Standing in the Middle of the Road

What’s up, April? You’re back, and it’s 2021 now. What a decade this past year has been, said the world before the middle of the second year of the 2020s.

Masks galore. Sanitizers that smell like a distillery. Virtual effing everything. Quarantines. A little bit of everything in between. Oh, and a serious lack of toilet paper, Clorox wipes, spaghetti, and macaroni and cheese (what?!).

2021 for me personally marks not only surviving a year of this madness, but also two decades since my son’s diagnosis of autism. If you’ve followed me for a while or read Imprisoned No More, you know that this was the year I was also arrested during an incident where I was trying to protect him from self-injury.

We’ve come a long way since then, he and I. Today, I lead at both an amazing organization where we offer a variety of services, as well as own a business where I can continue to serve people in many ways. My son is also in a service role, working full-time at a day program for persons with disabilities, including autism.

April 2nd is almost here.

What will Chris and I wear that day?

Red? Gold? Blue? Rainbows? Puzzles? Infinity symbols?

No matter what we choose?

Someone will tell us we’re wrong.

I’ve been engaged in this tirade for twenty years. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Finger pointing.

Accusations.

Name-calling.

In fact, just weeks ago, I posted a picture with a friend’s child at our center. He was crawling through a tunnel and I was kneeling next to him, watching, and giggling under my mask.

He was laughing.

Playing.

And . . . I was labeled a “child abuser” (hey, where have I heard that before?!) by an Instagram user who said I was “abusing him with ABA.”

Ummmmm . . . we weren’t even in a session. I’m not even a clinician! But someone jumped to judgment, and decided to “speak for all,” and labeled me. And quite frankly, triggered me.

And that was unfair.

Don’t we all want the same things?

Diversity?

Equality?

Equity?

Belonging?

The fields of ABA, SLP, OT, and the overall community as a whole has come ridiculously far. We are NOT there yet — oh no, dear friends, not by a long shot. But we’ve come incredibly far, and for that I’m grateful. I’m excited to do more, for more.

I’m so appreciative of the thousands upon thousands of amazing people I’ve met along the way, especially including those neurodivergent individuals who have helped me to develop into a better leader, a better mother, a better advocate, and stronger ally.

What I do not and cannot appreciate are people who choose to bully therapists, aides, educators, and those persons doing amazing work and that have giving hearts who want to make a difference — and who do.

I am NOT and will NEVER be ok with chastising parents and caregivers who pour into their loved ones with their heart and soul, determined for their loved ones to live their best life for . . . simply feeling their feelings. No, autism isn’t our diagnosis. But it affects us in different ways as we learn to understand, and grow, and search for answers, and that is something we cannot take away. People are allowed to feel their feelings.

What can we do? What should we do?

Listen.

Learn.

Collaborate.

Have two way conversations (one way are unproductive) and let’s learn from each other.

No one is superior.

No one has all the answers.

I don’t speak for everyone. But neither does anyone else.

I felt Eileen Lamb’s — The Autism Cafe, please follow her with her “flappy hands, happy hearts” if you’re not — recent post where she said that she as an autistic adult feels like she’s in a grey area, caught in between two worlds.

Holy shit, I felt that.

That’s how I have always — always — felt as a parent and as a professional. Then again, I’m so damn neutral in my religious views and political views, that me feeling this way about a community I love and support should not be a surprise.

I’m standing in the middle of the damn road.

It’s hard to decide where to walk next.

Which path is right?

Which do I choose?

Will someone be waiting for me with open arms, or will I be faced with someone staring me down with fury in their eyes?

Well, I’ll tell you what we will probably be wearing on April 2nd.

Chris may very well be in a blue shirt — sure as hell not because he supports a particular organization (that’s a story for another time if you haven’t heard how that said entity devastated our family). Dammit, he likes to wear blue. It’s his favorite color, and it was Dad’s favorite color. And if his autistic voice matters and he gets to choose his path, he gets to choose his shirt.

Me? I’ll be in ATS gear, like I am every day, ready to change the world for the better in any way I can. Our name, our symbol at Achieving True Self were both chosen with neurodiversity in mind and such voices contributed. I’m so grateful for our mission, our vision, our values, and our beliefs. Our passionate team inspires lives and motivates others each and every day.

