Are you ready for Thanksgiving?

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Thanksgiving is only a week away- shocking, right? I still have Halloween decorations up-although I had no trouble putting away the Halloween candy :). free-halloween-clip-art-illustrations_098203_halloween2Some mixed emotions have made their way to the surface-Thanksgiving week 2 years ago, my mom began what would become two and a half months of hospital visits. But, it’s also when I signed my contract with Sky Pony Press to publish THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM.

This November, my daughter left her teen years behind and turned 20! I still can’t wrap my head around that one. I mean, there’s no way that I’m 20 years older… So, it makes me nostalgic for her younger years and of course my mom was also a big part of that.

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Then, I think way back to a Thanksgiving about 15 years ago, I mistakenly thought I had very little to be thankful for. My body betrayed me with unbearable pain. I spent most of my time at the doctor’s office, physical therapy, or in the hospital. I had to give up the career I worked so hard to achieve, and I didn’t feel that I could participate in my daughter’s life as much as other mothers did with their children. I went through quite an embarrassingly long pity party (one that even crispy rice treats could not help); until I realized that even though I lost opportunities in my life-I was alive (which was touch & go for a while), my daughter was healthy, and my husband loved me.

Now I can look back and see how far I’ve come since one chapter in my life ended and I began to write new ones (figuratively and literally).

In early October, I had my New England Book Launch at An Unlikely Story Bookstore and Café in Plainville MA. Being able to discuss and sign my book with family, close friends who had known and cared about my mother for years, as well as friends I hadn’t seen in such a long time, made me feel so loved! I’m grateful that I had that opportunity and that they were so happy to share that moment with me. On top of that, the bookstore, (which you really should visit if you live near there-it’s magical), is owned by Jeff Kinney, author of THE WIMPY KID Series (yup, that Jeff Kinney) so he has some incredible NYT Bestselling authors that visit. I signed the same author guest book that Rick Riordan signed three days before I was there!

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While in New England, I had been invited to visit the public middle school in my hometown of Woonsocket, RI. I had never presented to 125 6th graders before, and they were a wonderful audience. I got back so much more from these students than I had given them.

A couple weeks later I was invited to do my first solo author session at the North Carolina School Library Media Association annual conference in Winston-Salem.I was nervous, but met so many great librarians, authors, and teachers.

Earlier this month, I participated in Charlotte Mecklenburg(CM) Library Foundation’s—EpicFest. Authors involved in this literary festival were award winning, New York Time Bestsellers, and me. I wanted to keep pinching myself to be sure I wasn’t dreaming. The CM Library arranged two fantastic school visits – my first high school-North Mecklenburg High School in Huntersville, and Wadell Language Academy in Charlotte. Both classes studied Japanese. Thankfully, they didn’t expect me to speak Japanese because they would’ve been sadly dissapointed. They know far more Japanese words than I do 🙂

The big CM Library celebration was on Saturday at ImaginOn in Charlotte. Over 2,000 children/teens were there to hear and meet their favorite author or illustrator. It was so great for me to meet and chat with these authors and illustrators, so I can only imagine what their fans felt like!epicfestimaginon

(with NYT best selling MG author,Tui Sutherland)

THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM was also on sale at the festival.  Being able to meet so many tweens/teens that wanted to read my book, or had read my book and wanted to tell me what they liked about it brought me such joy.

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Most recently I’ve been invited to book clubs. It’s been interesting visiting groups that have already read my book.

As I look back to all the events that led me to right here, recovering from a pain flare, one week before Thanksgiving, I’m truly grateful that my life didn’t go on the path I had originally thought it should. Because, if I hadn’t spent extra time with my mom and heard the stories of her childhood while I recovered, if my family didn’t have to move to a warmer climate because of my RSD, and if my daughter hadn’t asked her teacher if I could speak to her class about my mom’s experience on August 6th – I wouldn’t have a book. So because of some unexpectected turns, I can now meet and discuss my mom’s story with students (our future voters), about the danger of nuclear weapons, and the need to realize the “enemy” is not always so different from ourselves.

