Category Archives: “Tales2Inspire Writer’s Contest”

* THE GIFT OF FAMILY by Donna Surface

When I was introduced to Pat Surface he was sitting down. Then he stood up to shake my hand, and it seemed like he just kept going . . . up. I am only 5′ tall and at nearly 6’8″ Pat’s stature, and his story, both really impressed me.

Pat’s future didn’t look very promising in 1957. He was abandoned as a newborn infant and brought to an orphanage in St. Paul, Minnesota. Little Pat was placed in a series of foster homes, where, he later learned, he was treated pretty badly. After the last family brought him back to the orphanage, he was completely traumatized. As a result, he ‘acted out’ in ways that made him, well, less than ‘adoptable.’

But in every happy ending story there is a turning point, and in this story it started with a phone call from the orphanage to Lillian and A.J. Surface, a couple who had already adopted two children from their agency. ”Would they consider adopting one child more?” Well, they honestly couldn’t afford a third child, so this was not an easy decision for them. But an inner voice whispered to them and, fortunately for Pat, they listened. Pat says he was ‘rescued’ instead of adopted when he was brought to Grand Rapids, MN to live with his new family. He thinks of his adoption date as the day he was born.

A surprise for Pat’s parents – he grew tall. Very tall. They struggled to keep him in clothing that fit. Pat didn’t stop growing until he reached nearly 6’8″, a natural basketball star in the making. Actually he did become a college all-star, a MVP of the largest amateur basketball team in the country, a member of a semi-pro exhibition team, and eventually a college basketball coach. But he yearned for more.

Pat grew up with his brother, Jim, of Korean and Hispanic heritage, and his Native American sister, Linda. The gift of being included in this blended family fueled his appreciation of diversity. It never occurred to him to view anyone as ‘different.’

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Pat and his beloved guitar

 Pat’s future didn’t look very promising in 1957. He was abandoned as a newborn infant and brought to an orphanage in St. Paul, Minnesota. Little Pat was placed in a series of foster homes, where, he later learned, he was treated pretty badly. After the last family brought him back to the orphanage, he was completely traumatized. As a result, he ‘acted out’ in ways that made him, well, less than ‘adoptable.’

But in every happy ending story there is a turning point, and in this story it started with a phone call from the orphanage to Lillian and A.J. Surface, a couple who had already adopted two children from their agency. ”Would they consider adopting one child more?” Well, they honestly couldn’t afford a third child, so this was not an easy decision for them. But an inner voice whispered to them and, fortunately for Pat, they listened. Pat says he was ‘rescued’ instead of adopted when he was brought to Grand Rapids, MN to live with his new family. He thinks of his adoption date as the day he was born.

A surprise for Pat’s parents – he grew tall. Very tall. They struggled to keep him in clothing that fit. Pat didn’t stop growing until he reached nearly 6’8″, a natural basketball star in the making. Actually he did become a college all-star, a MVP of the largest amateur basketball team in the country, a member of a semi-pro exhibition team, and eventually a college basketball coach. But he yearned for more.

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Pat, center, with his sister, Linda and brother, Jim

Pat grew up with his brother, Jim, of Korean and Hispanic heritage, and his Native American sister, Linda. The gift of being included in this blended family fueled his appreciation of diversity. It never occurred to him to view anyone as ‘different.’

Another gift from his family was his love of music. His mom was born a LaPlant, a family with a strong musical heritage. Her mother, Bessie LaPlant, was related to William Boyd, known as Hopalong Cassidy, The Singing Cowboy. She passed her musical legacy on to her eleven children. Years later, Pat wrote the song, “Belle of the Ball”, to honor her.

The LaPlants have been fiddle champions for decades, best known for their gospel and bluegrass music. They are also well-recognized for their instrument building skills with LaPlant crafted instruments, described by The Minnesota Monthly Magazine as “exquisite guitars and flawless mandolins of national note”. Pat remembers the day he received his first LaPlant guitar – he was 19, it was Christmas, and the gift changed his life. To this day, Pat plays the guitars hand-built by his eighty-two year old Uncle Lloyd LaPlant – the master builder whose amazing guitars and mandolins are used by famous bluegrass performers even today.