When I get home? I’ll probably throw on my TCA tee, and after errand running will be editing another collaboration and working on my coaching program before bed.

My personal mission is to leave this world someday better than when I found it.

Well, I guess I’d better quit standing in the middle of the road before I get hit.

I think I’ll keep walking, one foot in front of the other — right, Mama Betty?

Will you join me?

An Open Letter to the U.S.P.S. from a Mailman’s Daughter . . . and a (Four Day) Mailman’s Mother

Dear U.S.P.S. Family,

Hello and good afternoon. I’m pleased to have your attention if even for a few moments. I’m humbled to have the chance to introduce myself to you.

I’m an agent for change, who uses social capital and a powerful voice for the greater good.

You see, I’m Catherine Hughes, also known as The Caffeinated Advocate. I’m an author, editor, blogger, speaker, trainer and leader. I’m also a proud mailman’s daughter. I ultimately consider myself a storyteller, and I want to share a story with you. Maybe, just maybe, my words will inspire an opportunity to create a conversation, and consideration for change.

***

“Speedy delivery!” said my son Christian (Chris), smiling for the camera and posing with our dog, Abby.

He couldn’t wait to show his mailbag to the neighbors (you’ll notice the bag is slightly hidden with his hand in front of the logo in this photo as not to break policy). Chris came home from his second day of orientation this past Tuesday with more paperwork and his bag in hand. To him, this wasn’t just any sack.

It was a status symbol.

It was his future.

It was his dream.

It was EVERYTHING.

Chris’s grandfather is John Tomko, who served the U.S.P.S. primarily in McKeesport for almost 25 years. For many of you reading this post, you don’t know who John was. Allow me to share a bit about my childhood hero — and Chris’s. To the communities of families on his routes, John was “the mailman.” He considered himself fortunate to call his customers his friends. He was a dedicated carrier who never complained. He even served as a supervisor for a period of time, but ultimately returned to doing what he loved. I remember when Dad passed, some of those very people attended his viewing, because he had that much of an impact on them.

We lost Dad on July 14, 2009 — ironically, eleven years to the day that Chris brought home a mailbag after day two of orientation, preparing for the training academy the following week.

Chris attended his third day of orientation, and then was sent to another location for day four. He understood that it was the day he would “learn to drive a mail truck,” and he was nervous, but also excited.

It turned out that “learning to drive a mail truck” meant demonstrating to someone in a matter of moments that he could handle driving a large vehicle — positioned on the other side of the truck mind you — and then park it between cones.

Chris’s nerves got the best of him, and he was told he did not pass the test.

As an adult on the autism spectrum — and even as a child — he endures moments of heightened anxiety when tests are administered. It is no surprise that without any practice or preparation that this task did not end well.

What DID come to me as a surprise, was that Chris was told he was now “separated” from his position, and that someone from HR would call him to discuss another option.

Someone sure did — and suggested that he apply for a clerk position . . .

. . . in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, four hours from our home.

Wait, what?

That’s it?

Chris went from achieving the career of his dreams and achieving ultimate financial security to being unemployed . . . and during a global pandemic? He left a well-paying union job with full benefits. Now he has . . . nothing.

How is this allowed to happen?

I can’t wrap my head around this, and goodness knows I am digging deep and I’m trying. I cannot understand why this test, if it is a requirement of the position, was not part of the multi-step process when he received the contigency offer.

Why allow someone to put in their notice and leave a secure position for something that is clearly not secure?

I cannot understand how someone is hired for a job, then it is decided AFTER hire, “oh wait, this person cannot do XYZ, so therefore we will just let them go.”

I’m confused. Where was his training? Are police hired for a department and sent to the streets, only to learn that person wasn’t trained to handle a weapon? Are teachers placed in front of a classroom of students having never learned how to instruct children? Are doctors handed a scalpel and told “Good luck! Don’t kill anyone, now, ya hear?”

Listen, I understand that “rules are rules” and that this is a requirement of the position. I’m not here to debate that. What I am here to suggest is that your orientation is flawed at best.

No one — again, especially in 2020 when millions are filing for unemployment — should leave a secure position for something that is not guaranteed.

You dropped the ball, U.S.P.S. And, boy, oh boy, are you missing out on one of the best carriers you could ever lay your eyes on.

