Mafe Maria: Personal stories by autism parent mentor, Maria Stultz

Happy Birthday To Me

Oh yeah… Some time this week Mafe Maria has turned one year old, and an enthusiastic “Spanish” song is in order:

Japi verdei tu yu… Japi verdei tu yu… Japi verdei Mafecitaaaaa…
Japi verdei tuuuuu yuuuuuu

About a year ago I began writing publicly — and secretly. Today, on my best day, FeedBurner reports 29 subscribers to this site’s feed: One of them is me (gotta test the feed); eight to ten are relatives and close friends — people that know me personally; one more is Mandarine. Assuming that half the subscriptions are redundant, I reckon that at least 4 people I can’t see visit this site regularly, in silence. These could be people that know me, or maybe — just maybe — they could be strangers who come here for no other reason than the content.

I call that success.

Success Is…

Keeping relationships warm and close despite the many miles of distance between us.

Opening a window, so our family and friends can know what’s going on, see the new wrinkles and scars in our faces, and keep in touch with us.

Inspiring a few around me to start writing too, so I can also know about the trivial and serious matters happening in their lives.

The occasional private email I get from a total stranger, thanking me for something I’ve written, or genuinely praising this or that, and encouraging me to continue posting.

Reconnecting with a long lost high-school friend who stumbled upon my site, recognized me, read and learned about the many details that happened in my life since then, and emailed me to say hi.

Any comment or link from a stranger. Knowing that somebody read me, and either agreed with me, or appreciated my opinion, or learned something new. I still haven’t gotten any hate mail, so we’ll see how I feel the first time I get one of those fragrant flowers — if I ever happen to light some real fire.

Helping spread the word, and being able to contribute to the collective mass of knowledge. Knowing that a few people can learn from our awful experience with DirectBuy, or from my experiments reupholstering furniture, creating abstract art, transferring digital images to canvas, drawing vector figures, growing beans in my kitchen, or the many aspects of working as a freelance web designer.

One Year

My first post was actually written several years ago. I started the journal with it to remind myself of that important trip I once took to my future. A trip that revealed and confirmed the path ahead of me, and the danger of letting fear drive my life. When I started blogging, I had just gotten back from a web conference. I was full of energy and inspiration, so I started making and posting artwork, and I shared a few notes from the conference, the book I read, and a new song I discovered on the road. Then, it was time for taxes, and Joey really pissed me off — that was my first Argghhh (!) post.

The sharing of “funny” began with Joey’s Iron Chef fantasy. It had to be followed by an article explaining the fascinating — and often asked — concept of “ñero”. Geekiness invaded me as I learned to decide what to blog about, so I showed you my overdone entry on a kid’s geography project, and then, “Mojado” made me come out of the closet finally admitting that yes, I like Arjona’s music.

Ashamed of my newbiness and clumsy steps, up until then I had tried to keep the site in obscurity. Finally, I wrote a more proper first post, officially sticking my patita in the blogosphere. Veteran blogger, Lorelle VanFossen, read it and talked back to me, becoming the first person to ever comment on Mafe Maria. Lorelle’s warm and welcoming words made me read her blog about blogging, and with that I suddenly felt pressure to perform. Pressure to add value — something I was trying to forget about at least until blogging felt more natural. So I wrote a few geeky posts attempting to add value.

And then it hit me: Adding value to others isn’t sustainable.

If I were to succeed personally in this experiment, I truly had to do it for me. So, I opened my heart, and wrote a letter to my friends. And with that, this blog began its path down more personal topics and artistic interests. Watercolor posts, for instance, began with the painting and story of an old friend. I began documenting my doubts, fear, decision, dubious attempts, and eventual arrival to genuine maternal wishes, and the consequent drama after one or two months of trying for a baby. I wrote introspective thoughts about my personal heaven, the state of my career, my constant nostalgia, and the truth I inherit from my parents.

I shared many personal stories: Growing trees and getting dirty in college. The time my mother cursed my sister and I, successfully making us suffer through an afternoon of Poltergeist-ish hell. Competitive men from my past. Changing careers. Moving away from Texas and driving all the way to Salt Lake City. What got me to come to the U.S.. Traveling to my future and seeing my future family. Getting a passion “stolen”. Getting slapped. Cussing youngsters a grito pelao, making a scene at work, and also while hiking up a mountain.