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Uncle Lloyd, Pat, his mom, and Uncle String

Music was calling Pat, and in 1987 it became his full-time commitment.

This story continues in the Tales2Inspire™  

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Emerald Collection

COVER IDEAS FOR THE TALES2INSPIRE EMERALD COLLECTION

 

 

 

 

I have asked Sean Somics, the terrific fellow who designed the T2I logo, if he would work with me on the cover. Below you can find three prototypes that we are working from and if you have an artistic eye, would appreciate your input.

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SAMPLE A WHAT I WANT TO KEEP: THE SHADES OF GREEN ON THIS SAMPLE

MY CONCERN: DOES  THE WHITE BOX AROUND THE EMERALD LOOKS TOO MUCH LIKE THE DESIGN TAKEN FROM A TEMPLATE? YOUR THOUGHTS?

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SAMPLE B – WHAT I LIKE: THE GREEN CURVED LINES CONTINUING DOWN THE COVER.

WHAT I WANT CHANGED:  THE GREENS NEED TO BE SHARPER AS IN SAMPLE A.  I DO NOT LIKE THE INTRODUCTION OF THE COLOR PURPLE TO THE TITLE AND MY NAME.

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SAMPLE CWHAT I LIKE: AGAIN, I LIKE THE GREEN CURVED LINES CONTINUING DOWN THE COVER

I ALSO LIKE THE BOLD BLACK COLOR USED FOR THE TITLE AND AM INCLINED TO ASK SEAN TO USE IT FOR THE “BEYOND COINCIDENCE ” and “CREATED BY . . . ” PARTS AS WELL WHAT DO YOU THINK?

WHAT I WANT CHANGED: NEED THE GREENS TO BE SHARPER AS IN SAMPLE A. I DO LIKE

WHAT I’M ALSO CONSIDERING:  ASKING FOR A LIGHT HALO AROUND THE EMERALD LOGO TO BREAK ALL THE GREEN.

ANY OTHER IDEAS? PLEASE SEND THEM TO ME AT: tales2inspire@optimum.net OR POST THEM IN A COMMENT BOX ON THIS BLOG. TO AVOID CONFUSION, PLEASE REFER TO EACH COVER YOU DISCUSS BY LETTER (SAMPLE A, B OR C)

MANY THANK

LOIS

* DRAGONFLIES AND THE GREAT BLUE HERON by James Osborne

For more than a decade, Great Blue Herons had a special meaning for Brad and Cindy. During those years, Brad had no hint this special meaning would one day acquire a much deeper significance.

The couple enjoyed watching the graceful herons at their summer cottage feed one hundred feet away, drawn by schools of minnows in a bay below their deck.

Brad and Cindy also saw the birds feed in a cove where they often anchored their boat overnight.Blue herons became their favorite bird. To celebrate their 30th wedding anniversary they commissioned a watercolor of a pair of blue heron.

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Watercolor of a pair of Blue Herons, commissioned by Brad and Cindy for their 30th wedding anniversary

The years slipped by, as they will.  Those thirty years edged toward thirty-five. Their prized painting hadn’t been framed.  One day, Brad sneaked it out and got it framed. On the night of their 35th anniversary, as they prepared to turn in, there was the framed painting above their bed, where Brad had just finished hanging it minutes earlier.

Three years later, Cindy lost her battle with cancer.  And Brad, well . . . was lost, too.

At Cindy’s memorial service, her  dear friend, Ellen led the service. She wanted to help Cindy’s young grandchildren comprehend what had occurred. Here is the story she told:

Once upon a time, a happy group of tiny bugs were playing on the bottom of a lily pond. One by one, the bugs climbed up a lily stem and disappeared. Those left behind wondered what had happened to their friends.  Then they agreed the next bug to venture beyond the surface of the pond would return and tell the others what they’d experienced.  

One day, a bug left and found itself on a lily pad. It fell asleep. When it awoke, the warm sunshine had dried its body. Instinctively, it spread the wings it had grown while asleep and began flying away. The bug had become a beautiful dragonfly with four resplendent wings. Then it remembered the promise. It swooped back toward the surface of the pond and headed downward. The dragonfly hit the surface and could go no farther. It was not able to return. Finally, it realized the others would just need to have faith that it was going to be all right.

