Thursday, December 31, 2009

So long, 2009!

They did it on the TODAY show this morning...and in the I'm going to do the same. Here 'tis:

The Marquez Family 2009 Year in Review!

It's been a full year, with lots and lots of roadblocks, challenges, changes and BLESSINGS along the way. This past year has a very strong focus on Nicole (duh!), because she's kind of been the center of our universe, much to her chagrin. For someone who loves to perform, she is not always thrilled to be the center of attention. Too bad...we are grateful to have her here, and just like when she was a baby, we are proud parents and we love to chronicle our children's accomplishments. So, this is kind of looking at a baby album, second time around! Besides, Nicole's not the boss of me, and I can put whatever I want in my blog!

The month began with Nicole in the hospital. She spent New Year's eve with Josh, Ricky and Matt. They went on a city-wide scavenger hunt. She was in a wheelchair and they pushed her all over the place. Nic loved it! As for me, I was back to "normal" last New Year's--home in my pj's while Larry was working at CCJ. We spent New Year's day with friends Bob and Max and several of their friends, eating a wonderful New Year's feast.

January was also a momentous month, because Nicole was released from rehab...just over five months after her accident. She threw a going away party, surprising her therapists with a big cake before doing a "tango" of sorts with Josh out the doors...she entered MRC in a wheelchair, and walked out. It was beautiful!

The end of January, we took a trip to New York, where Nicole was a special guest and speaker for New York Presbyterian's Annual Kick-Off meeting. She spoke to a crowd of 1200+ physicians and managers at the NY Hilton and got a standing ovation. She also had a reunion meeting with her surgeon, Dr. Angevine. He was amazed at her progress, saying he "never would have expected this outcome." He didn't know Nicole very well.

Final days at Methodist Rehab in-patient facility.

Nic and Josh, doing the tango on her discharge day from MRC.

Reunion meeting with Nic's neurosurgeon, Dr. Peter Angevine

Nic and Joe had significant birthdays this month. First was Nic, on Feb. 2--she turned 26, officially putting her into her "late 20's." Joe turned 20 on Feb. 8--so now I have no more teenagers! We celebrated Nic's birthday with a special dinner at Tico's, surrounded by friends and family. It was yet another milestone that reminded us all how fortunate we are to still have her with us.

After getting acclimated to living at home (something she hasn't really done in several years), Nic began out-patient therapy at MRC in Flowood, as well as Pilates to strengthen her core.

About the biggest thing in Jackson in March is the annual Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade. Nic and I both have a long history of being in the parade somehow or another. This year was my second as a "Queen Wrangler," where I walk behind the Sweet Potato Queens and in front of all the hundreds of wannabees, making sure all goes at a good pace. It's way too much fun!

Nic was in the parade with Josh, who almost got arrested for indecent exposure. Can you say "man-kini?"

 Nicole in parade in 2008--pre-accident

Joe and Nic getting ready to head downtown for the parade

Josh and Nicole, post-parade

You didn't think I'd do this for every month, did you? Actually, I'm bad about remember exact dates, so I'll just pop in random things that happened in the spring...

Nic and I drove to Birmingham for a wedding and she met up with two of her NY roommies: Rafe Jordan and Timo Acker. The last time they had seen her was in the hospital in NY with a ventilator tube down her throat. They were so happy to see her up and about!

Dancing with Timo at the reception and posing with the wedding party...

Speaking to a group of mentally challenged adults...

Nic at the Jackson Free Press "Best of Jackson" party...wearing the big red square dance skirt her godmother, Carol Terry, gave her.

We went to New Orleans on an art run for David Lambert. Our good friend Susan Luke went with us, and we went to the Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues. This is one of the musicians, and the next photo is Nic on the rooftop terrace there. We met the lady who owned the building and she invited us up to her penthouse!

Nic did some choreography for the Center Player's production of HATS! The Musical. Seems she lost her head doing it...

OK, this was back in February, but it looks just as good here. Nicole was in a performance at the Belhaven Arts Center called "Tunes, Tutus and Turning Wheels," sponsored by The International Ballet Competition, Very Special Arts, Methodist Rehab, Belhaven College, and probably others that I'm forgetting right now. The finale in the show was a piece called "Every Step of the Way," which this blog is named after. It was a piece about Nicole's accident and she actually performed in it as herself. It was on the six-month anniversary of her accident. We are forever grateful to the dean of the Belhaven dance department, Cynthia Newland for bringing Nicole back in the dance studio and helping her to feel alive and normal again. If you'd like to see the dance, log on to   It is about nine minutes long, so you may want to grab a cup of coffee first...

By the way, I had a life this past year. Here is a photo of the night I went to a painting class at "Easely Amused" with my pal, Cindy McGraw. We painted a scene of NYC that now hangs in Nicole's bathroom.

Summer was a crazy time for us. Lots and lots of changes...both good and not so good. One major blessing in our life was the approval of Megan Poole as Nicole's Personal Care Assistant. Megan was a ray of sunshine that made a world of difference in Nicole's independence.

