Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Inside the Lump Was My Twin!

After being a family member of a patient who spent six months of her life in various hospitals, I found myself back at another hospital again the other day.

My dad (known far and wide as "Papa Dale") had a small bump on his belly that grew into a larger bump that pretty much took on a life of its own. Because it was right where his waistband hit, it was particularly uncomfortable. Finally, he got in to see a doctor on Monday and was immediately admitted into River Oaks Hospital to have it taken care of.

He had surgery yesterday. Full blown general anesthesia operating room under-the-knife surgery. Which is always a little disconcerting. I wanted to be there during the surgery--and let him know I was there. But when I arrived at the hospital, his room was empty. The sweet nurse (they are SO wonderful at River Oaks!) called down to surgery and reported that he was still in the "holding area." I asked that they please let him know I was there.  A few minutes later, after I got settled into the chair in his room with a book, the phone rang. It was a nurse from the surgery team, telling me they were getting ready to roll him into the OR, but if I hurried, I could come wish him well. Which I did. Whew.

For some reason, when I thought about that lump on his belly, I kept remembering the scene from "My Big Fat Greek Wedding." Andrea Martin's brilliant character, Aunt Voula, was meeting the oh-so-non-Greek Ian and his parents for the first time and relayed her very personal story:  "Now, you are family. Okay. All my life, I had a lump at the back of my neck, right here. Always, a lump. Then I started menopause and the lump got bigger from the "hormonees." It started to grow. So I go to the doctor, and he did the bio... the b... the... the bios... the... b... the 'bobopsy.' Inside the lump he found teeth and a spinal cord. Yes. Inside the lump was my twin." (If you haven't had a chance to see one of my all-time favorite movies, watch the trailer or better yet, put it in your Netflix queue right away!)

My mind works in mysterious ways.

Papa Dale will be in the hospital for a few days so he can continue getting intravenous antibiotics and so they can be sure the wound is healing OK. Until then, my sister, Sarah (who drove down from Nashville last night) and I will take turns taking care of my mother and visiting Daddy in the hospital. The good news is that gives me alot of time to make hats (I'm calling them "Sassy Hatz," and am primarily knitting baby and children's hats, so if you need a baby gift, let me know!!!).

I'm reminded once again how much I appreciate doctors, nurses and other medical professionals. It's not a glamorous job by any means, and what they do requires a load of compassion. We are so grateful they studied so long and hard and they take their jobs so seriously. Thanks to you all!

Blessings to all who read this!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

No TV, New Ride

I've been without television for two weeks now.

I know!

I can hardly believe it myself. But we just got tired of Direct TV going out every time the wind blows. So we just let it go. In the meantime, Larry has been looking at other options. He had a guy with Comcast on the phone forever the other night, and I thought the deal was done. But in the end, Larry got tired, and told the guy he'd call back later. Hasn't happened yet...

 So, we've had no TV. No local news. No morning shows. No Regis and Kelly in the morning (usually only background noise). No HGTV or TLC (like I need to see which house the rich people choose for their vacation home on "House Hunters International."). And no Real Housewives of NY/Atlanta/Orange County, etc. (So long Nene, Kim & her wig, Phaedra, Candy, and all the other housewives...)

The crazy thing is that I haven't really missed it. I have come to realize what a time waster TV is in my life. Work a little...take a break and watch TV. Wash clothes...turn on TV to fold laundry. And on it goes.

I came home from Girlfriend Weekend (the book/author extravaganza in Texas, in case you are reading this blog for the first time) with over 20 *FREE* books! In the past week, I've finished one Fannie Flagg book, read "Beguilded" by Deanne Gist, and have started Fannie Flagg's newest book. This morning, instead of stitting like a zombie in front of a home improvement show, I knitted a hat. A really cute hat. And that was before 10am!

Maybe it's a good thing we are without TV right now. That means that we have no cable bill. Which means that money can now go towards my new car note--the one I'll have to pay monthly for the next few years.

That's right!

***I got a new car! ***

My 2001 Impala, with nearly 200,000 miles on it, was dying an ugly death right before my eyes. We've poured $1500+ into it over the past six months, and was just getting worse by the day. When Larry had to run errands Monday, I suggested he take my car (I'm no dummy!). He came home in a car from the Watson Hyundai dealership in Canton (where he happened to be when the oil light came on in the Impala). After test driving a car a day for five days, we settled on a sporty 2011 Elantra Limited. (I must take a moment to testify how wonderful the folks at that dealership were to deal with. EASY and not pushy at all.)
You have to understand that I'm not big into cars. I just really want something that will get me where I want to go in a realiable and comfortable manner. (I keep thinking of those obnoxious car commercials that used to run a few years ago with the guy "singing," I Want a Car....I Want a Car I Can DRIIIIIIVEEEE!!!)
It had gotten to where I couldn't even drive the Impala out of town, which had me feeling a bit trapped. I like to know I can go when I'm ready!

