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Posts Tagged ‘Travel’

One of the lovely porticoes

Another crazy fantastic week in Italy – this time Bologna. Learned so much about the children’s book biz, including much ado about apps (more to come soon).  Bologna won me over with its lovely porticoes and outstanding food.  It’s a completely different world in Bologna from Florence, even though it’s only a 35 minute train ride.  If you ever go, make sure you pack your black.  It seems the only two colors people wear there are black and dark wash jeans.  I felt like an Easter egg in my wardrobe.  As a friend said, “Bologna – where black is the new black.”

Quotes on Gratitude

“Joy is not in things, it is in us.” — Joan Borysenko

“There is as much greatness of mind in acknowledging a good turn, as in doing it.” — Seneca

“Love is the true means by which the world is enjoyed: our love to others, and others’ love to us.” — Thomas Traherne

Gratitude list for the week ending March 24

  1. First, I am grateful for my in-laws, my stepmother and my mom for helping my husband hold down the fort while I took this epic trip to Italy.  Thank you!!
  2. Learning enough about apps and ebooks at the ToC Bologna conference to make my head spin.  Cheers to Kat Meyer and the entire O’Reilly team making it all happen.
  3. Meeting Katherine Paterson, author of one of my all-time favorite books – Bridge to Terabithia
  4. SCBWI Bologna dance party!
  5. The folks who put together the SCBWI booth program for the Bologna Book Fair – Kathleen Ahrens, Angela Cerrita, Kirsten Carlson, Bridget Strevens-Marzo, Tioka Tokedira, Chris Cheng, and anyone else I am forgetting.  These guys worked tirelessly to provide great programming, regional showcases, and opportunities for writers and illustrators attending the fair.  Grazie mille!

    The hard-working SCBWI team at the booth celebration

  6. Making wonderful new friends – including all of the above, plus Sarah Towle, Emily Smith Pearce, Danika Dinsmore, Susan Eaddy, Lucy CoatsBarbara McClintock, and Andi Ipaktchi.
  7. Hall after hall after hall of nothing but children’s books – enough said!
  8. Tagliatelle ragu and red wine with Danika and Susan – lovely dinner
  9. The city of Bologna itself, with its seductive porticoes, antiquarian bookshops, black-clad residents spilling into the streets from Enoteche at night, savory food shops and best of all, Gelateria Gianni!
  10. Receiving the best welcome home in history from my kids. The sign was fantastic, but the hugs and kisses even more precious.  How I missed them!

What are you grateful for this week?

The best part of the trip was coming home and knowing I was missed.

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I know I said I wouldn’t be posting Gratitude Sundays until the end of the month, but how could I not after spending a week in Florence?  My gratitude cup runneth over so much it might flood the Arno again. 😉  In celebration of all that is La Dolce Vita, in lieu of quotes on gratitude, this week I offer quotes from some of Italy’s most beloved poets.  And yes, Michelangelo was also a poet.

Quotes from Italian poets

“Remember tonight… For it is the beginning of always.” — Dante Alighieri

“True, we love life, not because we are used to living, but because we are used to loving. There is always some madness in love, but there is also always some reason in madness.” — Francesco Petrarch

“Every beauty which is seen here by persons of perception resembles more than anything else that celestial source from which we all are come.”  — Michelangelo.

“We do not remember days, we remember moments.” — Cesare Pavese

Gratitude list for the week ending March 17

  1. A group of young adults singing an impromptu hymn inside the Duomo – Santa Maria della Fiore
  2. Being reunited with pistaccio, bacio and nocciolo gelato!
  3. Prosecco at sunset on the rooftop bar of the Hotel Continentale
  4. Santo Spirito, lit up at night, fully reflected on the black glass water of the Arno
  5. Il Santo Bevitore and Olio & Convivium in Oltrarno, restaurants that provided two of the best meals I have eaten in a long time.
  6. Enoteche (wine bars) where a person can dine and drink alone and not be considered an oddity.
  7. Cafe Giacosa Cavalli – my favorite place for a morning coffee and pastry and for observing the local Florentines.
  8. Cafe Florian chocolates. I ate a few of them as my lunch on the train to Bologna (not kidding)!
  9. Lisa Clifford, an Australian author living in Florence, treated me to a lovely aperativo in Oltrarno.
  10. Walking along the Lungarno toward the Ponte Vecchio, under arches, with ripples of the river reflecting on the walls of the buildings opposite.  It gave the feeling of walking through water.  Beautiful.