The more independent she became the more things she was able to do, like travel. She took trips to Austin, Texas and Gulf Shores with Josh, and she and I went to Birmingham a couple of times and to Nashville. Larry joined us on a trip to Dallas for my Southern Living at HOME convention, where they showed a beautiful video about Nicole and presented our family with a trip to NYC!

A lovely photo in every way...Nicole and Gail Pittman, backstage at the So. Living at HOME convention in Dallas.

Larry was getting artsy with the camera!

Nicole and I on stage in Dallas...just after being told we were being sent to NYC, all expenses paid!!!

Nic and Jaymee Vowell on one of her road trips...
Summer was so weird watching Nicole walk in a's was if nothing had ever happened. Let's just say she took to water therapy like a fish to water! :-)

Over the summer, new relationships began and others ended. Lester and Ellen had a surprise wedding one Sunday morning and they included Nicole in the festivities.

Our beloved "Dirty Betty" passed away, as did the most gentle man on earth, Kelly Pates.

Nicole and Sam Adcock drank a toast to Kelly following his funeral.

For some reason, this really burns me up...

Joe went to cheerleader camp over the summer and fell in love with this beautiful girl--Emily White. We fell in love with her too. She's been a wonderful girlfriend, and she's really held his feet to the fire. He ended up the semester with A's and B's!

Friends Beth and Danny have really stuck by Nicole's side...

Random fun...I just don't even know what to say about this, other than Nicole seems to be a weirdo-magnet. I mean, check out this guy's outfit...hat, headphones, gloves...he's one well-accessorized dude!
Kick-Ass karaoke was a Wednesday-night activity during the summer months. Nicole always seemed to get her song on!
Jef was always a good person for Nicole to lean on.

And brother Joe is there for her as well...    
(can we take a moment here to admire my beautiful children? Am I blessed or WHAT?!)    

                    Nic loved going back to the inner-city Vacation Bible School where she taught dance last summer. The kids were thrilled to see her, too...the one in the pink with the bright eyes is "Juicy." The name says it all. I could have sucked her up with a straw she was so cute!
Joe moved out of the house and into the dorm at Holmes CC in Goodman. He made the cheerleader squad, and Nicole arranged for us to go to the first game in a limo to celebrate Larry's birthday, and Joe's cheering debut. We had a ball...despite Holmes losing!

Nicole went to the fair with her friend, Cricket, and walked the midway all night long!

She stopped long enough to get in a few dances at the beer tent with Natalie Long and a stranger, who found her "amazing."

Nic has been doing some work with artist Tony DiFatta. On this day, we went to the "Serendipity" art show and auction at the Mississippi State Hospital, where we were high bidders on several pieces by MSH patients who also happen to be Tony's students. Tony invited Nicole back to speak at the hospital. Read about it here:

A fundraiser was held for Nicole's medical fund at the Malco Theatre in Madison. The City of Madison put it together, and everyone who came had a fun night at the movies. This is the promotional photo they took to put in the paper. Thanks to Jacqui for the accessories and help getting "dolled up" for the photo shoot.

In November, Nicole was honored with the "Hope Award" for spinal cord injury patients by the MS Brain Injury Association. It was presented at a big gala at the Country Club of Jackson. In this photo, Nicole poses with Lee Jenkins, the executive director of the MBIA, and her beautiful award.

Friend Laura Blackmon was there to support Nicole...

Joe was so proud of his sister, and she was proud of him, too!

WLBT cameraman Tegre Taylor came to show his support and love for Nicole. That's my mama in the backround on the lower left.

Thanksgiving was spent at Jacqui's, and afterwards, Nic went out with her friend, Chris, who was here from Orlando with his friend, Josh. Chris is an old high school friend who has always been there for Nicole. She loved seeing him again on Thanksgiving.

December was a lot different this year than last...but we all plowed through. Christmas was lots of fun. We did our annual Christmas eve gathering and had lots of fun with friends and family. Christmas morning we had brunch and opened presents for what seemed like forever. We had a great day reflecting on the past year and commenting on how much things have changed in so many ways.  But the constant is that our family is still together and stronger than ever. The glue that binds us is our love and support for each other.

In the past  year, we have grown closer to old friends, made lots of new friends, and had alot of fun along the way. I couldn't begin to mention everyone, so I won't try. Just know that everyone who has been there for us in any way has a very special place in our hearts.

We're excited to see what 2010 will bring...for our family and for yours! Thank you for your continued interest and concern about Nicole. I think she'll be a good lesson to us all about what we can achieve if we persevere. Challenge yourself in the coming year, and use Nicole as your inspiration. I believe if we all do that, we'll be able to conquer the world!!!

(Oh, you may be wondering why there are so few photos of me and NONE of reason is because most--not all--but most of the photos were made by me. And Larry can smell a camera a mile away and he RUNS to avoid it. All I can say is you may want to grab a copy of the February edition of PORTICO Jackson when it comes out...)