Well, this little car is just as cute as can be, and it is fully loaded with all kinds of gadgets like Bluetooth so I can just push a button on my steering wheel to answer the phone, built-in XM radio, seat warmers, an iPod dock, etc. AND it gets great gas mileage, which is good, as Larry said he paid $2.99 for gas the other day.

Oh, and I got something else new. A job! With some of my regular writing gigs drying up (I used to write 4-6 articles for the Clarion-Ledger/Madison County Herald/NE Ledger a week, and now I'm down to two Faith articles a month for the Herald), I had to look for steady income. So I applied for/interviewed and got a job with the National Alliance for Mental Illness (again...I know!) as their special events coordinator. I'll be planning and coordinating the annual conference in April and a big fundraising walk in October, among other things. It's part-time, so I'll still have plenty of time to write, sell Scentsy (order online at!), sell cPRIME (order online at!) and knit hats to sell. Sounds like alot, but I think I can do it all. Scentsy pays for Joe's tuition, and I want to sell enough cPRIME so that I can pay for Nicole to be in Pilates at least two days a week. The hat money is for me to go to Maine in May to write a book on Nicole's journey.

That Pilates thing is important...Nicole's therapy is winding down. Funding has been depleted and she's being cut loose by Quest (a division of Methodist Rehab). To maintain her current physical status, and to continue to improve, she's going to need to keep working out with Eclecius several times a week. Adding Pilates will help with her core body strength. None of that is covered by insurance at all...and we're looking at about $400-$500/month, so if I have to go without TV to help pay for it, I will.

Let me just give you all a bit of advice: stay off the roofs of buildings if you can...the cost of falling off of one is astronomical!

It will all work out...always has. We are thankful to have the "challenges" we have. We fully understand the alternative.

I'm asking a favor of all who read this. One is to post a comment below if you feel so moved...I sure like reading them! The other is to "follow" this blog. There is a difference between "subscribing" and "following." I'd love for you to do both, but when you follow it, I can get a better idea of who is reading it. And the more followers I have, the more excited I get and more motivated to write.
Blessings to all who read this!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

On the Road Again...and Ready to Write!

I'm psyched about writing again! Yep, I'm encouraged, motivated, inspired and ready to write!

What in the world has gotten into me? Well, first of all, I'm still on the "Girlfriend's Weekend" high! It was my second annual trek to Jefferson, Texas for the long weekend extravaganza that is all about authors, books, readers, and fun. I can't even say it's unorganized, because I think to be UN-organized, you have to first be organized, which that event is not. Yet, miraculously, it all seems to come together, and despite things not being done the way I'd do them, it's awesome! (And the best part is, I didn't have to do it, so who am I to complain?)

To give you an idea what Girlfriend's Weekend is all about, take a look at this:
Yep...that's Fannie Flagg, talking to the group about her writing life, and her new book I Still Dream About You. (Which I did get signed!). Later on that evening, she joined us at the "Big Ball of Hair," where everyone was to dress as their favorite book character. She came as a grown-up version of Pippi Longstocking. It was hysterical! I even got her to do a "happy birthday Dolores, DORIS!" video for my mama! (She got the name wrong the first time, then looked dead in the camera and said "Well Doris, now you know that I've gone completely insane!!!")

We were dressed as Kathy Patrick, the author of

(Which, by the way, you can get for one cent right now on
With $3.99 shipping, that's only $4 for the book!) Our club took first place for our costumes!

Pat Conroy was back for a second year, along with his daughter, Melissa, who wrote a children's book called "Poppy's Pants." Many wonderful authors were there as well, including one of our bookclub favorties and Mississippi native, Neil White, author of "In the Sanctuary of Outcasts." Now, Neil is quite a handsome fellow, but he had to step out in drag this weekend, and I don't want to be the one to tell him that he makes one ugly woman!
That's Neil on the left, posing with one of our bookclub members, Cherry Prather. Don't let his looks fool you--he's a wonderful author, and if you haven't read his book, you should do so. Here are a few more pics from our fun weekend:

Fried Green Tomatoes, in honor or Fannie Flagg's visit.

A dozen or so Kathy Patricks posing with the REAL Kathy Patrick!