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Original photo contributed by Sonia M. Smith

Before she passed away, Cindy had asked Brad to make two promises to her:

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE TALES2INSPIRE™

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EMERALD COLLECTION

Finalist award – 2013

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* SNOW PATROL AND WHAT THEY MEAN TO ME by Melissa Dallago

As part of the human condition, we try to forge connections and patterns with the world around us. This may be due in part to our need to have a semblance of balance and order in our lives in what is often a chaotic and ever changing world. As we travel through life, our brains are assimilating information and creating connections between the external and internal worlds. Music, I believe, is the strongest example of these connections.

How often have you found yourself listening to the radio and a song begins to play and you have a strong, visceral emotional reaction to it, whether it be a lyric, melody or thumping bass line, something in that song reach into you and shakes you, hard.

Upon being confronted with this reaction, your mind begins to form connections and you may find that the song relates to some facet of your life, either a moment of sadness, a moment of joy, or even a good time in a dance club.  Once that connection has been forged nothing can break it, and whenever you hear that song, you will smile knowingly and remember that moment of epiphany. Even more, that song may become your personal mantra, a source of strength; a part of the soundtrack of your life.  The band that I have forged such a connection with is Snow Patrol.

Snow Patrol has been together for 17 years. I was fortunate enough to find them in 2005 when they played at the State Theatre in St. Petersburg, Florida. When the band stepped onto the stage and the guitarist hit the first chords I felt myself come alive as the vibrations went through my body. This was my first time hearing their music, but instantly, I felt that I had known their music forever and that we were very old and comfortable friends.

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The very next day I tracked down their album Final Straw. I listened to the album continuously and I sang along trying to match harmonies and failing miserably. I forged connections with the songs and they altered my perspective on some of the events that were then occurring in my life.

Snow Patrol’s songs have masterful lyrics. You can listen to the songs over and over again, and while the lyrics may appear simple, if you listen to the tone of voice the lead singer Gary Lightbody uses and the open, poetic nature of the lines, you can infer a much deeper meaning from the song. Their lyrics are amazingly flexible, yet intimate; each person listening can take away an entirely different meaning. This lyrical ability is what, in my opinion, makes Snow Patrol so special. There are so many levels to their songs, some simple, others deeply complex, yet all true to life and comforting. They may sing about painful experiences, yet in each chord, each utterance, they offer hope and light.

At every juncture of my life Snow Patrol’s music has been relevant. When someone told me to “Open My Eyes” to the troubles of my three year relationship, their album Eyes Open played continuously. Upon opening my eyes I saw that the man who I thought I was going to spend the rest of my life with was, in fact, an alcoholic who was not only destroying himself, but me as well. Snow Patrol’s music gave me the courage to make the painful decision to end my relationship and move into my first apartment. Their soft lyrics calmed and embraced me as I cried and mourned the loss of my relationship.

Their steady bass line urged me down the path to truly discovering my inner strength and determination in learning who I really was. The “Lightening Strike” happened after I successfully conquered my inner demons and met my true self for the very first time. The song “Take Back the City” celebrated with me as I reached a pinnacle moment in my life when I discovered that I was a strong, amazing and fierce woman. Snow Patrol’s album A Hundred Million Suns echoed my shining happiness and joy in learning to truly accept and love myself.

Yet the happiness did not last as I began to “Run” after my father died in 2010. I grieved his passing for two long silent years when Snow Patrol’s songs were not played. During that time I experienced a darkness and depth of sadness that I never thought possible. Yet over time my pain eased and Snow Patrol’s music was there to welcome me back and reminded me that “This Isn’t Everything You Are.” Their album Fallen Empires gave me the reassurances that “Called Me Out of The Dark” as “Those Distant Bells” of life beckoned to me.

As my “Life-ning” began to happen I met my true love David. As we developed our relationship Snow Patrol’s song “Make This Go On Forever” was always on my mind. As the “Engines” of our love began to fire I sensed that my Dad had a hand in helping me to find David. Dad always said “You Could Be Happy” with the right person, and I am truly happy for the first time in my life. Snow Patrol’s music played when David and I decided to “Just Say Yes” to beginning a life together.  We moved in together last year, and a day does not pass without my being thankful to my Dad and the powers above for helping me to find a man who is my lover, my partner, and my best friend to share my life and “Chocolate” with.

