Today would have been your 80th birthday. I was wondering what I would say to you if you could be here for just one more birthday, one more Mother’s Day. Then I remembered a dream I had after you passed. I was at a family gathering looking for you. Disappointed I couldn’t find you I sat down at a table and when I looked up you were sitting right across from me. You looked so young and so healthy, you smiled and we got up and embraced. As we hugged I actually felt your hair brush gently against my cheek and it suddenly seemed I was no longer just dreaming, this was an opportunity. I quietly said, “You were a good mom” and I woke with tears in my eyes. I know what I would say to you now if you could somehow magically appear like that for just a few moments today. I would give you a big hug, and then, as I felt your hair brush gently against my cheek I would simply whisper in your ear, “You’re a good mom. Happy birthday, happy Mother’s Day.”
For the past two years my husband and daughter have been working hard to develop a new, all natural toothpaste that is not only effective but is safe for the whole family. They started out with an idea and now that idea has become a reality as they launch their new company and it’s very first product, Mellow Mint Toothpaste! They have just begun advertising and getting into retail stores but if you’re interested in an earth, animal, and people friendly toothpaste go like their Facebook page now and then better yet, check out their website and try a tube! I am one proud mama and wife, way to go Doug and Lizzi!
“If you can dream it, you can do it. Always remember that this whole thing was started with a dream and a mouse.” ~Walt Disney
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So the summer is over and the truth is it was not a great one for me. Instead of frolicking in the pool and celebrating the weddings, showers, and graduation parties that were on my calendar, I went to doctor appointments and googled my way across the WWW trying to find an answer for the extreme fatigue, weight loss, and nausea I was experiencing. I’ve been here before (although not with the exact same symptoms) but I’ve been very sick for a very long time with “invisible chronic illness” and I really hoped I was done learning the lessons I needed to learn in that particular life course curriculum. Of course life doesn’t care whether we’ve been there before or had enough, it just keeps happening, and when the going gets tough we all have to choose if we’re going to be proactive-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other warriors or head-in-the-sand whiners. I must confess to have been a bit of both this past summer.
My health has recently improved a bit since this mystery illness first began, and although the weight loss has slowed to a crawl compared to a couple months ago, I still can’t gain even though I’m taking in plenty of calories. I know some of you are probably thinking “I have a few pounds I could send your way”, trust me, that offer has been on the table from friends and family for months and if I had been able to take them all up on it fitness guru Richard Simmons would be at my front door with a crane ready to haul me off to weight loss boot camp!
Still, I truly believe that no matter what is happening in your life there is always an opportunity for gratefulness and grace so here is my list of summer “bests”.
1. Birthday parties for my two grandchildren. Brooklyn turned 3 in July and Ashton had his 1st birthday party in May. I am thankful for those little arms that wrapped themselves gently around my neck this summer, the sweetness of those hugs helped me feel whole again.
2. I won a free night in Toronto with an Instagram photo I did for a contest organized by Josh Johnson and sponsored by ALT Hotels. My pic is now part of a permanent art installation in the lobby of the ALT Toronto Pearson hotel and me and Mr. Bookbabie are hoping to take a road trip this fall to see it in person and use my gift certificate, thanks Josh and ALT Hotels!
3. My debut novel, The Wonder of Ordinary Magic, won a silver medal in the 2012 Readers Favorite Award Contest! The awards ceremony will be held in Miami this November during The Miami Book Fair International, the largest book fair in America. As a first time author it is a thrill to be honored by this group, thank you so much Readers Favorite.
4. Always, always on my gratitude list is my husband Doug. Without him by my side I would simply feel lost and adrift as I navigate life’s bumpy waters.
“If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.” ~Meister Eckhart
This is a photo of the oldest, dearest man in my life, my dad, and the newest, sweetest boy in my life, my little grandson taken two weeks ago at Ashton’s 1st birthday party. This is why I fell in love with photography when I was just a teenager. Because a photograph is never just a photograph. The light and shadows of an image hold the mercy and vulnerability of life itself, the beginning and the end, a single breath—in one hundredth of a second the shutter is released and a secret is revealed. Sometimes I think it’s almost selfish, the way the camera allows us to capture a moment like this, snatch it right out of thin air before it disappears forever in a stream of faded memory. And yet…this is why I fell in love with photography when I was just a teenager.
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Those are my husband’s slippered feet, relaxing as he sits back and admires the Christmas tree. We put it up last weekend. Mrs. Scrooge (that would be moi) questioned whether we should bother, we usually have it up at the beginning of December so we can enjoy it all month long. But sick mom’s, bad backs, and other stresses slowed down the holiday fa la la-ing around here, and while I was ready to make do with the fireplace and mantle adornments alone, Doug wanted (actually seemed to need) the tree up. So up it went. While the movie, “Elf”, played in the background, we hung the ornaments one by one, remembering the significance of each as we filled the empty branches of the tree with keepsakes of our 32 years together.
There was our son’s “Baby’s 1st Christmas” satin ball, the tiny red sleigh our daughter made in 2nd grade with her school photo glued in the center, the dancing Kokopelli from a family trip to Sedona, the yellow cab from our New York City adventure, the hand crocheted bird’s nest Doug’s grandmother made us, the little wooden nutcrackers we bought when we were first married and couldn’t afford the beautiful Christopher Radco glass ornaments we have since collected. I must admit, I’m glad we put the tree up. There’s something very relaxing about the evenings now, sitting in the family room with Doug, wrapped in the sparkling glow of the Christmas tree lights.
At the end of my book, one of the characters is reflecting on his life, on the fear and the grief that has literally driven him deep into the woods. He comes to the realization that what he’s feeling is okay, that he hasn’t been indelibly damaged by loss, that “the monster he had been running from wasn’t really a monster after all. It was simply that place in the heart that holds the measure of your history, the joy and the grief, the laughter and the tears, the magic and the wonder; all the ingredients that add up to the story of a life well lived.” The holidays can be difficult. Too much running, too much spending, too much forced holiday cheer when really all we want from Santa sometimes is a little peace and quiet, or better yet, a little peace of mind. To me, a Christmas tree is kind of like that place in the heart, the ornaments we choose and those given to us are delicate echoes of the joys and the losses that make up our stories. So yes, it was worth the trouble, putting up the tree and filling it with our memories. Whether it’s for one week or four weeks or one hundred weeks, taking the time to honor the wonder and magic of Christmas, of our lives, is a worthy and lovely way to spend an afternoon. Merry Christmas Mr. Day, and to all my friends and family near and far whether or not you celebrate Christmas, my wish for you is a happy, healthy, and wonder filled 2012.
Watched the grandkids for a few hours last Sunday and had us some much needed soul soothing fun and laughter.
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“To become a grandparent is to enjoy one of the few pleasures in life for which the consequences have already been paid.” ~Robert Brault
My husband took this photo when were visiting my brother and sister-in-law in Louisville this past October. They live in the quintessential Kentucky home, a lovely updated farmhouse on several rolling acres at the end of a long, winding driveway. When we got to their house that afternoon, their son Evan greeted us at the door. Evan has autism. He has worked really hard, undergoing intense therapy and schooling for fifteen years now and I know the journey hasn’t been easy for the entire family. But I also know that despite the ups and downs of his challenges, the young man that opened the door that afternoon has one of the purest, gentlest souls in our family.
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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:)