Jamie Ford, author of Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet,  with his wife
Enough said.
After dinner at LaMacha's, in the historic Jefferson Inn.
Pat Conroy signing his new book, My Writing Life, for Brownie Shott.

So, as if I wasn't inspired to write after going to Girlfriend Weekend, I've had several more literary experinces. Our bookclub (the BB Queens) met Monday night at Lemuria, where we discussed the book "Janeology," by Karen Herington. We met Karen in Texas, and she agreed to do a call-in during our discussion. It's always inspiring to hear the authors tell about their books.

Also this week, I went to a meeting of the Mississippi Writer's Guild, of which I am a member. Nancy Kay Wessman went with me, as we have decided to be "writing partners." I haven't been to a MWG meeting in several months, and there were lots of new faces there. It was fun meeting fellow writers, and hearing what kinds of things they are working on. Afterwards, I went to Nancy Kay's, and we shared what our plans and aspirations are for books written and in the works. We are going to pace each other, meeting weekly to hold each other accountable so that we'll do a better job of staying on track. My main focus now is preparing to write a book on Nicole's journey. I'm going to Maine the entire month of May to write. There are lots of ducks to get in a row before then, especially my financial ducks...I've got to make some money and fast!!!

One of the ways I'm raising money for my trip is by selling hand-knitted caps...hand-knitted by ME! I learned how to do it now long ago, and ever since I've been a knitting fool. I'm primarily making baby hats (makes a great baby gift!!!), but can make children and adult hats, too. If you want to give a thoughtful gift that will help a starving writer, let me know! I'm packaging them up really cute and they'll be ready to give. Here's one I made on the way to Jefferson last Thursday:

If you want a hat, email me at I'll email you photos/prices of ones I have on hand,
or I'll knit one up in the color(s) of your choice!

I was motivated enough to write this blog today, and now I'm off to the next big adventure (a new car?! We'll see! Stay tuned!!!).

Blessings to all who read this!


Monday, January 10, 2011

Goodbye, 2010!

The older I get, the faster time flies. I really believe this to be so. How else can you explain it being January 10 and I am just now getting around to writing my first blog post of the new year?

It seems I had it much more together last year. So, I'm putting my best foot forward and making an attempt to do at least as well this year, if not somewhat better. Don't want to put too much pressure on myself!

Last year, I did a recap of 2009 , complete with photos, lest I forget all that we did/accomplished. Recording those memories seemed really important to me following Nicole's accident, because it was a way to measure how far she's come. But in the past year, she has settled into a new normal. There is no need to point out each milestone, no matter how large or small...because they are more a part of her everyday normal life. I understand that so many people clung on to each accomplishment because it was a reaffirmation that all was going to be OK. But now we know that for sure. No need to convince ourselves.

But it doesn't hurt to look see that the days weren't just whirring by, but that each month was filled with things that enhanced our lives. Days filled with friends, family, laughter and joy. So what if the bank account has been totally depleted? Our lives are rich and full with the many blessings that have been bestowed upon us!

January-February--March 2010
I went to a fun event called Girlfriend's Weekend in Jefferson, TX with ladies from my bookclub. What a hoot! One of my favorite authors, Pat Conroy, was among the many authors who were there.
The best part, however, was spending the weekend with girlfriends who are intellegent, motivated, creative and fun! These are women who don't wait for things to happen--they think them up then they DO IT!

Also in January, I lost the Nature Made GOOD MOOD BLOGGER gig contest. I came in second with over 10,000 votes. All that got me was a year's supply of SAM-e and a yoga mat. But, thanks for your votes!
This blogging thing has gotten serious, and I wanted to learn more. So off I went to Nashville to attend the Blissdom 2010 Blogging Conference at the Opryland Hotel. My friend, Nell Floyd, rode up there with me and we stayed with one of my bestest buds, Carol Terry. I learned alot about blogging--mostly that I am way behind on the technology curve and that I had alot to learn about Twitter, Tweetdeck, etc., but it left me wanting to learn more. The highlight of the event was seeing handsome Harry Connick, Jr. live in concert. I was really close to the stage, which was in a small little "nightclub" inside the Opryland Hotel. It was a night to remember!
There were some milestones in January as well...things to celebrate, and things to mourn.
Nicole had her last day at Methodist Rehab's outpatient therapy clinic in Flowood in January. She "graduated" to Quest, which focuses more on independent living skills. Her therapists threw her a big party.
Sadness came with the death of Bob Rall--"Chopper Bob"--a dear friend and that familiar voice we heard each morning on WLBT.
Valentine's Day and love was in the air. Joe has really fallen head over heels for pretty Emily White. They are rarely apart, and love to have their photo taken together. I especially like this one:
I had the opportunity to tell Nicole's story--again--in the February 2010 issue of PORTICO jackson. It's not an easy story to tell, but at the same time, I get so much joy sharing the fact that miracles do happen, and we had the blessing of having one happen in our own lives. I'm happy to share that story with the world, because it certainly gives people hope.
And speaking of HOPE, Nicole is simply shot up with it! So much so that she concieved, planned and executed "An Evening of HOPE" as a way to give back to the community that gave so much to her. The event benefitted a cause close to her heart: "Ask for More Arts," which helps make sure the arts are a part of our children's education. I was so proud of all she put together, from the dinner to the art auction to the dances. Oh the dances! She choreographed some very elaborate dances which were performed by students in the Belhaven Department of Dance.
You can see video of the dance here
The awesome poster was designed by Talamieka Brice. The video was produced by Jef Judin of 4Tell Films. It was also a night to remember!