My mom had said that even though she experienced horrific events in her life, it eventually led her to having me and my daughter. She called us her life lines-we gave her new hope. I’m grateful for my mom’s love and support that she gave us all up until she passed away. I’m also grateful for all I’ve been blessed with in my life-detours and all. Wishing you all a blessed Thanksgiving -whether you’re where you expected to be or not & whether your Halloween decorations are still up or not 🙂

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Waiting to be Found

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Have you ever searched all over the house to look for a lost item, say, your checkbook? Worse yet you know you recently had it in your hand. Maybe, something caught your attention along the way and you placed it down. Perhaps it’s the moment you remembered that you needed the extra extension cord for the Christmas tree. Since you have forgotten to look for one the past week, you decide to search for it immediately.

Of course the place you could swear you saw it last year-nope, no longer there. As you ponder where it could be, you realize that the mailman will come soon and you need to get that paid bill into the mailbox. Now where did you set that checkbook?

Okay, I confess—that was me earlier this week.

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My family is in the midst of celebrating Advent. Advent is known to be a season of waiting-waiting to celebrate the birth of our Lord and celebrate the joy in waiting for Him to return. Little children are waiting for Santa or waiting for the Elf to give his report from the shelf.

This past Thanksgiving, I found myself waiting and feeling extremely lost—no, not because my husband wouldn’t ask for directions to where we were having Thanksgiving dinner—not this year anyway.

My mother was very ill in the hospital and I have never felt so adrift with worry. Minutes seemed like hours wondering if her body could fight back or if I would lose her. Normally, I would research as much as I could to know what to expect, yet that day before Thanksgiving I found myself paralyzed with fear of the uncertainty of whether she would make it through. Only once I heard from the Specialist that the worst was over and she stabilized, I researched in earnest (you had to see that coming).

Adrenaline pushed me through that critical week and I would be there until the wee hours of the morning. Now for people who do not know me, I turn into a pumpkin after 9pm. So, I definitely knew another source of strength was at hand. I had some of my Tenn. family visiting and she stayed with me at the hospital. Not only was she a comfort to me, but my mother was comfortable with her there because she had known her for many years. She also is an early to bed kind of gal, but she stayed with me. She gently, but firmly pushed me to leave, so I would have strength to continue the next day.

I am very lucky that in addition to receiving the support and strength from her, my husband and daughter, I also have my NC family. My NC family took us in when we first moved here and we knew no one. I can’t imagine my life without them!

They all helped me, each in their own way; to find the where-with-all to push through the emotional pain so I could focus on the best way to help my mother. Eventually the physical pain caught up with me—RSD does not like stress and makes a point to really let you know. I lost some blog posts because I could barely move let alone write a coherent sentence that anyone would want to read.

The thing of it is I had to find the strength and recognize the help God gave to me when I was lost in the, as they say in the South, “hot mess” of it all.

Waiting goes hand in hand with writing. I wait for the right words to strike. Yet sometimes, I find I get too caught up in something sounding perfect as soon as my pen hits the paper (yes, I am old school). I have found that I just need to write what pops into my mind and eventually (sometimes days later), the polished words will come. After all, there is plenty of time for edits, edits, and more edits.

Once I finally completed my, I don’t know, say my 5th or 6th draft of THE LAST CHERRY BLOSSOM manuscript, the next step was to wait for a response from a query to an agent or editor. During that wait I had wondered, maybe I lost what inkling of writing talent I believed I once had, or worse, maybe I don’t have any at all? Yet the more I thought about it, I came to the conclusion that I am not happy unless I am creating something. I found that I needed to write. My body may have lost some of what it used to be capable of to RSD.  But, I found that my brain did not have to be lost along with it!

When I stopped searching for perfection and released some of my fear of making mistakes, I wrote at my best (for me anyway). When I found a Literary Agent, Anna Olswanger, who could see potential in my manuscript, it was an early Christmas gift last year!

My mom still has a long journey ahead with her health, but we are finding strength in our faith and one another.

Oh, and if you are wondering about that missing extension cord- I went out and bought a new one. Guess what I found in another box of Christmas decorations the very next day?

I would love to hear of your ‘waiting to be found’ situation.  Please tell me what happened for you?

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