Snow Patrol’s music has always played at each “Finish Line” in my life. Their music has become an affirmation of my life, love and existence. As Snow Patrol’s music and talents have evolved, so have I.

Seven years after our original meeting, Snow Patrol returned to St. Petersburg, Florida and blazed onto the stage at Janus Landing on March 31, 2012. Their concert was a homecoming for me and a musical review of how I have grown and how far I have come. At the end of their amazing concert, I was hopeful for a brighter future.

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Snow Patrol is an amazing band and I look forward to having their music as a part of my life for the next 7 years. It would be nice if they came back before that, but whenever they come back I will be there cheering them on again. This is why Snow Patrol means so much to me; their music is my touchstone, my anthem, my soundtrack.

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* BECOMING GRANDMOTHER . . . AGAIN – An inspiring story by Charlotte Snead

finalistIs this Korea? asked my grandson, sporting his backpack and holding on to his little suitcase rolling behind him, looked around the busy airport in Atlanta.

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Son, arriving at the airport

My husband grinned and whispered, It’s going to be a long trip! We were dropping our son and his family off for the first leg of their flights to pick up the sibling the four-year-old had longed to have for over a year. Big brother had seen him on video, exchanged photos, and finally he was going to get him!

When my son and his wife flew to Korea to bring their new son home, their counselors were wrong about two things. First, they warned the new father that his size would frighten the child because Korean men are not large. Give the boy time, they advised. Second, they told them not to present him to the extended family until he had adjusted to the nuclear family: father, mother, and four-year-old brother.

The first photo our photographer/daughter-in-law emailed to us was a picture of the tot sitting on his father’s lap, placing a tin pie plate on his dad’s head, and laughing. His dancing black eyes were full of mischief. The agency underestimated my Pied Piper giant. The family flew home in stages, first flying from Korea to Seattle, and then, several days later, to Baltimore. We continued to receive happy photos of the brothers tussling like baby bears, sleeping side by side, or contented ones of our new grandson nestled in his father’s arms.

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Brothers with their Grandmother

Shortly after they arrived home, I received a call. The new brother was adjusting beautifully, and they wanted to introduce him to grandma. Would grandmother come?

You betcha! My husband put me on a train, and I made the trip that day. We got along well, my grandson and I. Each morning I put him in the double stroller, walked him and his brother to the preschool to drop off the older boy, and then the little one and I rolled to the neighborhood coffee shop for juice and a treat. With language difficulties, the easiest way to get him down for a nap was to walk until he conked out in the stroller. Of course all passers-by wanted to know his story, and outside the Hyundai dealership, I proudly boasted about our beautiful boy.

Does he talk?, the lady asked.

Oh, constantly, but since it’s in Korean, I haven’t a clue what he’s saying.

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE

TALES2INSPIRE ~ TOPAZ COLLECTION

BEYOND COINCIDENCE

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To learn more about this book, click on the book cover, above.

To avoid publisher conflicts, only a portion of this story is posted here.

* AND THE MUSIC PLAYS ON by Charles Musgrave

Dan Johns is the ultimate all-round musician in our band – a tremendous leader with lots of enthusiasm. He started playing as a grade school child and joined a dance band in junior high school. Dan was an exceptional musician. He was chosen to play in every all-state high school band in Nebraska. Recognizing his talent as well as his thorough enjoyment of music, Dan’s band director suggested that he continue his musical studies in college. However, the United States Armed Services called him first to play in several army bands.

When he was discharged, Dan did enter a college music education program and signed up for the Nebraska Cornhusker marching band. The university band director, Dr. Don Lentz, selected Dan to be head Drum Major because he already had plenty of trumpets and needed someone tall to direct the band on the football field.

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Dan in college as head Drum Major

Academically, Dan found that he also had a talent for woodworking and carpentry. He graduated with a degree from the Vocational Department so he could teach Wood Shop to high school students. Soon afterwards, Dan obtained a teaching position in Colorado at their new high school in Springs, Colorado, where he spent the rest of his teaching career.