And family stories, like my mom’s adventure with a dubious TV channel, Joey’s accident, and a little post remembering my grandmothers


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The design and name of the site started inspired by the vase I saw on that memorable trip to my future (Fig. 1). That idea never went live, and before I knew it, it had transformed into a hedious green beast not many souls were able to see online (Fig. 2). I was deeply embarrassed by it, so I decided to change gears and focus more on personal images. I quickly designed and coded something a little more decent (Fig. 3). This was the official first theme of the site, named “Subtle”. The design would highlight a seasonal image, which ended up being swapped roughly every month. Overwhelming rounds of applause were heard over a particular image:

first communion

I still owe you that story.

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“Subtle” stayed up for several months. At some point I began getting a better idea of the kind of content I wanted to focus on. I realized that the design had some limitations. I formulated the problems and proceeded to waste a lot of time on a terrible design (Fig. 4). Luckily, I came to my senses. I was able to reuse a lot of previous work, and unveiled “Drama” the current face of Mafe Maria. (Fig. 5).


I am that person in my family who cares about the past, our genealogy, the stories and photos of our parents’ grandparents. I like to record events and keep important dates and stories in my mind… I like to remember.

Keeping this site is part of my master plan of leaving a print in my family’s history. When my grandmother died, mom and her siblings found writings they had never seen before. These things helped to complete the picture of my grandmother. Who knew she had finished a romance novel?… I often think of that… Who will tell my story after I die? How will I pass my family’s stories if I don’t have any children?… Will somebody care?…

For now, I know that at least I care… Hence, I blog… And I thank you.


  1. On , Kim Rodriguez wrote:

    JAPI VERDEI MAFECITAAAAA! I have loved your blog and watching its metamorphesis…a really nice thing is that you have gotten very comfortable with it and I see a side of you in “Blogerville” that you don’t as readily show in person…..I’ve always known it was there, but you’ve taken a huge step in really putting yourself out there and I applaud it! Plus you are an awesome writer and expressionist (verbal and visual)!
    So here’s to many more Japi Verdeis!

  2. On , Petie wrote:

    I often tell those who know I blog that my inspiration was you. Chris had mentioned that we should start a blog in the past, and he did actually start ours before I started contributing to it. However, it wasn’t until I saw yours and the content that I was inspired to start writing. I have loved writing stories about my girls and hope that it will be a source of laughter and interest to them as they grow older.

    I recognize that your blog is MUCH more sophisticated and I applaud you for all your efforts and on the beauty of the writing and art.

  3. On , Maria wrote:

    Thank you!… Expressing things non-verbally has always been easier for me. Saying words is so hard. Writing them, drawing them, acting them… I much prefer that. Man!… Am I an introvert!…

    I love to know that my writing doesn’t suck too bad… I’ve never thought I’m any good at it. The idea of writing in English also sounded intimidating. I always thought that a lot of my way of expressing things was lost in the struggle of speaking a second language. But now I think that it translates. I’m not sure — anyway, I no longer feel self-conscious about it.

    You are sweet… (sophisticated!!!… that’s crazy talk).
    You and I are doing it for the same reasons. I’m sure that the girls will love to have a record of all those cute little stories you probably would forget after a while. Plus, what you write about is the kind of thing that I would probably miss because of living so far from you guys. I love that Joey and I could hear all about Joelle’s swimming lessons, etc. Makes us feel closer…

  4. On , mandarine wrote:

    Api beursdé tou you. Or more appropriately joyeux anniversaire.
    I am honoured to be the special guest at your first birthday — I wonder if there is some kind of present that your blog might like…

  5. On , Maria wrote:

    Your comment is the best present. Thank you Mandarine!

  6. On , Marla wrote:

    Happy Birthday, Mafe Maria. I’ve enjoyed every entry and look forward to many more. You’ve taught me there is an art to the whole “thinking out loud” thing.

  7. On , Maria wrote:

    This would never be as rewarding as it is without friends like you, Marla… Picking up the conversation, and letting me know that you’re there.

  8. On , Ivan wrote:

    Felicitaciones!! Por favor alguien me puede decir que significa ¿LOL? sugh.

  9. On , me wrote:

    I was really confussed and a little scared. I thought your birthday was [date removed]. I was scared that we had it wrong.

  10. On , Maria wrote:

    He! he!… You have it right Pete.