Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Bah, Humbug?

Here we are, all up in the 12 days of Christmas, and my house is not decorated (save for the wreath on the front door, which, up until Monday, was flanked by pumpkins and dead mums). Time has not been on my side this holiday season. That, and I'm just kinda tired.

It started with Thanksgiving--a time when I usually decorate as much as Christmas and really put on the dog. I love setting a festive table and having friends and family gathered 'round. Larry asked me about our Thanksgiving plans about a week before the big day. Jokingly, I laughed and said I was waiting for someone to invite us over. As the words came out of my mouth, I realized that was a really good idea, and I was going to hold out for an invite. Each day, Larry asked me again--did we want turkey? Pork loin? And yet, not a grocery shopping list in sight. I just wanted to get dressed and go somewhere else. And wouldn't you know, my dad came through! He called saying he had a ham in the freezer, and could make a green bean casserole and dressing. Instead of hauling all that food to my house, I suggested, how about we just go to their house? It was a plan! And we had a wonderful, relaxing, low pressure evening enjoying a great dinner and conversation. Perfect.

Now on to Christmas. Could it happen again?

Yep! My sister in Nashville decided that it would be fun to have everyone come up to their house. So that's what we're doing!

But once that decision was made, my desire to decorate diminished. Each day I think it might be THE day, but then writing deadlines and other work commitments get in the way. And it's been cooooold, which makes digging in the garage for Christmas decorations less than appealing.

And there are even more excuses...a five-day trip to New York last week...a couple of days of feeling under the weather...lack of discretionary's enough to make me feel a little Scrooge-like.

Yet, I've once again had the pleasure of enjoying other's holiday decorating efforts. Monday, I went to my neighborhood's garden club Christmas meeting at Betty Foster's house, which was decorated absolutely beautifully. We sipped on eggnog and wassail as we played dirty Santa with garden-themed gifts. That night, it was my book club's Christmas soiree at the home of Diane Lisenbe, who decked her halls with festive decorations. I just soaked it all in...then went home to my wreath.

Neighbors have commented that they've noticed my lack of decorations--I usually go a little over the top with lights, bows, garland and such. It was something I started years ago because I wanted to make our home feel like a special place for Larry--who was separated from his family in Venezuela and who works so hard during the holidays helping others celebrate the season. And I wanted to make our home feel special for our children, imprinting strong holiday memories in their brains.

When Nicole was in Methodist Rehab, she had an overnight pass for Christmas, so it was important to have our home decorated for her return, and for our annual Christmas Eve open house. So many people wanted to come see her, and rejoice in her miraculous recovery. But now she's in her own place, and as a part of moving her in and feathering her new nest, I put up her purple (of course!) Christmas tree, decorating it with all her special ornaments, as well as decorating her mantle, stringing colored lights on her front porch and hanging a wreath on her front door.

Joe spends most of his time at the home of his girlfriend, Emily. He's helped her parents decorated their home for Christmas, so he gets to enjoy that.

We still have a week left before heading to Music City for the holidays. Do I drag all the decorations out for Larry and I? We are forgoing the open house this year. We have busy schedules up until we leave. And if I decorate now, I'll just have to put it all up when we get back. (Sounds like I'm talking myself out of it, huh?)

So this year things will be a bit different. I believe I'm going to shift my focus to the real reason for the season, which often gets sidelined. Instead of spending hours decorating, I think I'll be still and read the Christmas story. One of history's most profound events was not surrounded with garland, lights and tinsel. Instead, it was in a humble stable, illuminated only by a star shining bright in the night sky.

Will I feel sad not having a decorated home for the holidays? I really don't think so. There are enough festive decorations all around to fill my need for the holidays. I will take that stress off myself, and focus more on family, friends and faith, and in doing so, my heart will be full.

Ten days left before Christmas...and I'm not feeling any pressure at all! Merry Christmas!

Blessings to all who read this!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Travelogue: New York

The more I go there, the more I understand why Nicole was happiest when she lived in New York. We had a chance to return this past week--for the third time since her accident two and a half years ago. And for the third time, we stayed at the wonderful New York Hilton, located in midtown, on Avenue of the Americas. To give you some perspective, it is one block from Radio City Music Hall, a couple of blocks from Rockefeller Plaza, a couple of blocks from Fifth Avenue, and a couple of blocks from Times Square. Perfectly situated in the middle of the universe for about a bazillion people who all came to New York this past week to do business, shop, see shows and to just be in the middle of the most spectacular Christmas displays I've ever seen. The city was alive, and so were we!

The purpose of this trip was for Nicole to do a testimonial commercial for New York Presbyterian Hospital--the place where her life was saved more than once, and where she was literally put back together again. Former Mayor Ed Koch did a commercial for them that was very well received, so they decided to get a few more former high-profile or big-story patients to come in and do the same. Nicole made the list!

Megan Poole, who was one of Nicole's personal care assistants, went with us. She is currently in the same theatre program Nicole went through at the University of Southern Mississippi. She was able to work around exams to make the trip, and we met up at the Jackson airport last Saturday morning for a big adventure. The star-studded trip kicked off with our connecting flight from Charlotte to LaGuardia...when disco diva Patti LaBelle boarded our flight! Of course, Nicole connected with her right away and by the time we parted ways, Miz LaBelle was telling me that Nicole was a "trip" and that she was full of  "spunk." Well ring my bell and tell me something I don't know!

After getting settled into the Hilton and eating dinner at a brew pub around the corner, Nicole and Megan took off in a cab to go to a birthday party for one of Nicole's friends in New York.

Sunday we slept in a bit...then got a special visit from Annalisa Meyer, a young woman who was a patient at NYP the same time Nicole was. The last time I saw her, she was in a coma, sick with a rare form of encephelitis. Today she is a bright, beautiful college student at Columbia in NY. What a joy it was to see her doing so well.