But that’s not the end of this story, only the beginning!  You see, his trumpet was his best friend (after his new wife, Jean) and he continued playing it in local dance bands every chance he got.. He landed a job as lead trumpet in the Tavern Band at the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs and played there for 30 years. During that time, as many musicians did, he was a smoker without thinking too much about it.  It was just a way to pass the time during breaks in the “gig.”

Jean and Dan retired to Arizona in 2001 because breathing in the high country of Colorado was becoming a problem and he had been diagnosed with C.O.P.D.

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Dan with his wife Jean

The dry desert air was what made life a lot more tolerable for him and his playing. He immediately volunteered with several of the bands in Sun City, Arizona. He found that several dance bands and concert bands were looking for talented retirees. He sat first chair in every band, and life was good. But during the next 10 years, breathing continued to become more and more difficult.

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Dan after his move to Arizona

In 2009, the doctors suggested that oxygen would alleviate some of the stress caused by the COPD. As most patients of this disease know, it is a “downhill run” as the body continues to lose lung capacity.  He tried to hide it from his friends for quite some time, until I challenged him to forget his vanity, and improve his performance.

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Dan, with some oxygen support, blowing his horn

In the spring of 2011, Dan’s medical condition worsened and he became weaker, needing more oxygen than his failing lungs could provide. Dan entered the local Del Webb hospital for tests to evaluate his lung function, which was found to be at only 15%.  As his breathing became more stressful, he had to take more rest periods assisted by larger and larger doses of morphine.

The members of the Desert Brass band wanted to give Dan a surprise concert at the hospital. I approached the hospital administrator with the idea. He gave us his full support. and even allowed us to gather beneath his window for this event. Dan was beside himself with emotion. He couldn’t believe his own eyes and ears. To think that his colleagues would give of their time and talent to support him.  It was so inspiring to watch his face.

Finally, Dan’s doctors determined that his body was in need of more care than the hospital could provide and called for Hospice supportive services to step in. Their mission was to maintain him while keeping his pain and stress levels to a minimum.

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE TALES2INSPIRE

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TOPAZ COLLECTION

winner_mintWINNER – 2013

* MAINTENANCE FOR MY SOUL: THE MAN FROM NOWHERE by Cami Ann Hofstadter

“Better be careful with that little bundle of yours.”

The voice startled me as I cradled my 6-week old son, “Toots,” while tiptoeing to my car from the neurosurgeon’s office in a small, one-story building. Leaving the usual puddles as its calling card, a typical Florida storm had come and gone quickly and made me mindful of each step. Tears partially clouded my view of a broom and pail at the edge of the parking lot. I stopped.

 “E-e-a-sy now.”

Towering over me was a burly, dark-skinned man in a white shirt and dark blue pants which I assumed to be the uniform of some maintenance crew. A large set of keys hung from his belt and he held a squeegee in one hand, as if getting ready to do something about the wet patches. I didn’t bother with a response because my mind was in the grip of fear over what was going to happen to my baby.

When “Toots” was born, my mother-in-law took to calling him “doll boy” because he was as perfect in her mind as a baby could be. His round face was topped with a wisp of blonde hair and his eyes were as blue as the waters surrounding Miami where we lived. He ate and slept like a champ and showed early signs of being a good-natured, easy-to-care-for baby. The pediatrician had declared him “perfectly healthy.” There was just one thing he wanted to have checked out by a neurosurgeon, he said, and that’s what had taken me to the small building I knew so well from our old friend Zacharias, who had his long-time dental practice in the same place.

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Toots at 4 months of age

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Growing s-o-o big

“Wait…,” the man said when he saw me turn away. “Why are you crying?” His voice was both insistent and surprisingly velvety for such a big man. You can tell me.

“N-n-no,” I stammered. The thought of sharing my despair with a stranger made my stomach churn. I come from strong Scandinavian stock and we’re all about not showing vulnerability in the face of adversity.