Chris was diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder at the age of three. He was moderately impacted at the time of diagnosis, and we were very uncertain at that time what the future might hold for him. Over the years, he continued to break down barriers and defy many odds.

He graduated with honors and has worked in different positions since leaving school to gain experience and explore his options. In fact, up until our local paper was discontinued, Christian was our neighborhood newspaper carrier. During a speech given after being awarded a rotary scholarship in May 2016, he said, “I look forward to serving my community and giving back to others. My disability will not hold me back.”

Chris passed his written road test two years ago, and his driver’s test last year after much practice and perseverance. He was excited to become a licensed driver so he could visit all of the neighborhoods he’s been studying for years. He is the biggest Google Maps expert you will ever meet!

Chris would have easily mastered the sorting of mail and delivery very quickly, I have no doubt. The truck would have taken perhaps some extra practice — and some extra patience (I oughta know, since I’m mom!) — from his instructor.

Ultimately, my son is an overcomer, just like me and just like his grandfather. After receiving his terrible news, holding his welcome letter in his hand (again, dated July 14th, the day a former carrier took his last breath) and looking at his mailbag with tears, Chris dried his tears and started to move forward. He is already making connections and searching in the hopes of taking whatever next step is meant to be.

If you are interested, I’d love for you to read more about our journey. My latest book, a powerful memoir, went live on Amazon for pre-order on — you guessed it, July 14th to honor Dad’s role in our story. Imprisoned No More: A Mother and Son Embrace Autism and Journey to Freedom shares how both Chris and I have triumphed over unthinkable tragedy.

I don’t know what’s to come, but I know that Dad is our guardian angel. I believe in my heart that what is meant for us, will not pass us. Chris’s future is bright and I believe that he will find his way.

U.S.P.S., you will always be “family” to us. Being a proud carrier allowed my father to keep a roof over our heads and food on our table. He made many friends along the way who will never forget him. I still have his route tag (forever #28) in my drawer. Sometimes at my lowest moments, I take it out and hold it for strength.

As that family member you just can’t get rid of (you know, like the holiday visitor that just doesn’t take the hint?), I urge you to consider your current hiring practices. No one should be placed in the position of leaving their current role and then risk being on the unemployment line days later after not passing a test — a test in which my son hit a cone for goodness sake. It’s not like he hit a mailbox or a pet. He hit TRAFFIC CONES. Now you have let him go, and he has no income, no medical benefits, but yet feels great shame that by no means he should be carrying. That is wrong on so many levels.

I implore you to consider your contigency offers and revamp your orientation. If you are training someone, please provide thorough training for that individual. Heaven knows without practice, if handed the keys to the mail truck, I would not have returned it in one piece!

I do not ever expect any sort of response, but I do pray that change will come for future candidates so that no one experiences what Chris did this past week.

2020 is a time for much needed change, and change starts with us.

Advocacy is by no means easy, but I will fight for a better world until I take MY last breath.

That . . . is something that I can promise you that I will ALWAYS deliver.

Respectfully yours,

A Mailman’s Daughter . . . and a Mailman’s Mother (even if for only four days, an accomplishment achieved nonetheless)





From Behind Bars to Behind Communities – Our Epilogue . . . Or Is It?


In 2018, on what I now call “my anniversary,” I published a blog post, From Behind Bars to Behind Communities — Our Beginning. I shared excerpts of our story, as I have for almost fifteen years in many different capacities.

I said in that post, “the day didn’t go as it was ‘supposed to.’ Or . . . did it?”

Though I have spoken to audiences ranging from 7 to over 700 people sharing pieces of “our puzzle,” never have I released the full story. It has taken me almost twenty years to recall more memories from our past so that I could create a story to be shared. I vowed during a speech in 2008 at Heinz Field, emceed by Larry Richert of Newsradio 1020 KDKA, that someday I would write a book and document our entire story. After I finished speaking, I received a standing ovation and was in tears. I had never spoken in front of a room of that size in my life, but in that moment, I felt empowered. Sharing our story was freeing.

“World, you had better watch out for this jailbird mom. She’s clearly not done yet,” he said.

You were right, Larry. I wasn’t done. WE — Christian and I — weren’t done. Not by a long shot!

There’s a song from the nineties by a band called Semisonic called “Closing Time.” Perhaps you’ve heard of it. Perhaps you sang the title and didn’t read it (hey, to each their own).