After a lazy morning, we ate our fill for lunch in Whole Foods at Columbus Circle.

Then we loaded up for a trip to Chinatown, where we spent all afternoon walking and visting the many stalls filled with scarves, wraps, hats, sunglasses, and all manner of enticing items. We bargained and haggled our way through blocks and blocks of shops before calling it a day. (Nicole was on her feet, walking the streets of Chinatown, for a good three hours...a miracle, considering she is not even two and a half years out from her accident!)

Monday morning a car picked us up at the hotel at 6:30, and off we went to Silvercup Studios, where Nic's commercial was shot. She got true star treatment, doted on by a wardrobe stylist, hair and makeup, and just general pampering and coddling. We all enjoyed the wonderful craft services area with made-to-order omelets and waffles!
It didn't take long for Megan and Nicole to figure out that one of their favorite shows, 30 Rock, is also filmed at Silvercup.
After seeing Tina Fey at the 30 Rock craft services table while they were making a restroom run, Nic and Meg giggled and laughed like school girls. As it turns out, Nic's makeup artist, Dierdre, knew the set designer for the show and she arranged for the girls to go on the set and meet Tina. THAT was fun...and Tina Fey could not have been nicer!
Monday night we met up with several of Nicole's friends who are living in NY...her former roomie and apprentice at Actor's Theater, Raffie, and USM friends Zdenko, Emily and Jake. We all went to eat some good NY pizza at an old school place called Angelo's. Afterwards, I headed to bed, while everyone visited in Nic and Meg's room.

Tuesday we had another early morning...we were in a car on our way to the ABC studios at Times Square at 6:30am. We had VIP passes to Good Morning America, thanks to my friend Stuart Kellogg at WAPT in Jackson. We were guests of one of the producers, and we were whisked up the Green Room to wait for the show to begin. Lucky for us, they had breakfast there, and we helped ourselves to bagels and coffee. When we were finished, we were escorted to the studio where we watched Robin Roberts and crew do the news and weather. I got to meet Bob Woodruff (the journalist who suffered a brain injury in a blast in Iraq), and we also met Steve Harvey, who was amazed by Nicole's story.

The big excitement of the morning, however, was watching the STING concert in the studio downstairs...we rode the elevator down with Robin Roberts (who I worked with 25 years ago at WDAM in Hattiesburg!) and the sweet stage manager positioned Nicole and Megan right in front of the stage! Here's the interview Robin did prior to Sting's performance (sorry, you have to watch the commercial first...):

After the show, a car picked us up and off we went to New York Presbyterian for a visit with nurses and doctors. It was a great visit...we got to see our beloved Mary Grace Savage, who Nicole really bonded with while she was a patient there. We also spoke with Dr. Stephan Mayer, who wants Nicole to come speak at a medical conference next year in Toronto, and Dr. Lee, who stopped his very important rounds to give Nicole a big hug. It was great seeing them all again, and so good for them to see how far Nicole has come since her days on a ventilator.

We left the hospital and headed for Fifth Avenue, where we soaked in the incredibly creative and detailed store windows for blocks and blocks. We went in stores like Juicy Couture and H&M, where the girls went nuts. So much fun, and it was great being in all that hustle and bustle with people Christmas shopping.
What recession???

And after all that walking up and down Fifth Avenue...we WALKED back to the hotel! Hallelujah!!!

That night we had a chilling ride from the hotel to the theatre where we had tickets to see The Addams Family. We met another of Nicole's friends from USM, Kermit, in the hotel bar for a quick cocktail before heading to the show. When we went outside around 6:30 to get a cab, the line was forever long, and the traffic was in gridlock. Not a good situation for us, considering the show started at 7pm. A guy on a little rickshaw bike said he could get us to the theatre faster than any cab, so we hopped in and hung on for dear life as he swerved in and out of traffic. But he was true to his word...he got us there in one piece and earned a big tip for doing so!

Seeing Nathan Lane as Gomez and Bebe Neuwirth as Morticia was a huge treat, and the show was even better than I thought it would be. We had first row mezzanine seats (thanks, NYP!) and it was like they were singing directly to us! We loved it.

Wednesday, we had to pack up and head home. It was a wonderful, magical, exciting, memorable trip. Megan is a wonderful travel companion and she was such a huge help to Nicole and I. It was a great experience for her as well, so good times all around!

As soon as the commercial is complete, I'll share the link so you can all see it. Until then, be sure to watch the story the CBS Early Show did on her last spring (if you haven't already). Feel free to share the link with your's an amazing story!

Blessings to all who read this!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Starting Over in a New Place

There's something about a new place that is so exciting. It's a new beginning of sorts...a new way of living life in a different place.

Nicole moved out of our house (again!) and into a rental house in Belhaven in August. She rented a room, and she and the other roommates had use of the common areas of the home. The only thing is that the common areas were decorated with the homeowner's things, including movie posters, a pool table, and other "man cave" accoutrements. The only place Nicole could truly make her own was her bedroom, and she definitely put her stamp on it.

For alot of reasons, that place just didn't work out. But Nic and two of her roomies found a better house, perfect for their needs. It's a little further south, in Belhaven Heights--a wonderful little Craftsman bungalow that has been completely renovated. It is absolutely filled with character and I believe it will be an ideal place for them to pursue their life goals.

Of course, Nicole's decision to move meant that the Marquez Moving Company would be resurrected once again. Countless loads of boxes, furniture, clothes, etc. were carted not only from one rental house to another, but finally, out of our garage in Madison!

As a matter of fact, the entire home, except for the other girls' bedrooms, was furnished from Nicole's collection of authentic mid-century modern pieces that at one time furnished her apartment in Hattiesburg. For the past three years, most of it has been in our garage, where our cars should be. But now, it's out of the garage, in her house, and it looks great!