At first I hadn’t been alarmed when our pediatrician felt something unusual on the top of my baby’s head. “We want to make sure the bones aren’t growing together prematurely,” he said in his usual, calming way. I completely trusted this old-timer in the community, this man who was often called “the doctor’s doctor.” It wasn’t until the recommended consultation that I understood the life-threatening situation. First I watched in amazement as the specialist laid his hands on the head of “Toots” and almost instantly pronounced, He needs surgery. Then he said the plates he’d have to put into the skull were part of a procedure that he often performed but – and, somehow, I already sensed there was going to be a “but” with this doctor – the real danger was in the anesthesia. He rambled on about statistics and low percentages of survival as I stoically tried to take it all in, till it hit me. Toots was going to die.

I don’t recall how I got from the doctor’s office to the edge of the pathway. I just wanted to get into my car without having to talk with anyone, but then that man seemingly appeared from nowhere.

“Is it the baby? Something the matter with him?”

I was surprised when I heard myself speak, but somehow the look of genuine compassion in the eyes of this stranger made me feel as if he already knew what I was going to say. “My baby is dying… he won’t survive the operation… I’m going to lose him …”, I whimpered.

He put his hand on my arm and, strangely, this gesture made the words that followed stick in my mind. “I’ve been around a long time; never missed a day of work”, he said slowly with great tenderness. “Believe me, your baby’s not dying; he’ll be fine. Just have faith.”

Normally, if somebody talked about faith I’d recoil. Personal statements like that cut into the very core of everything ingrained in me from my Scandinavian upbringing, particularly when they had to do with spiritual matters. Embarrassed, I mumbled something and hurried into my car. But in the flurry of the coming weeks his words stayed with me. When the pediatrician agreed with the surgeon and everyone decided the only chance for a normal life was the operation, I suddenly thought of the maintenance man and I was surprised by an overwhelming wave of hope. But hope turned to self-recrimination. What kind of mother was I? What foolish person would listen to somebody like that talk about a life-threatening matter? Who was that man, anyhow? With stubborn resolve I finally managed to push the stranger out of my mind.

Two hours before the scheduled surgery one of the nurses called for us.

THIS STORY CONTINUES IN THE TALES2INSPIRE

Emerald_RD

Emerald Collection 

winner_mintWINNER – 2013

LEGACY OF LOVE by Micki Peluso

 I stood in the small church, supported by the prayers of loved ones, mantled with the soulful whine of the church organ playing its dirge of death. I felt a separation of mind and body.  Someone was standing here, but it couldn’t be me. The smell of incense permeated my senses, overwhelming with its cloying scent. Next to me, covered with a shroud, stood the casket of my child. I would not look at it, could not.

The words of the priest droned on and on, completing the Mass, and the ceremony finally drew to a close, but I was lost in a sea of unrelated thought. I heard nothing; I felt nothing, except a desire to be done with this, to be free to face my grief alone.

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 Remembering Noelle

The ride to the cemetery was torturously slow. We climbed the long winding mountain road to the top of the cemetery, surrounded by grotesquely beautiful tombstones, the only proof of former lives.It was over at last. We walked, my family and I, down the endless aisle of concerned, tear streaked faces, united in a mélange of emotion, following the one who would never again walk among us. Then out into the overcast day, whose sun had the dignity not to shine, we entered the limousines and headed for the cemetery to say our final goodbye.

Surely this was just a dream. I would awaken soon and rebuke the nightmare that enveloped my senses, sighing with relief. Oh God, please let this be a dream. But no, the grass was too lushly green. Tear shaped droplets of rain hung precariously from misted, succulent leaves. The dark gray clouds swirling in anger as the sun tried vainly to push them aside in a futile effort to dominate the day, were too real. Yes, this was actually happening.

There were over a hundred people standing behind me; their silence bearing down upon me like the crush of ocean waves. I fought the compulsion to slide into oblivion and let this travesty proceed without me.

There was a small crucifix on top of the darkly ominous box which was now my daughter’s residence. I tried to focus on that one object in an effort to retain my sanity. The voice of the priest, overflowing with empathy, broke the silence with, I was told later, a moving and beautiful eulogy. His words rained down over me, covering me with compassionate warmth, but I comprehended no meaning. Closing my mind to everything around me, the box and I stood alone together in the macabre stillness of a lonely mountain top, whose residents, except for birds and trees, were all stone cold and unfeeling.