One of my favorite lyrics from that song is, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.”

July 14, 2020 marks multiple milestones for my family:

1) My beloved father, John Jerome Tomko, will have been departed from his earthly presence for eleven years.

2) Christian is attending day two of his orientation for the U.S. Postal Service as he trains to be a City Carrier Assistant. He’s following in Grandpa’s footsteps.

3) Imprisoned No More becomes available on Amazon for pre-order, and I will begin to accept private orders for the paperback prior to the official release on August 23, 2020.

I’m pricing the ebook at just $.99 cents as an introductory offering, and I hope you will consider a purchase to support our story and help my message reach people around the world. By making a purchase during my Virtual Pre-Order Party and pushing the book up the ranks as a best-selling release, more and more people will be notified about its existence which means I can offer help and hope to people across the globe.

Be sure to join this virtual all-day event, which will remain on Facebook permanently. I’m sharing quotes, videos, and more here first on this event page exclusively for guests, and will have posts for you every 30 minutes. I am so excited to share in this day with you all!

Christian and I have accomplished so much, both individually and together.

This isn’t the epilogue, my friends. We’re stepping into the next powerful chapter in our journey.

Sharing our story has freed us.

We are imprisoned no more.

To be continued . . .

***

You can purchase Imprisoned No More: A Mother and Son Embrace Autism and Journey to Freedom, or any of my other books by visiting my Amazon Author Page. You can also pre-order the paperback from me personally before August 23rd! If you pre-ordered the Kindle version for your own digital copy and/or to help support my message, I will be removing that dollar from your order to say thank you.

The Revolution

It isn’t what I pictured, that’s for sure.

At the beginning of 2020, I was:

~ authoring chapters for a few collaborations
~ editing new projects
~ working on content for an international virtual conference
~ accepting more interviews
~ moving through my daily role at ATS

… all while of course supporting my family. I looked at my bracelet from my BFF Christina Abernethy — the MyWord bracelet that says “revolution” — and I thought I had it all figured out.

I had so many plans for 2020 — a few more collaborations, maybe create a course, start creating the book of my dad’s poetry that I promised to publish for him, and put some more work into a memoir that has been almost two decades in the making. I meditated, prayed and agonized over when it would be time to release this book to the world. I decided 2021 made the most sense as it would mark 20 years from the incident where it all began.

I brought everything to a screeching halt in March, and started to say “no” as much as I wanted to maintan my constant “yes.” What happened?

Uh, COVID happened?

We’ve been surrounded by illness, anger, fear, protests, riots and even death. It is a time where we all, collectively, are moving through a trauma and are finding a new way forward. It’s been devastating for all of us, certainly including myself even though I didn’t realize it until months later when I was called out on my own BS by people very close to me.

“Cathy, you’re NOT ok. It’s time for a break.”

Ummm, say what? Hello?! I’m still working every day, running the errands, maintaining the house, making sure everyone has what they need day in and day out …

… during a global pandemic, that is.

As you will read in my book, there was a time when a psychiatrist forced me to look in the mirror at my tear-stained reflection and she asked me, tenderly:

“Cathy, what do YOU need?”

My, how I forgot this critical daily question. My, how I tend to forget it more often than I should.

Lesson revisited.

I stepped away to focus on strengthening and healing myself so I could return to doing more of what I love. As I reflected on what was most important on the “to do” list, after considering the encouragement of people close to me, and as I found myself visiting Dad to search for answers, it came to me.

Imprisoned No More could not wait any longer.

After some brainstorming with my publisher and dear friend Chou Hallegra, we quickly came up with my final subtitle: A Mother and Son Embrace Autism and Journey to Freedom.

The launch plan and final assembly of the manuscript has come together in warp speed. Mama Betty even got in on the act, serving as the final book editor. It’s fitting for so many reasons.

I felt in my heart — I KNOW in my heart — that 2020 needs our story desperately. Families impacted by autism around the world need this book to provide inspiration and hope.

The Pre-Order Party is scheduled for July 14, 2020 on The Caffeinated Advocate on Facebook. Be sure to RSVP and join the page for exclusive content including quotes, videos, interviews, special posts, and of COURSE a giveaway (or two)? This date was selected to pay tribute to my father, who passed away on July 14, 2009.