What are you grateful for this week?

Reflections of the Ponte Vecchio

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One of the things I love most about blogging is the social aspect – receiving comments on my posts and leaving comments on others’.  For the next three weeks, however, I will not be able to read and comment on blogs.  I am leaving on Friday for a two-week business trip to Italy.  This week, all the time I have that is not spent on preparing for the trip will be spent with my family.  Then I’ll be on the ground in Italy, and when I return, the kids will be on Spring Break, so I’ll be catching up with them, recovering from jet-lag, closing out the March 12 x 12 giveaway and launching April’s.  So please don’t be offended if I normally comment on your blogs and you don’t see me for a while.  All will return to normal in April.  I will be checking my blog, however, and will do my best to respond to comments left on my posts.

What am I doing in Italy, besides eating pasta and gelato?  First I’ll be in Florence, working on a yet-to-be-revealed project.  Then I’m off to Bologna for the O’Reilly Tools of Change in Publishing Conference and the Bologna Children’s Book Fair.  Some regular features on the blog, such as Tuesday 12 x 12, will continue to run while I am gone, and I have a couple of guest posts in store too.  I might be able to blog here and there, but I can’t promise.  I will, however, post short updates, photos and snippets on my Facebook Author Page if you want to follow along there or follow me on Twitter.

I will be thinking of you while I am here...

And here...

And eating this...

And this!

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Today is March 2nd and the good Dr.’s birthday, so of course I had to make a Dr. Seuss selection.  Today is also Read Across America Day, and Teaching Authors has a fantastic post about Dr. Seuss and how to celebrate.  Fox in Socks doesn’t seem to get the same kind of love as Seuss’ other books, but it is definitely one of my favorites just because it is SO FUN to read aloud.

Fox in Socks
Written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss
Random House, 1965
Suitable for:  Ages 3 and up
Themes/Topics:  Tongue twisters, Rhyme, Humor, Silliness
Opening and brief synopsis: “This Fox is a tricky fox. He’ll try to get your tongue in trouble.” Dr. Seuss gives fair warning to anyone brave enough to read along with the Fox in Socks, who likes to play tongue-twisting games with his friend Mr. Knox.
Activities: Just trying to read it out loud without making any mistakes is a great activity! It would pair well with other tongue twister books.  Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Eric Van Raepenbusch’s fantastic post on his blog, Happy Birthday Author, with amazing ideas for celebrating Seuss in general.
Why I Like This Book: Talk about a book that’s fun to read over and over!  That’s because you can seldom read it perfectly, so it becomes a challenge.  And the rhyme is mesmerizing for kids.
Finally, check out this video of a woman speed reading Fox in Socks.  It is unbelievable!

For more books with resources please visit author Susanna Leonard Hill’s blog and find the tab for Perfect Picture Books!

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What's on YOUR list?

ETA: As soon as I published this post, I immediately thought of more things I want to do and places I want to see. Rather than keeping track of them elsewhere, I will add them to the lists here.  I will also cross them off when I’ve completed them (except for the last list, because most of those things are ongoing rather than one-time).

For my 300th post, I decided to write a Bucket List – things I want to do before I die.  I divided the list into three (loose) categories of 100 each:  1) Places I Want to Visit, 2) Things I Want to Do (many of which include specific places), and 3) Ways I Want to Make a Difference in the World.

