My mom died two years ago today. One of the most profound things I’ve ever done and, probably, will ever do, was to walk with my mom to the liminal line between here on Earth and not. I told her it was okay to step off. Into the unknown. Alone. Maybe to be greeted by her parents. Who really knows? But cancer free. I stepped back and watched her go. I kissed her. I told her she was my rock. I told her the shining light of her soul was separate from her wasted body. She told me she was afraid. So afraid. I held her hand.
My mother’s brother, Robert, passed away suddenly less than a year after she did. Maybe they met again in a place language has no words for.
(The same images are in the slideshow and collage.)
I love these photos of my daughter and her friend, taken right before their recital in June. My daughter loves to dance, practicing ballet, modern, lyrical and jazz. Lucky girls–in March, they’ll be performing on a cruise with their dance company.
Back when I was wondering what the heck I was doing as a department store manager that included a) a divisional marketing manager who gleefully chose one of us to humiliate daily, b) being in charge of two multi-million dollar departments on two floors with two buyers and two staffs without an assistant, c) no time to eat, and d) hair falling out in clumps, I decided to re-look at my priorities. Not only did I read What Color is Your Parachute?, I took a career-assessment test at New York University. There was one glaring characteristic missing in my life–creativity! Hon, I should have known.
I recently came across one of my very first picture books complete with illustrations and an author photo in which I’m missing my front teeth. I wrapped some of my books in plastic wrap so they’d look like they came from the library. Cute!
I also came across songs I wrote. I’d play around on the piano and then plot the notes in a music book.
When my parents said they wouldn’t buy me a dollhouse, I made my own out of cardboard. (It actually had a couple of floors!) When I wanted a summer dress, Pappagallo handbags with changeable covers, and an Esprit drawstring bag, I sewed my own.
I learned how to needlepoint, embroider, and knit when I was elementary-school-age. Another creative outlet opened up, and I designed my own canvases and wrote my own patterns.
My first jobs, aside from babysitting and being a camp counselor, were working in stores. I liked retail, but especially merchandising the selling floor and doing the windows.
So, when I left that miserable, weight-loss-inducing department store job, I started my own business. A couple of years later, I became pregnant with triplets. That was the end of the business and time to re-assessment priorities again.
Back to the magic of children’s books, which I was trying to create as a ten year-old. Guess what? I’m still trying.
Tami Charles, whose middle grade novel Like Vanessa debuted in March, delivered a keynote speech at the NJSCBWI18 conference this past weekend.
She talked about the value of hope. “Somewhere between no and yes lies hope.”
She talked about rejections. “The word no has empowered me, broken me, and put me back together again.”
She talked about persistence. “You keep writing. You don’t stop.”
And she said, “Step into your greatness.”
Thanks, Tami, for words of wisdom that ring true for me as a writer and also for anyone trying to reach a seemingly insurmountable goal.
Click here to watch a short video about Charles and Like Vanessa. Take one guess which book I’m buying as gifts for some important tween girls in my life.
In this semi-autobiographical debut novel set in 1983, Vanessa Martin’s real-life reality of living with family in public housing in Newark, New Jersey is a far cry from the glamorous Miss America stage. She struggles with an incarcerated mother she barely remembers, a grandfather dealing with addiction and her own battle with self-confidence. But when a new teacher at school coordinates a beauty pageant and convinces Vanessa to enter, Vanessa’s view of her own world begins to change. Vanessa discovers that her own self-worth is more than the scores of her talent performance and her interview answers, and that she doesn’t need a crown to be comfortable in her own skin and see her own true beauty. Goodreads
I am re-posting this Memorial Day post with an addition–an amazing photo! It’s my 1st Lieutenant son’s United States Army Infantry platoon. They are deployed to the Middle East, and we are anxious to find out when they will return.
In 2005, my brother took my almost twelve-year old son to Washington D.C. I came across these photos of their day together and thought they were a fitting send-off to my son who is in the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC) for the United Stated Army while he studies at a university.
He’s leaving today for mountaineering training in a country very far from home. I could say how anxious I am about this trip, how world events and politics are sad and disheartening, how I get nauseous thinking about his future, and how much I love him and want him safe and happy. Instead I’ll leave you with these photographs.