I had the chance to take another girl's trip in March--this time to Fairhope, Alabama with my super wonderful nextdoor neighbor, Phyllis Geary, and some other fabulous women. We stayed in a spectacular home and went to an incredible arts festival. I was again surrounded by remarkable women who inspired me so much! (Did I use enough adjectives in this paragraph? If not, add stupendous and fantabulous anywhere in there!)
April-May-June 2010
Nicole and I spent Easter with friends Sunny and Crystal on the banks of the Pearl River where we witnessed a old-fashioned Baptism. It was a picture perfect day and such a special and meaningful way to spend the holiday.

A fun event was held at the Methodist Rehab Extended Care facility--a fundraiser for the Wilson Research Foundation. It was called Walk n' Roll, and Nicole's team raised over $1000! But the big thing is that she walked in the event--one mile--without assistance. A pretty big deal for someone who had to learn to walk twice!

She also danced a bit, too!

I just love new beginnings, and we got to witness a very special one when friends Domenick DiPaolo married Tiffany! What a fun wedding! Those folks from Philly really know how to party!

June is a perfect time for new things, and our favorite new thing this year is a precious baby named Liam! He's the grandson of my bookclub buddy, Leslie Puckett (who takes her role of "Oma" very seriously!" and the son of one of Nicole's high school friends, Cricket McIllwaine. He came a month early, gave us all a big scare, but in the end turned out to be the cutest, funnest baby ever!

Life was pretty uneventful for a few months, and that was a good thing. I continued to write, although the publishing world is feeling the effects of the economic crisis, too, and freelance work has been slowing down. More and more publications are using staff writers. Thanks to Anita Hand in Birmingham, I became a consultant for Scentsy. It's a great product and I'm having fun selling it. To see what it's all about, just visit my website! And yes, you can place orders online (this is how I am paying Joey-Joe's college tuition!)

July-August-September 2010
July 5, a much-anticiapted segment ran on the CBS Early Show. It was a segment about Nicole that was actually shot back in March (remember the Evening of HOPE? The CBS crew and Betty Nguyen were all here then...but the story didn't air until July!) It was a really good piece, and Nicole has used it at some of her speaking engagements. To see the segment, click here.

That's Paige Kendig (a producer from CBS), Betty Nguyen and Nicole, playing with Nicole's Wii Dance (which was later stolen...grrrrrrr.).
In August, Nicole made two really big moves. The first was a literal move--out of our house and into a rental house in Belhaven with roommates. The next was to travel to Seattle, Washington, ALONE, to attend the wedding of friends she made while she was an acting apprentice at Actor's Theatre in Louisville, KY. Jake and Ruthie became mine and Larry's friends, too, when Nicole was in NY Presbyterian Hospital. They came to visit often. Nicole made the trip to Seattle just fine, and it was proof that she is well on her way to total independence.
The house wasn't such a good deal, however. The landlord we were so impressed with turned out to be a real jerk, and we're pretty sure that the handyman stole her Wii. That's really unfortunate, as she used it often for therapy. She had the Wii Fit and Wii Dance. Now it's gone, and we can't afford to replace it. Bummer.
While Nicole was in Seattle, I went to Monroe, LA with my parents for the Beebe Family Reunion. Always fun to see others on the same family tree!

