For a long time after my mom passed away, I lost my voice and my creative juices. It wasn’t just the losing her, although I had never experienced the death of someone so close to me before, but it was also the many months that led up to that day. It was her long illness and the heartbreak and helplessness of watching her disappear before my eyes as she slowly lost her breath to COPD, and finally her life. There were other losses during that time, many other reluctant goodbyes, and it all simply emptied me out. So I set my writing life aside and tried to figure out how to process the layers of grief and regret, how to regain my emotional footing after a yearlong free-fall. Eight months ago, words started to bubble up in my head, little teases and glimpses of ideas and improvements for the book I was working on before my mom got sick. At first I ignored them. I just wasn’t interested. But eventually, I couldn’t ignore them anymore and I reread the book and began to work on it again.
And now it’s finished, and although I thought it would be published early in September, it somehow happened that September 30th was the day it was finally ready to go, which I think is pretty cool. Because it was three years ago on 9/30/08 that my mom died and it suddenly felt like I had been given the opportunity to take that date back and fill it with something joyful to honor my mom and my own creative spirit. By the end of the day on the 30th however, it didn’t look like I’d get the okay from CreateSpace in time to publish and I was pretty depressed as I got ready for bed that night. Just before midnight, I went downstairs to check my e-mail one last time and the notification was there! It felt like my own moment of ordinary magic as I sat in the dark in front of a glowing computer screen and hit the “publish” button just minutes before September 30th ended.
A blogging friend wrote this recently in a comment, “I still miss my Mom, and she died a long, long time ago. Luckily, her spirit still inspires me.” Now, every year when September 30th rolls around, I will still think of my mom. I’ll think how lucky am I to have had her in my life for as long as I did, to have grown up in a house full of books and love, to have so many wonderful memories of my mom to inspire me as I go forward. How lucky am I? Damn lucky indeed.
If you think you’d like to take a chance on a newly minted author and read my book, the paperback is available now on Amazon and it will be coming soon to Barnes & Noble, Kindle, Nook, and iBooks:)
Pulitzer Prize winning author Frank McCourt died on Sunday. A former public school teacher, he came late to a writing career publishing one of my favorite memoirs, Angela’s Ashes, at the ripe old age of 66. Born in Brooklyn in 1930, his family returned to his parents’ native Ireland when he was four years old and his memoir chronicles his years growing up in poverty with a mostly absent alcoholic father in the slums of Limerick. He famously wrote: The happy childhood is hardly worth your while. Worse than the ordinary miserable childhood is the miserable Irish childhood, and worse yet is the miserable Irish Catholic childhood. People everywhere brag and whimper about the woes of their early years, but nothing can compare with the Irish version: the poverty; the shiftless loquacious father; the pious defeated mother moaning by the fire; pompous priests, bullying schoolmasters; the English and all the terrible things they did to us for 800 long years.
My mother had a similar childhood, but here in the states and with poor French Catholic parents, not Irish. Still, fourteen children, very little money, and an alcoholic father bring about like miseries whatever your demographics. It’s funny, but I catch myself sometimes feeling angry at my mother since she passed. For dying and leaving me. For loving my brother more. For her “You can’t take it with you!” attitude toward money which has cost me financially over the years and left my father vulnerable at the age of 80 with a large monthly mortgage payment. And yes, for not understanding me, that universal childhood lament that few of us escape – miserable childhood or not.
I know it’s childish to think these thoughts at my age, especially given that my childhood was a fantasyland compared to my mom’s and Mr. McCourt’s. But I also know that a part of us is always our mother’s child, no matter how old we grow in years. And whether we write an angst filled memoir and name it for her, or gaze into the eyes of our newborn granddaughter and miss her more than we ever thought possible, we know in our hearts that we’d forgive our mothers a thousand times over for the woes of our early years for just one more chance to tell them how much we love them.
Mr. Bookbabie is making an appearance on my blog today in honor of Earth Day. That’s my guy enjoying his fifteen minutes of fame on the front page of the newspaper a “few” years ago. He was a very young Biology teacher at the time displaying a water purification system and he just confessed to me last night that he was actually distilling booze! Oh well, it was the early seventies after all, at least he didn’t have the students growing “herbs” in the greenhouse. He also told me he wishes he still had all that hair and those really groovy pants 🙂
My best selling photo on iStock is a foreclosure headline. It’s a best seller not only because of the timely subject, but because I put it up long before the crisis hit the rest of the country. And I was able to put it up there long before the rest of country knew what was coming because my home state of Michigan was the canary in the economic coal mine. The foreclosure crisis, unemployment, and the overall slowing of the economy took hold here over a year ago and as it began squeezing the life out of the financial health of our state we wondered why nobody seemed to notice or care.
Over the past two years we have watched helplessly as the recession has spread throughout our country and has gone on to become a global economic crisis. As I listen to our politicians (and many of my friends ) argue about the answers along strident partisan lines, that feeling of helplessness only seems to grow. Call me naive, but as far as I am concerned we are not a country of Democrats and Republicans, and the last time I looked on a map, our country was not divided up by red states and blue states. We are the United States of America and we are Americans first and foremost, and all those economic statistics that are being thrown around in Washington are not just numbers, they are people’s lives unraveling bit by bit.
Sometimes I think about what I would say if I could stand up in front of Congress, if I only had a minute to let my voice be heard by the people we have chosen to stand guard over this beautiful country we Americans call home. But the truth is, I don’t know what I could say that would have any impact on the way Washington does business. And maybe that’s the heart of the problem, this feeling that we have put our trust in the hands of men and women who have all but forgotten us. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not without hope. I do believe that things will eventually get better and I also believe that we have a new president who is striving to lead with a sincere sense of principle and service.
Okay, I’m hopping off the soapbox and getting back to work, gotta make some money to help pay those mortagage payments. The YouTube video is of John Rich who wrote a great new song about Detroit and our country’s current economic troubles. If you don’t want to hear the interview part, just click on the round button and slide it to about the 2:50 mark.🙂
My book club read Three Cups of Tea last month. It was a fascinating read, particularly now with the Middle East in the news so much. It’s the story of an ordinary man who begins an extraordinary journey with a simple goal, to build a school for boys and girls in a remote village in Pakistan. After a failed attempt at climbing K2, Greg Mortenson wandered into the rural village of Korphe where he was nursed back to health by the impoverished, but generous people of the tiny village. Before he left he asked to see the village school and was shocked to see children huddled outside, scratching their lessons into the cold dirt. He vowed to return and build them a school. Greg Mortenson has since become director of an international non-profit organization that has built 80 schools in Afghanistan and Pakistan that not only educate children, but also help promote peace and tolerance in a volatile region that has become the focus of the war on terror.
When I look into the eyes of the children in Pakistan and Afghanistan, I see the eyes of my own children full of wonder – and I hope that we each do our part to leave them a legacy of peace instead of the perpetual cycle of violence, war, terrorism, racism, exploitation and bigotry that we have yet to conquer. ~Greg Mortenson
At the bottom of all the tributes paid to democracy is the little man walking into the little booth with a little pencil, making a little cross on a little bit of paper. No amount of rhetoric or voluminous discussion can possibly diminish the overwhelming importance of that point. ~ Sir Winston Churchill
If you haven’t taken this test yet, click on the header above and see how long you may live. Share the magic number in a comment if you’re so inclined. And remember, this isn’t a competition folks, just another tool to use when assessing current and future healthcare concerns:)
Speaking of life, ran across this short video on YouTube by the talented Italian animator, Bruno Bozetto.