Making the first list was a snap.  I did not allow myself to include places I’ve already visited but want to see again, and even so, I had no trouble choosing 100 places.  I could never travel enough or see enough of the world.  I would go to every last corner of the earth of I could.  So I guess it’s good that I now have priorities!

The second list was more difficult.  I really had to stretch myself and give myself permission to dream big without allowing the censor to whisper, “Oh that’s not possible!”

The third list was by far the most difficult.  I always think in the nebulous terms of, “I want to make a difference,” but I never specify HOW exactly.  Now that I’ve reached 40, I realize it’s time I start not only thinking about it but doing some things.  For that reason, this was a very good exercise for me.  I think we should all think about not just what we want to do for ourselves but what mark we want to leave on the world.

One final comment: I did not include things that would require others to make specific choices.  For instance, I could easily have put, ‘See my kids get married’ or ‘Watch Michigan win a National Championship Game live’, but that would require outcomes I have no control over.  So I kept the list tightly focused on things that I would be capable (theoretically) of doing without being dependent on the decisions or actions of others.

Places to Visit

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.” – St. Augustine

  1. Kenya – Masai Mara
  2. Egypt – Cairo, Pyramids, Red Sea, Nile
  3. Morocco – Marrakech, Fez, Tangier, Sahara
  4. South Africa
  5. Tanzania/Mt. Kilamanjaro
  6. Mauritius
  7. Namibia – Etosha National Park, Skeleton Coast
  8. Zimbabwe
  9. Bwindi National Park, Uganda
  10. Seychelles
  11. Australia

    Sydney Harbor

  12. New Zealand
  13. Madagascar
  14. Japan – Tokyo, Kyoto, Nara
  15. Thailand
  16. Vietnam
  17. Indonesia/Bali
  18. China – Shanghai, Beijing, Great Wall
  19. Tibet
  20. Nepal
  21. Bhutan
  22. The Taj Mahal, India
  23. Mumbai, India
  24. The ghats of Varanasi, India
  25. Malaysia – Kuala Lumpur
  26. Windsor Castle, England
  27. Cornwall, England
  28. The Lake District, England
  29. Scottish Highlands
  30. Ireland
  31. Crete, Greece
  32. Santorini, Greece
  33. Zakinthos, Greece

    Zakynthos, Greece

  34. Rhodes, Greece
  35. Symi, Greece
  36. Barcelona, Spain
  37. Sevilla, Spain
  38. Valencia, Spain
  39. Cordoba & Granada, Spain
  40. Provence, France
  41. Carcassone, France
  42. Normandy, France
  43. Amalfi Coast, Italy
  44. Bologna, Italy, March 2012
  45. Siena, Italy
  46. Tuscan countryside, Italy
  47. Sicily, Italy
  48. Lake Garda, Italy
  49. Salzburg, Austria
  50. Vienna, Austria
  51. Berlin, Germany
  52. Black Forest, Germany
  53. Swiss Alps
  54. Lucerne, Switzerland
  55. Amsterdam, Netherlands
  56. Croatia
  57. Budapest, Hungary
  58. St. Petersburg, Russia
  59. Sweden
  60. Norway

    Norway Fjord

  61. Iceland
  62. Hebrides Islands
  63. Rio de Janeiro
  64. Amazon Rainforest
  65. Argentina – Buenos Aires
  66. Chile
  67. Peru
  68. Macchu Picchu
  69. Patagonia – Argentina and Chile
  70. Alaska
  71. Many Glacier Lodge – Glacier National Park
  72. Charleston, South Carolina
  73. Savannah, Georgia
  74. Cape Cod, Massachussets
  75. New Hampshire in the autumn
  76. Moab, Utah
  77. Monument Valley, Utah
  78. Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado
  79. Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado
  80. Florida Everglades
  81. Isle Royale National Park, Michigan
  82. Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Michigan
  83. Hawaii – Big Island, Maui, Kauai
  84. Santa Fe, New Mexico
  85. Albuquerque, New Mexico
  86. Finger Lakes Region, New York
  87. Badlands, South Dakota