The roomies moved in--basically putting their stuff in their bedrooms--then left town for the holidays. One to Chicago. The other to Atlanta. So that left Nicole, who just can't do all the moving, organizing, arranging and fluffing like she used to. I have spent many hours over the past week organizing their kitchen, decorating the living room, hanging pictures, and even decorating the mantle and her purple tree for Christmas. The finishing touch: Christmas lights on the front porch railing--a signal to the neighborhood that there's something fun and festive happening in that house!

Yet, I come home and have not one ounce of energy. I can go and go, do and do at her house, getting things just right...but at my own house, I can't seem to find the energy or motivation to get anything done. Maybe it's because my family is scattering, so the focus of our home is changing. I really just need to concentrate on feathering my own nest to make Larry happy and comfortable.

I really do think there is something life changing about moving into a new place. It's an opportunity to live your life in a slightly different way. Alot of time is spent imagining what life will be like in the new home. The dinner parties you'll have in the dining room. Making breakfast in the kitchen. Relaxing on the front porch. Movie night with the girls in the living room.

Nic and I talked about having the new house blessed by a priest. I think it's a good idea. My friend, Ann, had a house blessing party when they got settled into the home they built around the corner from us. It can't hurt...knowing that they willingly asked God to bless their home and all who lived in it and visited it is comforting.

I hope that this home is a place where Nicole and her two roommates can find happiness and that their friendships will grow even stronger.

Now it's time for me to rediscover my own home...and to enjoy my newly cleared-out garage!

Blessings to all who read this!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

It's All About the Story

After a weekend in Oxford, I am now looking at the art and craft of writing with entirely new eyes. Last weekend, I attended the Oxford Creative Non-Fiction Workshop in the Meek School of Journalism and New Media, located in the Overby Building, on the campus of Ole Miss.

First let me interject that as the daughter of an Alabama alum, I was not raised to be an Ole Miss fan. As a matter of fact, when I was a junior in high school my daddy told me that if I went to Ole Miss, I'd go to hell. I took that to heart, and went, instead, to Mississippi State. I stayed there three years before transferring to the University of Southern Mississippi (which, I might add, kicked Ole Miss's butt in football the last time we played them--in the early 1980's!).

I have not spent much time at all in my life on the campus of Ole Miss. I regret that now, as it is absolutely one of the most beautiful places on Earth. The Overby Building is just across the street from THE GROVE, one of the most iconic spots on campus, due to the elaborate game day celebrations that take place there. The trees on campus were putting on a real show, still full of leaves in all shades of orange, red and gold. And I loved the town of Oxford. The town square was vibrant and full of life with wonderful restaurants, shops and the famous  Square Books.

I rode to Oxford on Thursday with Diane Williams, a famous Mississippi story teller. Needless to say, she kept me entertained with her stories on the two and a half hour drive.

The conference was organized and presented by Neil White, Susan Cushman (author of one of my favorite blogs, Pen and Palette) and Kathy Rhodes (a facebook friend whom I got to meet in person!). My first session Thursday afternoon was with author Neil White, who wrote one of my favorite memoirs, "In The Sanctuary of Outcasts." Afterwards, the conference attendees boarded Oxford's double-decker bus (an ode to Oxford, England!) and headed to the Square Books for the Thacker Mountain Radio Show. (Think "Prairie Home Companion," but with a real Southern flair!) There was music and readings by two of the conference instructors: Lee Gutkin (the godfather of creative non-fiction) and Ian Frazier.

Afterwards, I had the pleasure to go with Diane and her friend, Rebecca, to St. Peter's Episcopal Church for the annual Veterans's Day covered dish supper. It was like a slice of Mayberry. Veterans from WWII and the Korean War gathered in a fellowship hall festooned with red, white and blue bunting and balloons. Everyone sang patriotic songs, most without the aid of the lyrics provided. It made me wonder if we are teaching our children these songs the same way we were once taught them. Afterwards, we enjoyed the most incredible array of foods I've ever seen laid out on a buffet table. Those people know how to throw down in the kitchen! After dinner, there were a few more songs, and introductions of the individual veterans. Judge Lamb then administered the Oath of Service to the group of veterans. It was very touching. I felt honored to be there.

The rest of the weekend was filled with sessions on writing cinematically and, because we were talking about non-fiction, speaking the truth--telling the story as it happened, and learning how to fill in with information pertinent to the story. We truly studied the craft of non-fiction. I loved every moment of it! During the day, I met many of the workshop attendees--many from New York, California, Kentucy and other states. I was amazed that they came to Mississippi for a writing workshop, and asked several of them why. Most cited Faulkner, Welty, Grisham and the gang...I do live in a state that produces great writers! It made me feel fortunate that just a little over two hours up the road from my own home, I was sitting in a literary hotbed!

I got to know a few more of the folks who came to conference a bit better Friday evening at the reception held at Memory House, the home of William Faulkner's brother, John. Built in 1837, it's where John wrote Men Working, Dollar Cotton and My Brother Bill, a tribute to William Faulkner. I met several agents, editors, publicists and folks who are looking for the next big work of creative non-fiction. That was interesting, for sure!

So, now I feel much better equipped to write the book that must be written, but I also feel re-energized and ready to take my article-writing up a notch or two. I don't know if anyone will notice but me, but I know that to capture and keep people's attention, and to make sure they learn and retain what they read, there must be a story. It's all about the story, and everyone's got one to tell.

Blessings to all who read this!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Let Your Light Shine!

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

This is a quote by Marianne Williamson, an internationally acclaimed spiritual teacher. I heard the quote while watching the movie "Akeelah and the Bee," about a young inner-city girl who goes to the National Spelling Bee in Washington, DC.

