friday fun

Okay, its kind of been serious around here lately, time to lighten things up! The New York Zoos and Aquarium has a fun website for kids and silly adults where you can build your own wild self. That’s me above, I have antennae so I can get me a better sense of what makes people tick, sticky froggy arms so I can hang on to the people and things I love, Tiger feet so I can stand strong and have more courage, and butterfly wings so I can fly away just in case all those other magic parts don’t work! Go build your own beautiful wild selves here! And then check out other Illustration Friday “vanity” entrants here…have a great weekend everyone:)

love rules

I usually have two books going at once, one fiction and one non-fiction. Yesterday, I was scanning my bookshelf in the family room looking for something motivational/comforting/self-helpish and I spotted What Happy People Know by Dan Baker, Ph.D. I read it a few years ago, but apparently I’ve forgotten “what happy people know” because I’ve been feeling pretty blue lately. After rereading it I decided to play along with the Teaser Tuesdays Blog meme at MizB’s Should Be Reading blog. I randomly opened the book to page 94 and picked out this quote to share. “From that day on, I realized that there was something happy people know that unhappy people don’t: No matter what happens in life, there’s always something left to love, and the love that remains is always stronger than anything that goes against it.”

I like that, the idea that love rules, that the capacity of our hearts to appreciate and love unconditionally can overcome the craziness in our minds. Craziness that is almost always motivated by fear. Fear that we aren’t good enough, we aren’t loveable, fear of loss, fear that things won’t get better, fear that we are helpless to “fix” the broken pieces of our life. I think we all have to dig deep sometimes to find the courage to quiet that fear-based voice with a conscious prayer that begins and ends in gratefulness and love. My take away after reading Dr. Baker’s book again is simply this: Life is a dance and we all might be a little happier if we remember to lead with love, not fear.

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:)

teaser tuesday

Teaser Tuesday asks you to : Grab your current read, Open to a random page, Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page. I’m reading The Book of Lies by Brad Meltzer. I don’t read a lot of mysteries or thrillers but sometimes I think it’s good to step out of your reading comfort zone and shake things up a bit. I’m really enjoying the read and when I went to his website I also enjoyed his snarky sense of humor! He has fake movie trailers and in one video he’s got family members reading some crummy reviews of the book. It’s totally hilarious, you gotta love a guy who can laugh at the critics! And if those are real reviews I certainly don’t agree with them. I plan to read more of his books, he’s an interesting guy and a good writer.

My teaser sentences are from page 44 where he writes, It’s so damn easy to judge. But Paulo knows from his niece, no matter how much you want someone back in your life, sometimes it’s the letting-them-back-in part that hurts the most. I reread that second sentence several times. It struck me how true it was, and not just about letting people back in, but about letting anything back into your life that you associate with heartache. Years ago, I had to stop painting because I was very ill. When I finally regained my health I didn’t go back into the spare bedroom where my easel was set up for many months. I thought it was because I was afraid I wouldn’t remember how to paint, that I may have lost the ability to be creative after going through so much physical and emotional hurt.

One afternoon, I finally got up the nerve to venture into my little studio. I opened a can of turpentine and squeezed a selection of oil colors onto my palette. Facing a blank white canvas, I breathed in the scent of my paints, dipped my paintbrush into a swirl of cadmium red, and promptly burst into gut wrenching sobs. It was at that moment that I realized it wasn’t the fear of not being able to paint that had kept me away from my art, it was the fear of losing it all over again if my health problems returned. I had grieved long and hard after first losing that part of me, did I really want to let it back in? So I agree with Mr. Meltzer, that simple little sentence says a whole lot about human nature and I imagine most of us can relate to in one way or another.

sweet somethings

I didn’t sleep well Monday night. I tossed and turned and at one point toward morning I found myself dreaming. In the dream, a dark-haired little boy who was no more than six or seven years old, was standing next to me. He seemed very kind and much older than he looked and he spoke with a slight, sing-song Indian accent. “If there was only one thing I could give you right now, what would it be?” he asked. My mind started reeling, one thing, only one wish and I had to come up with it right then. I thought it was impossible to answer such a big question without having more time to think about it! But I was wrong, because at that moment the answer came to me and I said, “Peace of mind.” The little boy reached out without speaking and touched me gently. I closed my eyes and went into a pleasant meditative state, my mind was quiet, and yes, at peace. I haven’t meditated in a long time, even though I’ve been thinking I need to start again. So here I am, where we all find ourselves so often, wondering…was it just a dream, or was the universe whispering sweet somethings in my ear?

See other (nearly) Wordless Wednesday participants here.

transformation

I asked my dad a couple of times before the one year anniversary of my mother’s death if he wanted to do anything on that day. The first time I asked him he simply shook his head. A week later when I brought it up he said, “No, it isn’t something to celebrate.”  I wanted to say I wasn’t thinking we’d go out to the bar or anything, but I let it go, knowing we each need to grieve in our own way.  When the date arrived I went to the store and bought one white balloon like the ones we released at her memorial service. I drove to the park where the service was held and I walked up the hill to the clearing where we all had gathered. I held the balloon under my arm, cradling it close to my body so the brisk fall breeze wouldn’t take it from me until I was ready to let it go.

I’m not sure if I went to the park to honor my mother, remember that sad day, or if it wasn’t really for more selfish reasons. Because the prayer I murmured out loud to myself that afternoon was for me, not my mom. I prayed that the anger I had been feeling since her death would go away once and for all, and I asked that my nighttime dreams be about my healthy mom and not my sick mom – the mom who’s suffering broke my heart over and over again, day after day during the last months of her life.

As the autumn wind swallowed my words I let the balloon go. It sailed almost straight up into the blue September sky. I stood squinting in the bright sunlight and watched as it rose higher and higher, determined not to take my eyes off it until it was lost from sight. Several minutes passed, and then, at the exact moment the balloon left my view for good, a hawk swooped in just over the treeline and flew directly over my head. It was the only bird within sight, the only bird I saw the entire time I stood on that lonely hillside. The hawk soared and dipped on an invisible current of air and I turned and watched as it flew in the opposite direction of the white balloon.