    South Dakota Badlands

  88. Yosemite National Park, California
  89. Santa Barbara, California
  90. Quebec City, Canada
  91. Niagara Falls, Canada
  92. Banff National Park, Canada
  93. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
  94. Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico
  95. Baja California, Mexico
  96. Chiapas, Mexico
  97. Nicaragua
  98. Belize
  99. St. Lucia
  100. St. Vincent & the Grenadines
  101. Basque Region of Spain
  102. Cuba

Things I Want to Do

“Life is either a great adventure or nothing.” — Helen Keller

  1. Publish many books for children
  2. Write and publish travel articles
  3. Write and publish personal essays
  4. Make The New York Times Bestseller list
  5. Write a novel (at least one). I almost don’t even care if I ever publish one.  I just want to write one.
  6. Write down my father’s “Greatest Hits” (i.e. his best stories)
  7. Dive the Great Barrier Reef, Australia
  8. Dive in the Red Sea, Egypt
  9. Dive in Palau, Micronesia
  10. Camel-trek in the Sinai desert
  11. Go cage diving to see Great White Sharks
  12. Dive in a kelp forest
  13. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu during a full moon
  14. Ride in a hot air balloon
  15. Take my kids to Disney World
  16. See a wolf in the wild
  17. Go to the Rose Bowl when Michigan is playing
  18. Ski Jackson Hole
  19. Ski at every resort in Colorado
  20. Ski the Dolomites in Italy
  21. Ski the Alps
  22. Learn to ski moguls like an expert
  23. Learn to ski in powder like an expert
  24. Go heli-skiing
  25. Take a photography course
  26. Stand on the field at The Big House
  27. Perfect Adho Mukha Vrksasana (handstand) pose in yoga
  28. Take an Italian language immersion class in Italy
  29. Take a flamenco dancing class in Spain
  30. Learn to speak fluent Italian
  31. Read The Divine Comedy in Italian
  32. Take surfing lessons
  33. Touch an elephant

    Photo from my brother

  34. Swim with dolphins
  35. Attend an Eckhart Tolle retreat
  36. Meet the Dalai Lama
  37. Attend an Olympic Games
  38. Spend Hogmanay in Edinburgh
  39. Spend a few nights on The Royal Scotsman
  40. Compete in a “mini” triathlon
  41. Run another half marathon
  42. Oktoberfest in Munich
  43. Take cooking classes in Italy and France
  44. Do wine-tasting tours in Italy and France
  45. Wine-tasting tour in South Africa
  46. See the Northern Lights
  47. Successfully grow broccoli in my garden
  48. Learn how to build an Excel spreadsheet
  49. Perform in a play
  50. Become a writing coach/teacher
  51. Attend at least one World Cup game
  52. Earn a living from writing and writing-related work
  53. See a whale in the wild
  54. Take my daughter to Rancho la Puerta
  55. Attend the Yoga Journal conference in Estes Park
  56. Do yoga in India
  57. Make meditation a regular practice in my life
  58. Write and e-publish a travel memoir
  59. Finally read David Copperfield to the end
  60. Learn Colorado history
  61. Polar Bear safari in Cape Churchill, Canada
  62. Bake a cake at altitude that doesn’t sink in the middle
  63. Go Deep Sea fishing
  64. See an opera at La Scala in Milan
  65. Carnavale in Venice
  66. Carnival in Rio de Janeiro
  67. Stand on the North Pole