Be sure to check back here, same time and place tomorrow, to read the first installment of my "blog about good moods." It's going to be a fun ride!

Blessings to all who read this,

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Out with the old...or at least organize it!

This is the time of year when we have a deep-rooted need to begin anew. A new year. A new decade. A new way of thinking. I want to clean out closets and declutter. Having an organized home helps me to function much better in everything I do. If I could just have a week in my life with no deadlines, no demands on my time...I'd wake up every day and go straight to work, cleaning out, organizing...

Who Am I Kidding??! That's never going to happen! I have to do my organizing in fits and starts, finding pockets of time here and there...if I had a dollar for all my good intentions...I'd hire someone to do the organizing for me!

One of the things I've always wanted to tackle is organizing family photos. I've got boxes and drawers of them, and now that we're in the digital age, I've got memory cards floating around. I found a company that does the work for you in a cool way, preserving memories online in a fun-to-view way. Check out this video at (I love how the announcer says "shed-tual" for schedule!).

This company helps people create an emotional legacy that will live on after they have gone. They call it "Living On," and it is a different kind of will. When we think of wills, we think of legal documents where a deceased loved one bequeths their material goods to folks after they pass on. But with this, emotional wealth can be passed along, including feelings, memories, hopes, beliefs and experiences. I like the idea of living what these people do really appeals to me.

I'm sending Nic and Joe off to New Orleans today for a long New Year's weekend. Nicole will be the maid of honor in a friend's wedding on New Year's Day. Emily (Joe's girlfriend) and Nic's friend Ricky will be going as well, and they're all staying in a cool apartment in the French Quarter. I won't see them again until 2010!

Nic's godmother, Carol, is coming down from Nashville...we are going to ring in the New Year right here in my house. Don't be jealous of us...we'll be in our warm flannel PJ's, fire in the fireplace, leftovers warmed up on the counter, and DVD's playing. It's a safe bet we won't see midnight. Been there, done that...loving sleep way too much!

After everyone gets off today, I may just clean out a drawer or my purse...don't want to get too ambitious too soon. Baby steps. I'll get there one day. And when I make my living legacy photo video, I'll stress the importance of being organized. I'm sure future generations will be so impressed!

Blessings to all who read this!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

I'm in a good mood, dammit!

As ALL of you know, I ran a heated campaign to win the Nature Made SAM-e Good Mood Blogger gig. If I won, I would have gotten paid $5000/month for six months to blog about being in a good mood. That would have been $30,000 toward Nicole's ever-increasing medical bills. The medical fund that the Ridgeland Chamber started for her is dwindling fast...we have used it to pay medical bills (we are completely paid up through Select Specialty Hospital), as well as for prescriptions, supplies and her personal trainer sessions. I thought the Good Mood Blogger gig would be a fun and creative way for me to contribute to her bills. BUT, the judges had other ideas, so they picked someone else. But that's OK...I got a cool consolation prize. Check this out: I got SIX boxes of SAM-e (a natural mood

enhancer, and bottles of vitamins and supplements, a yoga mat, a calendar, a note pad, a water bottle and a little iPod shuffle. (Roxie jumped in the shot to show off her new pink collar.) The gesture by Nature Made did wonders to enhance my mood...

I've actually been a little "testy" the past few days (translation: don't look at me funny or I'll bite your damned head off!!!!). I guess the disappointment of losing, and all the holiday hoopla caught up with me and I'm tired. Add on top of that the incredible Christmas gift my husband gave me--a Cellular South HTC Hero phone...nice, except that you have to have an advanced degree from MIT to operate it.

So, let's put all this together: I'm a little "testy," I have a phone that makes me feel stupid, and I have the patience of a gnat right now. Not a winning combination.

A few facebook entries and a couple of phone calls with the kind folks at Cellular South later, I am now scheduled in a private CLASS to learn how to use my new phone. I go at 11:30 this morning. I hope the "teacher" is kind and understanding, as I may just cry or go postal. I'm just sayin'...

This morning I took my first dose of SAM-e. The box said it will take seven to 14 days to feel any real effects. As I swallowed the pill, Larry looked at me and said "only 13 more days..." He's a real comedian.

So, I didn't get the Good Mood blog gig, and that's the LAST time I'm going to even type those words or do any promo work for Nature Made (I figure they got at least $10,000 in p.r. value from the work I did on the contest, and I got six--count 'em--six bottles of SAM-e as a consolation prize...). But I'm going to write my own blog about being in a good mood, right here on this very blog you are reading now, beginning on January 1. And if you like what you read, tell your friends, and I'll grow my list of followers, and someone, somewhere, will want--BEG--me to write/blog for them, I'm sure.

And again, THANK you for your votes, support, kind all rallied around me in such a big way and I'm so grateful. So even though I get a little "testy" from time to time, I really can't help but be in a perpetual good mood with that kind of love coming my way.

Blessings to all who read this!