Akeelah's friend, Jordan, always told her that she could do anything she believed she could do. Yet, Jordan wanted to be a flight attendant. "You can't be a flight attendant if you've never flown on a plane," said Akeela to Jordan, just before she invited her to go to D.C. with her.

What is holding you back from doing what you want to do in your life?

I've had the great honor to be around some people lately who are not letting their "fear of success" get in their way. A very driven young man, Matt Steffe, was a guest in our home Tuesday night. Matt played college basketball and went on to coach Divsion 1 basketball in Oregon. The California native is a devoted husband and father to three beautiful young children. Yet, six weeks ago he quit the "sure thing" in his life--his full time job, to persue more than he could ever accomplish in a standard 9-to-5 career. Matt is the highest-producing distributor for C-PRIME, a company that my son, Joe, and I are now involved with. Matt is "on" almost 24/7, talking to those who are also high achievers, and encouraging those who want to be.

We got into this company at the worst possible time...or, the BEST possible time. We just weren't in a position to invest alot of money in a new business. Thankfully, this business doesn't require that. But I do have what it takes: time and the desire to help others become successful. And in so doing, I've had the joy of watching Joe develop and grow and be successful in this business right along with me.

Next week, I'm going to challenge myself again. I'll be heading up to Oxford for the Creative Non-Fiction Writer's Conference. I'll be meeting other writers, as well as agents who will hear our ideas and, well, who knows what will happen? I know I want to write Nicole's story, and this will be the first step in making that happen.

I'm so happy that I'm surrounded by people who are creative and who push themselves to do more.

My own dad learned woodworking--wood turning and wood carving--after he retired. And there's Jonni Webb, who went from a career in advertising/sales to following her passion to be a full-time potter. And Leslie Puckett, who creates wonderful herbal lotions, soaps and other potions. There's Brenda Judin, who uses her creative talents to write and produce videos. And Ann Frye, who continually pushes the envelope on creativitiy of all sorts. And Jacqui Katool, who is stepping out of her comfort zone to hold a trunk show of her jewelry on November 11 at Chandelier in Ridgeland. And so many others...including my own Nicole, who took a leap to travel to Sedona to take a 100-hour course, "Yoga Meets Dance," and is now working on putting together classes where she can teach others.

"We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone." Yep, you can teach an old dog new tricks. I'm learning new ones every day. Growing...learning...and feeling God's glory manifested within me!

Blessings to all who read this!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

When Bad Things Happen...

What's new pussycat?

It's not only a greeting, but it was a worldwide hit song in 1975.

By the sexy Tom Jones.

Who is now 70 years old.

There was a profile of Jones on CBS Sunday Morning today. He was back in his small home town in Wales, visiting his birthplace (in a rented house where his grandmother lived), his old church (where he sang a beautiful impromptu, acapella version of  "The Old Rugged Cross,"--beautiful), and the home where, for two years, he stayed in seclusion in one room recovering from teburculosis contracted when he was 12.

That was the "ah-ha" moment in the piece. Because Jones said had it not been for having TB, he most likely would have been a coal miner--like his father and most of his friends.

He made a statement that rang so strong with me. "It was the best bad thing to ever happen to me."


When something bad happens to us, we tend to think it is just terrible. But instead, perhaps we should look at it as a gift, because God pretty much always has good things in store for us on other side.

So... the bad thing becomes a catalyst for positive change. And then things that happen in your life that may never have happened had the bad thing not happened first.

Of course, our family understands that oh, so Nicole is continually blessed with opportunities to inspire and motivate people through her speaking engagements--she has a platform now that she didn't have before, and her story alone makes people sit up and listen.

Take a moment and think back to the best bad thing that ever happened to you...and feel free to share it in the comments section of this blog (if you don't already "follow" me, please take a moment to do so!).

This little exercise may help us all to see things differently, and to be a little more thankful that God's plan for us is perfect, even when that plan includes "bad" things.

Blessings to all who read this!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Out of the darkness

They're out! The 33 miners who have been trapped for 70 days a half mile below the Earth's surface in Chile finally saw the light of day yesterday. It was awesome seeing each miner break the surface, coming up in a tiny capsule.

I have clastrophobic tendancies. I used to get panicky in tanning beds, back when I used to lay in tanning beds. Sometimes I'd have to get out of the room altogether, feeling like I couldn't breathe. It didn't happen every time, just every now and then. But it was enough for me to stay away from a career as a miner.

As a child, I heard that you could dig your way to China. I was told that China was exactly opposite the United States on the globe (no, I didn't check that out for myself!). The idea was that if you dug a hole deep enough, you'd come out in the land of ricshaws and little coolie hats. I was up for the challenge, digging the hole in my own backyard.

Until I realized how hard it was for an eight-year-old to dig into the hard Mississippi soil. Mission aborted.

It's a good thing the Chilean authorities didn't give up so easily. I was so impressed watching Chile's president, who had a "gut feeling" the miners were still alive, thus directing a full-scale recovery operation. He's my kind of guy!

I think people give up too easily all too often. It's easier to give up. If you don't try, you can't fail. But you'll never move forward either...

Nicole recently took a big leap ahead, challenging herself and her "new" body to something most able-bodied people wouldn't attempt. She flew to Sedona, Arizona for 12 days to take a 100-hour certification course called "Yoga Meets Dance." The days were long--9:30am to 6:30pm in class, and a couple of hours of reading/studying at night. Many of the classes were held outdoors, on the beautiful red rocks of Sedona. So Nic had to hike. And she had to climb. And she did!

Before going to Sedona, Nicole didn't know she could hike or climb rocks. She didn't know she could touch her toes or do many of the amazing things she did with her body. Remember, she has 8" titanium rods that go from the base of her neck down her back, and more rods that go down her lower back.

She passed her certification exam, and is now ready to teach classes!