    Absolut bar at the Ice Hotel

  68. Stay at the Ice Hotel in Sweden
  69. Take my kids to see Les Mis
  70. Sleep under the stars in the Sahara desert
  71. Take a helicopter ride to see a live volcano
  72. Walk on the Great Wall of China
  73. Bush-walking in Seven Spirit Bay, Australia
  74. Hike in Tasmania, Australia
  75. Hike The Grand Traverse and Fiordland National Park, New Zealand
  76. Stay in an overwater bungalow in Bora Bora
  77. See the Iditarod – Anchorage, Alaska
  78. Kayak in The Inside Passage and Glacier Bay, Alaska
  79. Ride the Durango and Silverton steam train
  80. Swim with Manatees in Florida
  81. Attend the Highlights Foundation Writer’s Workshop at Chautauqua
  82. Go to New Orleans for Mardi Gras
  83. Go to the Balloon Fiesta in Albuquerque, NM
  84. Go back to Camogli, Italy for the Sagra del Pesce
  85. Cruise the Antarctic Peninsula
  86. Learn to play poker
  87. Ride a zipline in the jungle
  88. Put all of our home movies together so we can watch them on TV
  89. Digitize all of my “paper” photos
  90. Organize all photos into digital albums
  91. Complete all twelve weeks of The Artist’s Way
  92. Go on a yoga/meditation retreat
  93. Bag one of Colorado’s “Fourteeners.” Preferably Long’s Peak, which I can see from my front window
  94. Write poetry more often – not for publication, just for myself
  95. Climb a 50 ft. indoor rock wall (which my daughter can do!)

    la Tomatina - Bunol Spain

  96. Ride the Trans-Siberian Railway
  97. See a meteor shower
  98. See every Michelangelo sculpture
  99. Participate in la Tomatina – Tomato fight!
  100. Learn more about my family history/geneology
  101. Attend a local “festa” in rural Italy
  102. See a Harp Seal in the wild

