Her son came up with it last week, after she smacked a burglary suspect with a metal pole and held the intruder at bay inside her garage until police arrived.
"It was just adrenaline, I guess," she told the Eugene Register-Guard. "I didn't really think about it. I wasn't frightened. I was angry."
Carlson is president of a family medical supply business. On Feb. 20, she came home from work to find a side window broken out of the garage. She was on alert because someone had broken into her house earlier in the week.
She lifted the garage door and saw a young man in the darkened space.
In a few seconds, Carlson dialed 911 on her cellphone, grabbed a 6-foot metal pole, let the door slam shut and darted to the broken window where she found the intruder trying to escape.
"I hit him in the knuckles and poked him in the chest," Carlson said. "My one goal was to keep him in the garage. I told him, 'You stay right there. I've got 911 on the phone.'"
A few minutes later, police officers rushed up her driveway to handcuff the suspect.
At that point, Carlson said, she calmed down and realized what a risk she'd taken.
"All he had to do was lunge at me and give me a shove, and I'm down and he's gone," she said.
Police identified him as 29-year-old Levi Alan Robert Towry of Eugene. Records show he has convictions for credit card fraud and theft.
He was treated and booked on burglary and criminal mischief charges. A grand jury has the case. A public defender didn't immediately return a call for comment.
A parent to three, Carlson said she felt bad for Towry.
"I was disappointed for him," she said, her voice wavering slightly. "I'm sure that his mother did not plan that kind of life for him."
Police called her actions understandable but risky.
"While we don't want people to be sheepish about doing what they have a right to do, we do caution them because of the serious personal risk and liability involved," police spokeswoman Melinda McLaughlin said.