The book is set to release on August 23, 2020. Those who know me well know the significance of THIS date — HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO YOURS TRULY!

The revolution is ON. I hope you’ll join me as well as share with others who need to hear what I have to say.

Imprisoned No More: A Mother and Son Embrace Autism and Journey to Freedom RELEASES ON AUGUST 23, 2020.

I have tears and chills (even in 90 degree heat) typing this again.

Keep up to date with my latest happenings through writing and speaking by registering for updates. It’s EASY! Click on my contact form, and provide me with your name and email address. In the subject, write “SIGN ME UP!”

Ah, life indeed is what happens when you make other plans.

Wishing you all a Happy 4th of July — filled with burgers, iced tea, sparklers and great joy,
Cathy

Experiencing and Embracing Holland

“When your child received their diagnosis, were you ever handed the Welcome to Holland poem as rite of passage and token of introduction to this new and strange place filled with jargon, acronyms and medical appointments?

Did you find yourself in the land of worry, grief and unknown?

So did we, and then we realized that this new place can be pretty cool, and it’s filled with lots of amazing people. So in an effort to share the stories of families doing creative things as a result of their child’s diagnosis, our podcast was born!

Join us as we embark on this new leg of our journey to share with you how we, and a bunch of really inspiring people, are Embracing Holland!”

This is the exciting introduction to Embracing Holland, a new podcast that you can listen to on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other places where you can catch your favorite hosts! Join Angie Auldridge and Megan Barrett, two powerhouse mama bears and unstoppable advocates who bravely share their stories, their energy and conversations with other amazing individuals and disability changemakers.

I am truly honored to have been asked to be their first guest to share excerpts of my journey and answer some insightful questions (and maybe a silly one at the end). Thank you ladies for reminding your audience, and our world, just how beautiful Holland can be. I’m grateful for your contributions to our community.

Give it a listen!

The Right and Wrong Reasons to Advocate

I have a message to send loud and clear.

A true, honest advocate fights for the child, adolescent or adult whom they are representing.

They will position themselves to partner with all parties involved – the parents and/or other caregivers, school personnel, aides, the therapists, the case managers – and will not set out to make enemies of any of the aforementioned parties or convince caregivers that this is an ideal strategy.

Sending a message that insinuates that the majority of teachers and therapists are out to make someone’s life miserable, are abusive, and/or are targeting their child is dangerous and careless.

I am not asleep, nor was I born yesterday, and I am WELL AWARE about devastating situations that occur in our world today.

Stories are rampant every day across social media that demonstrate terror, harm and bullying, and those scenarios will still happen despite our strongest efforts. We can’t stop it all — but we can do better, together, as partners.

More often, the case is that people don’t know what they don’t know. They weren’t educated.

Maybe they never met someone with ASD, let alone taught them. They don’t have the resources. They lack skills to best support someone with challenges or are differently-abled.

There may be some really good folks who want to do the right thing, but who may not have the support or buy in from everyone in their district or organization.

People don’t know … what they don’t know.

I guarantee you, 9 times out of 10, people WANT to learn from YOU as to how to ensure someone’s success and abundance.

A dear friend and longtime advocate in my community taught me long ago that we as advocates attend meetings first and foremost for the person whose voice we are trying to amplify until they may do so on their own.

I’m so grateful for that perspective and I will carry that with me forever.

I’m watching a small handful of folks out there claiming to be advocates who are charging ridiculous amounts of money and whose tactics are to pounce, attack, and charge full speed ahead like a bull in a china shop.

That’s not advocacy.

That’s not coaching.

That’s not empowerment.

It’s bullshit. Knock it off.

Don’t advocate because it’s a sexy, Instagrammable 2020 money-making entrepreneurial gig, boss babe.

I’m not against charging money for a service or product (I mean, I am an author for heaven’s sake).

However, there’s a difference between charging for a service and taking obvious advantage of someone’s vulnerability. Hundreds of dollars to write an email?!?! GTHOHWTBS (Google this for definition, kids might be watching my post) … I’ll write that email for you myself in 15 minutes flat.

Advocate because you want to change this world for the better and help someone to live their best life. THAT, is advocacy.

throws down the mic

Caff-Adv O-U-T.

This post was shared on Finding Cooper’s Voice on January 22, 2020.