There was no life here, not even serenity, just the vacuous emptiness of space and time, devoid of animation. What a cruel, unlikely place to leave one who was so vivacious, so seething with spirit, so very much alive. I had to leave this place. My daughter was not here.

After the funeral, our family unit was forever altered. Yet life went on and swept us along; children had to be fed and cared for, careers had to be maintained.

The ten-day wait in the Intensive Care Unit was over. Family, neighbors and friends moved on with their own lives and we were forced to continue ours, in spite of the gaping hole left by the absence of Noelle. There would be no more hovering by her bedside, praying for the miracle that would heal her severed spinal cord; broken by the thoughtless drunk driver who struck her down in broad daylight miracle that was not meant to be. Noelle’s fourteen years of life were over and her two brothers, three sisters, her father and I had to somehow face the future without the child who had lit up our lives and had given us constant pleasure.

The other children reacted in different ways. One became bulimic and suicidal, another, anxious and panic stricken. Yet another raced his car at high speeds, defying death to take him too, while his brother became withdrawn, depressed and barely spoke. Our oldest child, at twenty one, left home to deal with her grief away from us; we caused her too much pain.

Two years later, our oldest daughter had married and was bearing her firstborn child. She had a long and life threatening labor and did not, nor did the rest of us, notice that when she finally brought her son into the world–it was on the day that Noelle died. Upon realizing this, she was horrified and sobbed as she lay in recovery. The rest of us were equally appalled and awestruck by what by what we perceived to be one of life’s cruel ironies.

And then the miracle happened. During the next few years the tragic day that claimed the life of Noelle became, instead, the birthday of a beautiful little boy. Noelle had somehow sent us the gift of healing. Today, as we continue to celebrate that day, our grief is temporarily put aside, and the memories of Noelle have become sweet, bittersweet, yet softened by the little boy born on the date she died. Ian was two years old when he told his mother, Kim, that “when I grow up and become Noelle, the truck will miss me.”

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Ian’s son. Seth at age 2, visiting Noelle

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Ian’s son. Seth at age 2, departing gravesite

At 14 years old, he traveled with his grandmother to Rome and in a narrow alley, a car whizzed by and the rearview mirror (like the one that severed Noelle’s spinal cord) missed him by inches. Other grandchildren seemed obsessed with Noelle as well, even though we did not speak of her often. Nicole’s two year old son, Nicholas told his mother that Noelle was in the room with them. His mother thought he meant her picture but he insisted he could see her. It was her birthday. Kelly’s son, Brandon pointed at the ceiling and babbled until he could talk and then reported seeing Noelle everywhere, once in the front seat of the car next to his mother. He claimed that Noelle had told him not to play in the street with the big boys. He also claimed that he could not see Noelle as often around Christmas because the sky was filled with angels. There were many instances like this. As I lay dying from back to back heart attacks, Noelle came to her father, smiled and gave him the thumbs up—I lived. These visits we believe were Noelle’s way of assuring us that her soul was alive and well, her way of easing our grief–her legacy of love.

 

 

* DON’T WORRY MOM – by Cecile Bell

When Adam was initially diagnosed, I thought I couldn’t let my 7 year old son out of my sight. Always asking, Did you do a blood check, do you have a snack with you; did you take your insulin? Always the same questions – like a broken record irritatingly repeating itself – Did you….? Although meant to be loving and helpful, my spoken words had become a nagging routine. His constant  response: Don’t worry mom, I’m fine, seemed increasingly spoken in a tone of irritation. How many times in the past 12 years had I heard those words?

I cautioned everyone around him – neighbors, teachers, and classmates – about his diabetes. Watch him closely to see if he acts funny or cranky, or if he suddenly seems sleepy, as he could be having a reaction and need to be treated right away!  I made his friends promise me they’d watch him carefully and act as surrogate guardians. Our relationship was clearly suffering and as the parent of a diabetic child, I needed to calm my own fears.

Early on, we had to learn how to balance Adam’s medication, food and exercise; constantly making adjustments with the diabetic educators.