Just as the miners were released from the darkness of the mine, Nicole continues to be released from the injuries that could have defined her. All are free from being confined. The world is watching the 33 miners to see what they'll do next, and I believe the world is hoping that they will do something positive with their experiences. We want to learn from it, and become better people because of it.

Nicole could have easily resigned herself to life in a wheelchair. We've been told there are people with lesser injuries who are still in wheelchairs. As a matter of fact, we were told that was her fate. But Nicole, like the miners, had hope. And hope fuels action. And now Nicole can teach anyone how to use their bodies in a healthy way, including people with special needs. Including people in wheelchairs.

We may not be stuck in a mine, or stuck in a broken body, but we all have something in our lives that we allow to hold us back. Today is a good day to reflect on what we want to do, and how we've allowed either external or internal roadblocks to hold us back. How are we going to get past those roadblocks? I'm inspired by the miners, and by my own brave daughter.

It's time to get up and move ahead!

Blessings to all who read this!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

I'm back!!!

Wow. It's been over a month since I last posted a blog entry. That's unusual for me, but for some reason, I just haven't been able to stop long enough to write.

It's been a busy month, with lots of exciting things happening in our life. As I write this, Nicole is finishing up a "Yoga Meets Dance" workshop in Sedona, Arizona. It's a 100-hour certification course, so she'll be able to teach when she gets back. It's the next step in having a totally independent life again. The surprising thing to her is how flexible she is. With titanium rods in her neck and back, Nicole probably felt that she would be more rigid. But she's been able to keep up with everyone else in the class, including touching her toes! (The rods are flexible...who knew?) And the change of scenery has been just what she needed. And what a dramatic change of scenery!!!
I love these photos...and I'm so impressed, because they were taken with Nicole's iPhone. Look how blue that sky is! Twelve days of that would be good medicine for anyone!

My iPhone wannabe, the HTC Hero, still gives me fits. The phone and I are just not a good match. BUT, I did discover a cool app on the's called "Retro Camera." I had alot of fun taking photos of little things around my home. The app gives everything a vintage, grainy look. And I love the boarder.
I've been spending more time with Joe (yes, I have another child!) lately, and I've enjoyed it so very much. At 21, he has matured so much and has become such an impressive young man. He and I both signed up to be distributors for C-PRIME, a fashion technology company that sells bands (designed by Fossil) that help with balance, flexibility, strength and endurance. Everyone in our family has had great results, so we have decided to step out and sell them ourselves! It's been amazing...I have a team of over 65 people! I figure if it's good enough for Harry Connick, Jr., Tim Tebow, Evanka Trump and a laundry list of other celebrities and athletes, it's good enough for me!
This is my blue band...

Joe wearing a scarlet band and a grey band...
And Nicole wearing her signature purple band! (That's her yoga teacher, Beth)

Joe and I took a road trip to Dallas last week for a C-PRIME corporate meeting, where we learned more about the company and met the key players. We were both impressed and we're really excited about the possibilities C-PRIME can have in people's lives. Check out my website to learn more about it.

This weekend, he's gone to Atlanta with Emily (his precious girlfriend) and her family. My parents have gone to Nashville, and my dad will be taking a class (woodcarving!) up that way. So, it's while our family are all over the country, Larry and I are holding things down here at home.

I'm also doing my Scentsy thang...lovin' that, too! Don't know what Scensy is? Then check out this website!
It's alot of fun, and I love the products. I'll be doing an open house tomorrow (Sunday) afternoon to celebrate 10-10-10! What a fun, cool date that is! If you didn't get one of my social media invites (email/facebook/twitter), then consider this your invitation to come experience Scentsy tomorrow afternoon!
I've been getting ready for it all day today...the fun part is sniffing the over 80 yummy scents!

The monkey is one of the "Scentsy Buddies" for children. Each one has a zipper in the back that holds a scent pack. This one has a French Lavender pack and it smells sooooo good!!!

The bad news is that I scheduled the open house at the same time as the St. Philip Goat Roast, which we've gone to for the past two years. I'll miss that this year, but look forward to opening my home to friends and neighbors.

So that's it for our exciting life...busy, full, happy, and blessed. We're moving forward, not looking back as much, but when we do, we are still amazed at the miracle we've witnessed. And as we move forward, we don't dismiss that miracle, but we don't dwell on it as much. We are living life in the here and now, and for the first time in a long time, we are able to look ahead with hope, ready for the next adventure!

Blessings to all who (still) read this!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Little Things Mean A Lot

Sometimes grand gestures are nice. Like when your daughter throws you a surprise 30th anniversary party. Or when your son pops in to mow the yard.

But the little gestures are what makes life sweet on a daily basis. Someone who does something unexpected for you. A kind word. Or....getting a card in the mail for no reason. (Mail...remember that? The paper stuff with stamps??)

And small things are often packed with a big punch.

My dad took up woodworking after he retired many years ago. As in, he took to it like a duck to water. He made a rocking horse and easel for Nicole when she was little. A wagon  nd a toy chest for Joseph. (I think we must have put hundreds of miles on that thing!) And, for no reason other than to do it, he made a canoe. Why not? And it was a real work of art.

After going to the Campbell Folk Life School in Brasstown, N.C. with my son, Joe, a few times, my dad took a carving class and became hooked. When it is too hot or too cold to go out in his shop, he can sit in his climate-controlled house and just whittle away. (Idle hands are the devil's playground!)

One of the things he makes are little crosses. He keeps them in his pocket and passes them out to folks he comes across while he's out and about.

My sister, Sarah, goes on a mission trip each summer to Andros in the Bahamas. This year was the 25th anniversary (I think) and each person was to bring a special commemorative item to pass out. Sarah asked my dad if he could carve some crosses. A bunch of crosses. And he did.
So Sarah took the crosses to Andros, and gave them out. And they were a big hit!
Beautiful. I'm sure those children will treasure their crosses, and hopefully, the meaning of it, for a long time to come. Such a little thing that means so much.