Interested in writing for Finding Cooper’s Voice? LEARN MORE

Finding Cooper’s Voice is a safe, humorous, caring and honest place where you can celebrate the unique challenges of parenting a special needs child. Because you’re never alone in the struggles you face. And once you find your people, your allies, your village…all the challenges and struggles will seem just a little bit easier.

Welcome to their journey. You can also follow Finding Cooper’s Voice on Facebook, subscribe for exclusive videos, and subscribe to their newsletter.

Yes, You Can Sit With Me

Dear Autism Mamas Across the Globe,

I cannot tell you how much division I have experienced over the years both as a professional and as a mother – and it’s always with women.

Why, though?! This breaks my heart.

I thought by 2020, with the “#metoo” movements, with women’s empowerment and such a fierce passion for uplifting one another, that the days of “you can’t sit with us” and “as IF!” were bygones.

That’s sadly not always the case.

I’m so fortunate to have had opportunities over the years to lead focus groups, facilitate support groups, moderate forums and present to both small and large audiences. Don’t get me wrong, I have been part of – and are still part of today – tribes of women who would do anything to support one another.

~ They listen to you when you come home from an emotionally charged IEP meeting.

~ They know you are tired from your child emptying the kitchen cabinets for the umpteenth time to line up the pots and pans (and dumping the cereal on the floor along with it, because hello sensory moment).

~ They celebrate with you when your son says a new word.

~ They scream for joy when your daughter makes a new friend and receives an invite to her new friend’s birthday celebration.

For sure, these doting mamas outnumber the mamas who exclude others in one way or another. However, I’m still seeing mamas out there whose judgmental comments or deliberate actions clearly say to a mother in need, “You can’t sit with us.”

I hate it.

Ok, hate is a strong word, but truly my friends, I hate it.

I have been invited to many groups where I have either bowed out gracefully, or felt as if I had no choice but to call someone out and went out with a bang. I’ll usually leave after sending a private message to a moderator unless the situation is really intense. In such cases, I will tastefully call someone on their garbage (essentially telling them to stick their opinion where the sun doesn’t shine), click “Leave Group” and breathe a sigh of relief.

I see so much judgment, it’s unreal.

“Hmmmm, she looks a little bloated in the belly. Have you put her on a special diet, and tried XYZ vitamins? Oh, you did? You must not have tested it long enough.”

“Oh, he’s enrolled in ABA? ABA is just terrible. Terrible!”

“I see, so you use sign language and visual supports? Are you encouraging REAL communication? You don’t want him to become dependent and take the easy way out.”

“You shouldn’t consider that private school for her, even temporarily. You’re excluding her. Our support group is all about inclusion only, so maybe this place isn’t right for you.”

“You’re giving him WHAT medication? He’s so young. You shouldn’t be putting him on anything.”

“We’re meeting at the bar – all autism mamas drink! Oh, wait, you don’t drink? Oh. OHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. (insert awkward silence).”

“If she REALLY loved her child …” (YES, THIS TOO IS A TRUE STORY.)

I have seen it ALL, and these are just examples.

Listen, I’m not an idiot and I recognize not everyone is going to sing kumbaya while holding hands. But please, can we be a little kinder, and a little less Judgy McJudgy with other mamas JUST. LIKE. US?

We are all doing the best we can with what we’ve got. Just like our children (or our adult children, in my case), we are using the tools from our toolbox in the moment the best way we know how.

Advice is welcomed, but bullying and preying on vulnerable women (JUST LIKE US!) cannot be tolerated.

There’s also room for you to be in more than tribe, mama! It’s ok to take part in many groups that you connect with on a different level or in different ways. Maybe you’ll have some overlap between groups, and introduce ladies to one another, maybe you won’t. It is ok – more than ok! – to run in different circles.

What isn’t ok, is closing that circle off to someone who desperately calls out for help or needs some direction? Why? Because I guarantee that you have been “that mom.” If your group is knowingly not the best fit, or perhaps inconvenient for whatever reason, please guide Crying, Haggered, I Haven’t Showered for Four Days, Am Living On My Child’s Gluten-Free Leftovers That He Refused to Try and I Have One Hour to Clean Before the Therapist Comes Mom to someone who can help her.

Be the difference.

Be the change.