Many times I felt a sense of guilt having to wake him in the middle of the night for blood checks or give him some juice. That first summer, I dared to entrust his care to Camp Needlepoint; a juvenile diabetic program providing medical supervision and education in addition to outdoor sporting activities. These experiences were inspirational for Adam both socially and physically. For the first time we didn’t feel so alone with this disease.

I was told I would have no contact with Adam and that I would only be informed in case of an emergency. The camp was fully staffed with doctors, nurses and certified camp leaders some of which were diabetic themselves. This was a very uneasy week for me, however, it provided much needed time for me to rest my anxious habit and focus on my three younger children. Adam came home with a new attitude of confidence, not feeling so different from everyone. He also had lived and survived without ME!

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TALES2INSPIRE™   topaz reduce_1  The Topaz Collection

winner_mint Winner – 2012

 ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Cecile Marie Bell , a freelance writer is a current Florida resident, active with the Sarasota Writers Group and Voices of Venice.    First published in 1996. Produced a small play performed at the Minnesota State Fair for a small community in northern Minnesota where she raised her family.  She restored and maintained a lakeside hobby farm established in 1856. This was complete with Horses, cows, chickens and extensive gardens. Her mentor is Scheherazade. Now working on an inspiring book for Juvenile Diabetes and her short story collection.

* NEW LIFE IN THE COUNTRY – by Luke Potter

Building your own home can be an incredibly satisfying journey, particularly as you see your dreams take shape and become real. This is the story of my wife Leanne and me in following our dreams to build a kit home in the district of Budgeree at the foothills of the Strzelecki Ranges of southern Australia. Starting with practically nothing, we were amazed at what we were able to create using a good plan, some basic skills and a clear idea of what we really wanted.

Once you have lived in the country, it is difficult to return to the boundaries of suburban life. However, like many, that is what Leanne and I did at differing times of our lives. Leanne grew up in Budgeree – a place of rolling grassy hills that in the closing decades of the 19th century was cleared for dairy cattle and is now the home to an eclectic mix of beef cattle, market and hobby farmers, and simply those seeking a quieter life. She left for Melbourne to study teaching in her late teens, but home was never far away. A two-hour drive would see her at the kitchen table of her parents, with coffee in hand, catching up on local news.

I had but fleeting experiences of the country compared with Leanne, but those experiences have stayed with me. Most memorable was living in the hinterland of northeastern Australia whilst in my early teens.  Pineapple farms, friendly people that would treat you as one of their extended family, bare feet, and living most of the day outside made me feel as though I was truly home.

This yearning to return to the country grew inside Leanne and me to the point where we were unable to ignore it any longer. So we made the decision to sell our home in the suburbs, and move to that part of Budgeree where Leanne grew up.

We arrived in Budgeree in January 2007 to a bare paddock, and a shipping container filled with our personal belongings from our previous home. Our only refuges were our caravan and a rickety and breezy shack. Built in the 1880s as the original district schoolhouse, the shack was pulled down on bullock dray from the settlement of Budgeree in 1901. It was then converted into a house, and mid last century was turned into a hayshed. In its current form, it offered some protection from the rain and no protection from the wind and cold, but did sport two working fireplaces.

We had just returned from a trip around Australia financed from the sale of our home in the suburbs, towing the camper van that would be our home for the next 4 months. Leanne and I are people that love to explore roads less travelled, filled sometimes with excitement, sometimes with apprehension of what the next bend in the road may bring. And, it was in these extremely remote places that we got to know each other all over again and found a sense of contentment in living simply. Thoughts of self-sufficiency and to living more in-tune with nature crystallized into ideas for our new home.

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The TALES2INSPIRE™  topaz reduce_1  Topaz Collection

 

finalist FINALIST – 2012

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Luke is an Electronic Systems Engineer and Computer Scientist with a passion for sustainable technologies that can help make our life easier and reduce our impact on the planet. Luke seeks to challenge our thinking about sustainable building and living. It is not about spending a fortune to achieve a meagre gain. Rather, it is about living a comfortable life, lowering your dependence on consumption, and living in harmony with the earth and all things around you. Luke lives at Budgeree House with his wife Leanne, and his three children – Lauren, Ryan and James. Click here to visit his website. 

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