One of the little things we do each year that means alot to others is to attend the Mississippi State Hospital’s (MSH) Annual Serendipity Art Show and Silent Auction TODAY (Thurs., 9/2), from 11 a.m. - 6:30 p.m. on the hospital’s campus in Whitfield.

Serendipity features artwork from MSH’s Art Services programs and Community Services Art Workshops, led by our sweet friend, Tony DiFatta. The show includes handmade paper, pencil drawings, ceramics, pastels, watercolor, acrylic and tempera paintings, crayon batiks and mixed media.
All artists are patients, residents or consumers of the hospital and incorporate age groups from children to adult seniors. The show features work from artists in Psychiatric Services, Community Services, Jaquith Nursing Home and Oak Circle Center Child/Adolescent Unit. The artwork will be sold by silent auction. Bidding will end at 6:30 p.m. All proceeds will be applied to the individual artists’ accounts.

While it means alot to the patients, it means alot to us too. It's a way to get some beautiful pieces of (mostly) framed artwork at a very reasonable price. And it's fun too!

Nicole bought this piece last year. Here she is, with Tony and the artist. It's a painting of downtown Jackson during the Mal's St. Paddy's Day Parade, which is one of her favorite events!

As you go about your day, remember to put forth a little effort to do a little something that will mean so much to someone else. When you do, it will make your day, too!

Blessings to all who read this!

Monday, August 30, 2010

What a Difference a Day Makes

Just when you think life is clicking along just fine, something or someone can change everything, in just the blink of an eye.

That something for me was a phone call received on August 30, 2008. It was the call every parent dreads.

A detective with the New York City Police Department was on the other end of the line, telling me our precious daughter's body had been found on the ground outside her apartment building. The way he said it, I had no clue whether she was dead or alive. I had to ask.

Most of you reading this know the story. If you don't, check it out at

So today is the second anniversary of Nicole's accident. Someone asked me just this morning if we ever thought she would have come this far in two years.

The truth of the matter is that I didn't think about that. I learned very early on, sitting in the neuro-ICU at New York Presbyterian Hosptial, not to project into the future. We had to accept what was happening right here, right now. I learned to live in the moment, because that's all we had. Her condition was changing so rapidly...she'd do great for awhile, then some horrible thing would go wrong in her broken body. We all became pros are reading monitors. We understood oxygen levels and all kinds of things I never thought I'd have a need to know.

And I learned to compartmentalize. In other words, mundane things like bills, the dog, the yard, etc. never entered my mind. I was focused on one thing and one thing only. Thank God we had such good friends and family who took care of those things and so many others so that we could just be, with all our focus on Nicole.

And here we are, two years later. And yes, looking back, I'm absolutely in awe of what Nicole has accomplished after injuring her body so badly.

A journey begins with one step, and we have truley taken this journey one step at a time, one day at a time. And because of that, the journey hasn't been too hard. And because the journey has been a slow, but steady one, we've all had time to see, hear, smell, taste and feel things we may never have experienced before, when we were all rushing and swirling through life.

We've made wonderful new friends, reconnected with old ones, and our life has been blessed many times over. Priorites have shifted, with a focus now on more important things in life. We've seen the affect Nicole's accident has had on Joe, who is now very focused in school, studying to be an occupational therapist.

If I could, I'd take it back in a heartbeat. Who would want this to happen to their child? Yet, it happened, and we can't take it back, so we all chose to accept what is, and to push on. Nicole, as it turns out, is a master at that. We have simply followed her lead.

And we are all the better for it.

Thank you doesn't begin to express our appreciation for the many prayers, financial gifts, support and love so many people have given us. We are forever grateful, and have dedicated our lives to paying it forward.

Just remember, one day, you can be on top of the world...
(This is Nicole on the same roof from which she fell, two days before her accident. The grayish building in the background is Harlem Hospital, her first stop on the road to recovery.)

And the next day, you can have the weight of the world on your shoulders.
(Nicole, a few days after her accident, in New York Presbyterian Hospital.)

It's up to you to decide if you want to get back up to the top of the world again, and how. The next time life throws you a curveball, just remember Nicole...if she can do it, you can too!
(Nicole and Joe, close to one year after her accident.)

Blessings to all who read this!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

She's Rising!

When you dream of a dream, know it won't be easy
Taking plenty of chances, fortify what you believe
Keep moving in the right direction
Finding the ultimate connection
Asking and receiving, what you are ready for

You'll be rising!
For more!

When you wish with all your might
Let your imagination take its flight
When you hear the voice my child
Increase your stride
Let go of intimidation
Trust and inspire
Then you will see the light

You'll be rising!
For more!

Hold it down my people
Don't give up
Letting go
Keep moving forward
Andi if you fall
Know that you can rise again
Rise again, keep your understanding
Oh, learn from your mistakes
Oh, it will come, it will come
It will come and you'll see
You'll be rising!!!

Those are the lyrics of the cover song of the wonderful new CD by Eclectik Soul called "Rising." They previewed the CD Friday night at the historic Alamo Theatre on Farrish Street in downtown Jackson.

Funny how life brings things full circle. When Nicole returned to Jackson following he accident, she was in Select Specialty Hospital for almost a month. Her occupational therapist there was an angel named Tarah Stewart. Tarah noticed Nicole either had music playing in her room, or that Nicole was singing almost every time she came to work with her. One day, she brought in a CD and said that her husband, Greg, was the drummer in a group called Eclectik Soul. We popped it in the laptop and we all instantly loved it!