Be kind.

I’m glad most women aren’t like this, but I hope this post reaches those who may have made a snide comment or two in their day.

Mamas, you’re allowed to have opinions, and can express them with grace and grit without hurting anyone. You’re also allowed to sit at other tables. But if you can’t find one, if you’ve been pushed away, or are simply seeking some advice and a friendly ear …

Pull up a chair. The Caffeinated Advocate has plenty of room. I also have coffee.

Chats (and Coffee) with Community Leaders – My Growing Podcast List

“You speak, I listen.” 

Thanks again to my dear friend Michelle Sedlak, the founder of Leading Education and Advocacy for Families (LEAF) in Pittsburgh who has served as a true advocacy champion in the Pittsburgh community for years for saying these four words to me. These simple words will always remind me of who I am, what I stand for, and the work I have left to do so I may leave this world someday better than I found it.

Have you tuned into my podcast interviews and/or FB Lives? I’d love for you to give them a listen and hey, contact me to tell me what you think.

The On-Air Advocate (Tammy Flynn):
“When the Bus Stops Coming”

http://theonairadvocate.libsyn.com/when-the-bus-stops-coming

Xceptional Leaders Podcast (Mai Ling Chan):
“Autism Parent Takes Advocacy to the Next Level, with Catherine Hughes”

https://xceptionaled.com/autism-parent-takes-advocacy-to-the-next-level-with-catherine-hughes/

FB Live – Amorose Family Chiropractic (Drs. Lucas and Kelly Amorose, and Baker the Beagle!)
https://www.facebook.com/amorosefamilychiro/videos/832770483743617/

The Chou Hallegra Podcast (Chou Hallegra):
“Women Making History: Interview With Cathy & Christina”
(An interview featuring me with my colleague, colleague and BFF Christina Abernethy!)

https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/women-making-history-interview-with-cathy-christina/id1269261753?i=1000433643964

Autism Stories, by Autism Personal Coach (Doug Blecher):
“Autism Stories: Catherine Hughes”

https://anchor.fm/autism-personal-coach/episodes/Autism-Stories-Cathy-Hughes-e206pk

Voices of Hope (Kristine Irwin):
“Coffee and Consent: Episode 1 with Catherine Hughes”

https://voicesofhope15.wordpress.com/2018/04/03/coffee-consent-episode-1/

COMING SOON:

2 Autism Truths and 1 Lie with United in Autism’s Julie Hornok
I Am Enough in Christ with Infinitely More Life’s Shawnee Penkacik

Want to book me for your podcast or Facebook Live series?

Contact me and let’s connect! I have a few spots left for the last quarter of 2019, and I am now booking for early 2020.

Abundant love to you all – and remember, it’s self-care Sunday! Be good to yourself. Empty cups cannot pour. (Speaking of … where’s my coffee? Sigh. Maybe my Keurig will brew my mug and deliver my mug to ME. Hey, a girl can dream, or simply be silly).

~ Cathy

We Were All Made for More

I was made for more … and so were YOU!

Learn about my latest collaboration released yesterday just in time for World Mental Health Day! I was one of the 16 men and women who came together and contributed vulnerable chapters about our struggles with mental health, addiction, sexual abuse, suicidal thoughts and/or other traumas. All of us share a common bond – we are rising above our circumstances, and we shared these stories in the hopes of reducing stigma, helping others feel less alone, and encouraging people to seek help with what pains them.

I am so thankful for this extraordinairy opportunity. Chou Hallegra, thank you for choosing me as your editor-in-chief for Made for More. I love you, my dear friend! (So, are you ready to do this again next month?)

You can find Made for More on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Scribd, Kobo and Playster. Print copies will be available soon, and I will be sharing an order form in the near future across my platforms.

Thank you so much for your support of my work and my mission.

Wishing you abundant love as you rise above YOUR circumstances,
Your Caffeinated Advocate

An Xceptional Discussion Between Xceptional Leaders

What does it mean to be The Caffeinated Advocate? I’m going to tell you! Lean in and listen to my latest podcast interview with the AUmazing Mai Ling Chan of Xceptional ED on the Xceptional Leaders Podcast! I think our time together was pretty doggone “xceptional” but I’ll let you be the judge!

Listen to the full episode here: http://bit.ly/2LVJT4x