This summer, Nicole and I were honored to be Honorary Chicks at the Jackson Free Press's annual Chick Ball at Hal & Mal's. I had a great time with fun friends and felt honored to be in the company of the other Honorary Chicks that night.
Nicole's motivational speaking career has picked up, and that's a good thing for sure. She's made over 35 talks since her accident. Most have been to schools, civic clubs and local organizations, but she has made a few to some big groups at conferences, including the Mississippi Arts Commision conference and the Rehabilitation Association of Mississippi conference at Silver Star. She is now represented by the Premier Speakers Bureau in Nashville. Time to make a living!

The biggest thing to take place this quarter was mine and Larry's 30th anniversary. We always have intentions of celebrating big, but the follow-through doesn't always happen (we spent our 25th anniversary eating at Backyard Burger...). But Nicole made sure the occasion was celebrated in a big way with a surprise party at Hal & Mal's with many of our close friends. And yes, we really were surprised. And yes, it was loads of fun!!!

School started again and Joe continued to work hard at Holmes, majoring in occupational therapy. He also got a job at Majestic Burger that he really seems to enjoy. Go by during lunch and he'll be at the counter, ringing up your order! He and I are both distributors for cPRIME, an incredible band that is worn around the wrist that helps with balance, strength, flexiblity and endurance. We both love them (Nicole, Larry and my parents all wear them too, and they are all believers!).

It's another income stream for me, which is sorely needed, as all the medical bills have really caught up with us in a big way (as in, we are tapped out). Want to learn more about cPRIME? Check out my website (and yes, you can order online!) Another shameless plug!

Fall brought a performance at the historic Alamo Theatre for the CD release party of Eclektik Soul...

What's that? Special performance by Nicole Marquez???

A move to a new house for Nicole....

Nicole also went to Sedona, Arizona for two weeks to take a 100-hour certification course called "Yoga Meets Dance," and she taught a series of free classes at Joyflow Yoga in Ridgeland to introduce it to people here...
She's now teaching at Joyflow every Tuesday at 10:30am and 4pm, and Fridays at 4pm. It's a great workout that's lots of fun. PLEASE go, and take a friend...this will help pay Nicole's rent!!!

I attended the Oxford Creative Nonfiction Workshop in Oxford in November, in preparation of writing a book about Nicole's accident/recovery. I was overwhelmed, but learned so much. I'm ready.

Nicole's also finding her way into things that are close to her heart. She's on the board of the MS Brain Injury Association and she's on the MS Spinal Cord/Brain Injury Trust Fund Advisory Committee. I'm still very involved with the USM Alumni Association of Central MS (I'm president-elect!), the Whisper Lake Garden Club, and I'm excited to be on the board of the Millsaps Arts & Lecture series.

Nicole and I spent the first week of December in New York with sweet Megan Poole. Nic was asked to do a testimonial commercial for New York Presbyterian Hospital, so they flew us up there and we stayed several days at the fabulous NY Hilton, just around the corner from Times Square. It was a star-studded trip to say the least, and we will remember it always! Look for Nicole's commercial in a couple of months...(of course, I'll post links!!!)

Two divas...Nicole and Patti LaBelle!

Nicole, Tina Fey and Megan, on the set of "30 Rock."

Megan,  Nicole and actor Steve Harvey in the studio of Good Morning America.

We also got to visit the wonderful folks in the Neuro-ICU at NY Presbyterian while we were there...It was especially fun seeing Mary Grace Savage (second from right) who was featured with Nicole in the PBS "NOW" segment called Nurse's Needed. (Check it out here).

Larry still works too hard and too long at the Country Club of Jackson, where they really are wonderful to him. He is grateful to be there after nearly 24 years.

My parents are doing great (thanks to their cPRIME bands!). We spent Christmas together with my sister's family in Nashville and were treated to a white Christmas!

New Year's Eve found us scattered--Larry at work, Joe and Emily in New Orleans, Nicole in Austin and Roxie and I hunkered down during tornado warnings at home.

And now it's 2011. And this week I'm heading out to Jefferson, Texas again with my girlfriends. This is also the year I write THE BOOK. I'm planning on spending the month of May in Maine to write. Joe is working on opening a retail store, probably in Madison, that will sell nutritional supplements. A bold move for such a young man. I have every faith in his abilities to make it happen. Nicole is wrapping up her therapy at Quest, and will soon be on her own altogether. I'm hoping she can earn enough money with her Yoga Meets Dance classes and motivational speaking to pay her rent/utilities and to pay for her daily workouts with Eclecius.

I have high hopes for you, 2011! We've been pushed down enough, and so far, we keep popping back up...that's something the Marquez's are really good at! I think we're all going to do just fine!

Blessings to all who read this!