thank you

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

my book

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:)

march madness book giveaway

guernsy I recently read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and really enjoyed it. It’s written as a series of letters between a group of people and when I first started it I wasn’t sure if I’d like the format. It wasn’t long, however, before I forgot about the format (which is actually great for starting and stopping, each letter is like a little chapter) and became absorbed by the story. Juliet Ashton is a writer looking for inspiration for her next book. She begins to exchange letters with a small book club on Guernsey in the Channel islands off the coast of England. The story takes place just after the Second World War, and as she gets to know the people of the island she learns how the German occupation during the war impacted their lives. You get a little history with this novel, the Channel Islands were occupied during the war, you get some tragedy, a touch of bravery, a scenic setting, and of course, love. What more do you need? Sadly, the novel’s first time author, Mary Ann Shaffer, passed away before the book was published and her niece Annie Barrows saw it through to publication in honor of her aunt. It is a charming, entertaining little book that will take your mind off the evening news and the economy. If you’d like to win a new, hard cover copy of this book, leave a comment on this post, I’ll pick a random winner on March 25, good luck!

2008 best book lists

We’re kitty-sitting my daughter’s cat, Mr. Boo this week. I caught him checking out my bookshelves this morning. He just finished Dewey but when I tried to get him to read Marley & Me he said he’d pass, that he finds dog books, “trite and overly sentimental”. I’ve compiled an eclectic mix of best 2008 book lists for you, take a gander and see if you missed anything that sounds interesting!

Washington Post, Amazon, NPR, Publisher’s Weekly, Barnes & Noble, New York Times, Stephen King, Slate, Library Journal, Salon, Seattle Times, LA Times, The Sunday Times, The Washington Post, Time Magazine, The National Book Awards, The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, The Village Voice, The Pulitzer Prizes, New York Magazine, PEN/Faulkner Award, Penguin Writer’s List, Salon Author’s Favorites, SF Chronicle

I was born with a reading list I will never finish.  ~Maud Casey