Fast forward to Friday night. Greg wanted something BIG for the finale of the concert. That is when they were going to play "Rising." Well, every time Tarah heard the song, she thought of Nicole and her miraculous recovery, and she suggested that they ask Nicole to dance to the song. guessed it! Friday night, nearly two years after her accident, Nicole was rising back up again on the stage of the Alamo!

It was a fun night, with some great music! By the end of the evening, Nicole had Jello legs she was so tired. Before coming to the Alamo, Nicole had a gig as a 'Celebrity' judge for the Mississippi Opera Association's 'Dance with the Stars' event at the Old Capitol Inn along with Kathy Thibodeaux of Ballet Magnificat and David Keary of Ballet Mississippi. It was a long evening, but she did it. I think the song fit Nicole perfectly...she is certainly rising!

My son, Joe, is rising too...he's back in school and preparing to go to occupational therapy school soon. People like Tarah and Stephanie and Ashley, who are some of Nicole's outstanding therapists, have inspired Joe. I think he'll do well in that field. He's grown into such a sensitive and caring young man, and he's witnessed the importance of people in that line of work and what a difference it can make in people's lives. Nicole is independent again thanks to the therapy she's received. I believe Joe will make that same difference in the lives of his patients one day. And his girlfriend, Emily, is going into nursing, so how perfect is that??

As he pursues his career, Nicole is pursuing her career in motivational speaking. As a matter of fact, she'll be heading to Silver Star in Philadelphia tomorrow to speak at the Rehabilitation Association of Mississippi conference. She'll do a keynote address tomorrow and conduct a breakout session on Thursday.

Forgive me this proud mama moment, but for now, I'm just as pleased as I can be with both of my children!

Blessings to all who read this,

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Happy Anniversary Baby!!!

I feel like I'm the luckiest person on Earth today! I am still coming down from the high of Saturday night, when our amazing daughter Nicole surprised Larry and I with an anniversary party at Hal & Mal's. And I mean SUR-PRIIIIIIZE!!!!

We were clueless. And it's hard to pull one over on me, because I'm a detail person. It's a curse sometimes, but it allows me to anticipate, prepare and deal with just about anything that arises. Except, maybe, for a room full of people all facing the door when we walked in, many with cameras (which lets me know what it's like, if only for a brief moment, what Paris Hilton may feel like).

There were lots of special people there, friends old and new, from all phases of our 30-year marriage, including a few who were at--or in--our wedding. Like Carol, who drove down from Nashville for the night. And Sara Smith and Aline Germany, who were like my other mothers growing up, and of course, my own mother and father. We danced the night away to the tunes of Los Papis, which was a super special treat. And when Raphael Semmes and Lisa Palmer joined them, the evening was just perfect!

The best part of the evening was the pure love we felt in the room...the love Larry and I have for each other, and the love we have for our friends, and them for us.

I have to say that 30 years of marriage doesn't seem like that big a deal. It's been so easy, because lucky for me, this high-strung crazy white woman had sense enough to marry the most easy-going, laid-back, happy and nicest man in the entire world! It takes alot to rattle Larry's chain, and Lord knows, I've managed to do some rattling. But in the end, his calm demeanor and positive outlook has always helped me to be the best I can be. I know that I am blessed, and I am forever grateful.

We both come by our long marriages naturally. Larry's parents were married over 50 years, as have my own. We both had such good role models, and that's made a huge difference in our lives. I only pray that the same carries over to our children when the time comes for them to get married.

Joey Joe missed the party...he had a long-standing plan to visit Emily's dad in Atlanta. But we had a wonderful time this afternoon. He came over and cut the grass, then we went to eat lunch. We had a great visit. He starts school again tomorrow, so I'm praying he has another successful semester.

Ok, let's review:

--Marry the nicest guy on the planet, and hang in with him 30 years.

--Have a beautiful daughter, who can bounce back from anything to plan a faboo soire.
--Have a handsome son who gives me great joy as I watch him mature into a fine young man.

--Collect the best friends anyone can have.

Thank you to all who came to our celebration, and for those who couldn't, thanks for your well-wishes. Thanks for the food, the gifts, the fun and the love.

Blessings to all who read this!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Hot, but quiet...

Baby, it's hot outside! I can't hardly think for trying to stay cool. I will consider selling plasma in order to keep the thermostat turned waaaaay down low! I have decided in my now-one-year-older age and new-found fluffiness that I do not like being hot. I'm just sayin'...

There's been alot going on in our wacky world! We moved Nicole out of the house last week, and into a house in Belhaven where she will live with three roommates. Everyone's been asking me if I'm sad, but I can't say that I am. I see this as a triumph! It's just not normal for a 27-year-old woman to live at home in the room she grew up in. Not for us, anyway.

While we've loved having Nicole at home, getting to know her on a different level, there's still that part of me that sees the tiny, petite girl instead of the strong-willed woman. She is, after all, the same size she was in the ninth grade, so subconsciously, I tend to treat her as if she's that age. We've gone through the trials of "pulling away" once already when she was a senior in high school, ready to spread her wings and go to college. The past few months were like living that all over again, ten years later. Emotionally, and thankfully, physically, Nicole was ready to move on.

So we moved all her worldly possesions on some of the hottest days in recorded history. Of course.

And as if moving wasn't enough to prove her ability to live independently, Nicole took a trip to Seattle for a wedding last weekend--by herself. Talk about letting go...

It was a giant step for someone who couldn't even walk less than two years ago, and she managed just fine, thank you very much. At this point, there's not much she can't do, and I have a feeling she's going to make up for lost time! I'm so incredibly thankful!

And now, my house is quiet and more conducive to my work...I can begin writing early in the morning without hearing loud music, or having to stop to fix breakfast. It's beginning to come back to me how much I enjoyed that when Nic was living in New York and Joe was away at school. As much as I love my little birds, I have to admit that an empty nest rocks!

