living and dead. I always feel close to the original owner when I wear them. The clothes even smell better than my regular clothes. These clothes feel like love to me.

And I definitely feel the hug.