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Thursday, July 21, 2011

True friends, keepers, and my favorite new MG author, Leslie Blow Rivvers

When I was in high school, I had two best friends. But as in life, the friendships didn't bleed into one another, were disparate, and each had their own purpose. One of those was Leslie Blow, now Leslie Rivvers. She was a blond beauty, on the cheerleading squad, a tiny pint of power, and an amazing friend. The fact that she was one of my best friends was ironic considering I was a geek (hard to imagine, right?), not a blond cheerleader and part of the "in-crowd," and I dated a football player from the rival school (treason in Alabama). I remember sleeping over at her house and daydreaming about college outside of Alabama. We both felt the need to escape. And I remember powdering our noses in physics class and joking (in a completely dorky way) about why putting a little powder on our noses would somehow make us infinitely more beautiful.

Bottom line: we got each other. But, life continued and we literally moved to the opposite ends of the country. She went to Alaska (then to Vermont) and I moved to Miami. We both married, had careers and kids, and then (no props intended) through the beauty that is Facebook, we reconnected. And the 8,000 miles and 20 years melted away. I love looking at pictures of her babies, Cameron and Grace, and chatting about how our paths paralleled one another. We both moved far from Alabama, but we both have an anchor in our Alabama roots. And we both love writing.

Leslie blessed me with her wisdom and edited my new novel, "The Beauty of Grace." Her comments were honest and incredibly helpful. She then honored me with the first draft of the first few chapters of her middle-grade novel, "Blackberries and Cream." I loved it and knew I could be honest with her about my thoughts.

You know how you have those friends who because of life's chaos you go months, even years, without talking to, but when you do, it's as if life hit a pause button? They're keepers.

Monday, July 11, 2011

My Mama's Smile

When my little brother, Todd, started talking as a toddler, he couldn't say my name because he couldn't say the "L." So he called me "Seesa." It only lasted a short time, but my parents found it adorable. Throughout my childhood, my Mom would affectionately call me "Seesa" sometimes. I haven't heard it or even thought about it in years.

Then two weeks ago, I flew down to Alabama to visit my dad and check on my mom. Her condition over the last six months has remained unchanged. She is wheelchair and bed-bound. She's lost her speech and depends on her caregivers to literally do everything for her. Most days, she sits with her eyes shut. Lost in the abyss of her disease. The day I arrived in Alabama, I found her in that condition. She opened her eyes for just a moment, but looked right through me. She didn't recognize my face. Of course it broke my heart.

But the next day as I leaned into her face, my dad whispered, "Seesa's here." My mom's eyes opened, she looked at me, and she laughed. A few more times that day, I would lean over and say, "Mommy, it's Seesa." Each time, she opened her eyes and then smiled at me. My voice--and my dad's--reached down deep into the recesses of her memory and snagged a tiny piece of her. Her dementia has smothered her almost entirely, but pieces still exist. Floating around in her darkness. And familiar voices combined with a word anchored in love reached her.

Last night, I wanted to give up on my writing dream. The chaos of life with young children and a busy husband loomed over me, shadowing my dream of getting published. It often feels like a painful exercise in futility. But then my fingers touch the keyboard and the words flow. Despite my focus on the business side of this endeavor, I am reminded of why I began the journey in the first place. Writing has always been, above all else, my catharsis. My love of words and the comfortable familiarity of the solitude reach deep inside of me and pull my fears, my pain, my frustration, and my joy from where I've buried them. Writing reaches into me and brings light to my eyes. Reminding me of who I actually am.