I usually get up an hour or so before Larry, and I tend to hit the computer right away. Then Larry gets up and we have breakfast together, play with Roxie, and make witty comments on whatever stories are on the early shows, then he goes to get ready for work and I get back to my writing. It's a nice little routine.

Nicole will begin training her new personal care assistant today, and continue on with her extensive physical and occupational therapy, along with working out with Eclecius five days a week, plus a yoga class here and there. She's also working hard on her motivational speaking career, which is how she'll pay her rent. Just yesterday, she spoke to a group of about 40 United Methodist Women from Galloway Church at a luncheon at the Methodist Rehab Center. I was invited as well, and enjoyed seeing how poised and polished she's gotten. That was her 28th talk since her accident. But she's got to book some paying gigs soon! She's got a few people working on her behalf, mainly Brenda Judin, who will be helping to book speaking engagements for Nicole. Also, she's signed on with Premier Speakers in Nashville, so she can be booked that way as well.

I can't wrap up this blog post without mentioning the Beebe Family Reunion, which I attended with my parents, Joe and his girlfriend, Emily, last Saturday in Monroe, Louisiana. It's always fun to be around family, and there's just nothing quite like a covered-dish lunch! The star of the show was the halibut that the Birmingham family caught on their trip to visit cousin Larry in Alaska. They were so sweet to share it with us!
On the way home, we got my dad to stop at Daquiri World so we could buy lottery tickets. $10 later, we scratched off all the numbers to learn we won...another lottery ticket! But it was fun.

After a trip to Atlanta this weekend, Joe and Emily will start school on Monday...Emily in nursing and Joe in occupational therapy. I'm praying for a safe trip for them.

Everything and everyone seems to be settling into their rightful place. Now, if the weather would just cool off 20 degrees or so, I'd say life would be just about perfect!

Blessings to all who read this!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Group Photos

If pictures say a thousand words, then what do the upteen photos on my facebook page say about me? People tag me in photos all the time, and there they are, for the world to see. Me, living my life, captured by someone's camera. Or phone.

I started going through the photos (I'm restless tonight..can't sleep...more on that later). I realized there are alot of group photos of me. Which made me realize how many groups I'm in, and how very different they all are. Ahhhh...diversity is the spice of life!

I've always loved group photos. What kind of groups people are in say alot about the individual. My earliest group photo was probably this one, which was back in the second grade:

Now, can you imagine how difficult it was to get 17 7-year-olds to sit on their sides long enough to take this photo? (How I wish I could figure out how to rotate this, but I can't, so just tilt your head to the left and you'll see me, the third from the left on the bottom row.) This could also be called the Tooth Fairy club, as all of us probably had some shiny quarters in our pocket from all the teeth we were missing at the time this photo was taken!

Just recently, I became a member of a new group. Honorary Chicks. And we were celebrated at the annual JFP Chick Ball. There was Beth Poff, director of the Jackson Zoo, and Julie Skipper, the guru of all things downtown Jackson, state representatives, attorneys, reporters, sales reps, CEO's, store owners, art museum directors, physical therapists and other community leaders. To be included in this group of women is a big honor indeed, but I was most honored to be celebrated alongside my daughter as lifetime "Chicks We Love." That made it all the more special!

Something I noticed when going through all the photos is that when chicks get together to celebrate just about anything, the main fashion accessories are boas and tiaras.
Here I am (in the green fur trimmed cowboy hat) posing with some Sweet Potato Queen Wannabees from Indonesia at the annual Mal's St. Paddy's Day parade. My posse is wearing the hot pink shirts...we are the Queen Wranglers, and it's our job to keep those Wannabee's moving at the right pace. You try it...
See, more boas! This is what happens when a group of women are set free on a weekend in Texas. It's the bookclub babes at the Pulpwood Queens Girlfriend Weekend. Don't ask...
On a more "sane" night, at our regular monthly bookclub meeting, there may be a boa here or there, but check out that corsage on Johnnie, the lady in white on the far left. That's her NAME TAG! Hard to tell in this photo, but there are a few tiaras being sported as well. And no, I'm not in the picture--I took it.

And when we get together for a cookout...we travel in style!

I have pals who will wear tiaras while out on a junkin' are a few of them!
Here's a fun high school graduation class at our 25-year reunion. I'm front and the black ourfit. I know....I was sooooo skinny (everyone skinnys up for their 25-year reunion. But I saw the photos from the 35th...and no one is that concerned any more!)
See, me in 2000...wearing a big shirt because I felt too fat...
And me in 2010...hiding behind a chair because I know I'm too fat. (But don't Nicole and Megan look cute? be young again!!!)

Another group I'm a part of harkens back to my college years...

It's the Central Mississippi Chapter of the University of Southern Mississippi Alumni Board. I'm president-elect, and part of what I do is attend the annual banquet and visit with some of our distinquished alumni.
At our annual board Christmas party, we collected things for Toys for Tots.

But my favorite group to be a part of is one of my own making. It's the group I'm most proud and most grateful to be a part of.

I'll be in another group photo next weekend when we gather in Monroe, LA for the Beebe Family Reunion.

Oh, and the reason I'm restless? Nicole is moving out tomorrow. We moved alot of her stuff today, and cleaned and cleaned and cleaned. I should be dead on my feet, but instead, my mind is going 90-to-nothing. I'm so excited about her big move to Belhaven. It's a triumph after all she's been through the past two years, living in hospitals for six months and then in the room she grew up in for another year and a half. I know she's ready, but the mama in me can't help but be a bit concerned. Will she get along with her roommates? Will she be safe? Can she manage on her own? I've let go of her before, and her wings got clipped. But she's two years older, alot wiser, and stronger than ever. She'll be fine.

Empty nest...get ready!

Blessings to all who read this!