Ways I Want to Make a Difference

“If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” – Mother Teresa

  1. Raise responsible, independent, compassionate children. If I fail at this, nothing else will matter.
  2. Ensure my children receive a good education so they can contribute to the world.
  3. Love my children boundlessly
  4. Teach my kids to be appreciative
  5. Encourage the kids in their natural sense of wonder
  6. Expose my kids to as many experiences in the natural world as possible
  7. Expose my kids to as many cultures as possible
  8. Read as many books to my kids as possible
  9. Look my kids in the eyes when I speak with them
  10. Be as good of a mother to my kids as my mother was to me
  11. Donate a portion of my personal proceeds from the sales of my (future) books to benefit related charities
  12. Make an annual donation of food and blankets to the Humane Society
  13. Adopt another dog or two (eventually – Rocky is enough for now!)
  14. Continue teaching critical thinking skills via the Junior Great Books program
  15. Help bring healthy, whole food to all school cafeterias by supporting the School Food Project and Food, Family, Farming foundation
  16. Donate annually to National Public Radio and PBS
  17. Donate annually to National Resources Defense Council and Defenders of Wildlife
  18. Donate annually to The Sierra Club
  19. Shop for gifts through organizations such as Unicef and National Wildlife Federation
  20. Advocate sexual and reproductive health education and rights for women around the world – through donations and Kiva lending
  21. Continue making micro-loans through Kiva
  22. Vote in every election
  23. Take Volunteer Vacations
  24. Teach creative writing to children
  25. Teach writing workshops for adults
  26. Mentor new writers
  27. Lead writing retreats that inspire women to give time to their creativity
  28. Create a scholarship for these retreats
  29. Help others live creative lives with passion
  30. Support small, family-run businesses as much as possible
  31. Grow vegetables in my garden every year
  32. Plant trees in my yard and in the community
  33. Each time I shop, buy one item for donation and put it in a box.  When the box is full, take it in to the food bank.
  34. Buy organic food as much as possible
  35. Shop at farmer’s markets more often
  36. Continue serving on the PTO at my kids’ school
  37. Support fellow writers by buying their books
  38. Be “responsible for the energy I bring” – from Jill Bolte Taylor – more info here
  39. Be a better listener
  40. Practice patience
  41. Do a better job of keeping in touch with people who are important to me
  42. Volunteer to spend time with an elderly person
  43. Practice living in the present moment so I can bring my full attention to the people I am with/what I am doing.
  44. Participate in a Polar Bear Plunge for charity
  45. Complete A Course in Miracles
  46. Continue my Gratitude Sunday posts
  47. Consistently donate clothing, toys and other items that we no longer use
  48. Sponsor families in need at Thanksgiving and Christmas every year
  49. Find ways to volunteer with my kids
  50. Write letters to authorities advocating my views on issues that are important to me
  51. Help Em sell Girl Scout cookies
  52. Pick up litter at every opportunity
  53. Participate in 5K, 10K and other runs that benefit charity
  54. Donate my talents (writing critiques, editing, etc.) to online auctions to benefit charity
  55. Make eye contact with people and smile
  56. Whenever possible, say people’s names out loud to them
  57. Remember to say “thank you” for each and every kindness and courtesy
  58. Use my blog to create awareness of important issues
  59. Read banned books and make sure my kids read banned books
  60. Support the arts by providing funding for Kickstarter projects
  61. Use my public speaking skills to motivate people
  62. Recycle and compost as much as we can
  63. Solar power our home
  64. Use only non-toxic cleaning products
  65. Always take re-usable bags when I go shopping
  66. Tip well for good service
  67. Give compliments often
  68. Do nice things for strangers for no reason
  69. Promote the good work of others
  70. Don’t ignore people who are suffering – instead reach out to them
  71. Conserve energy – turn off unused lights, unplug appliances, etc.
  72. Write more Thank You notes
  73. Get my Christmas cards out every year
  74. Participate in Crayons to Calculators each year
  75. Participate in Turn Off the T.V. Week each year
  76. Start collecting Box Tops for education
  77. Write notes to authors of books I love letting them know
  78. Volunteer in a disaster recovery effort
  79. Keep the computer turned off from the time my kids come home from school until they go to bed
  80. Once a month, have a family game night
  81. Read out loud to the kids as a family activity more often
  82. Treat my family with respect
  83. Do not buy meat from factory farms
  84. Give without expecting anything in return
  85. Observe the beauty in the world aloud to others
  86. Practice forgiveness – work on forgiving those who have hurt me
  87. Invite a neighbor over for a cocktail
  88. Talk to my aunts and uncle so I can record stories of their childhood
  89. Cook meals for friends more often
  90. Teach the kids how to cook traditional family recipes
  91. Volunteer in a women’s shelter
  92. Volunteer, at least once, among the very poor
  93. Volunteer to promote literacy among both children and adults
  94. Read, with an open mind, articles and books written by people whose views are very different from my own
  95. Value experiences over stuff and teach my kids to do the same
  96. Help educate others about the importance of wild predators in the food chain
  97. Write more book reviews to support books (and authors) I love
  98. Learn about Feng Shui so I can apply some of it to my house
  99. Do a better job of remembering the birthdays of friends and family members and to actually send cards
  100. Advocate for art and physical education in public schools

Do you have a Bucket List?  If not, do you want to make one?  Here are some additional resources to get you started:

43 Things

Barefoot List

Creating a Bucket List

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Four years ago, in November 2007, my daughter gave me a precious gift.

My father had passed away at the end of that September.  Immediately after returning from his funeral, Phil and I had to move into my mother’s very small home with our two kids (then 1 and 4) because our house had suffered some damage.  The repair would be time-consuming and costly and render the house unlivable for the next two months.  It was clear to me that in order for us to recover financially, I would have to go back to work after having left when Jay was born.  I had hoped to begin pursuing a writing career then (2007), but that dream would end up waiting two more years.

My mother and father had been divorced for many years, so while she was sad, especially for me, it was not the same as the oppressive grief enveloping me.  The kids were too young to fully comprehend and while Phil understood and was also grieving, he was pulled back into that thing that doesn’t wait for people to “get over it” — life and work.

So even though I was surrounded by people crammed into this tight space, I felt like I was living inside of a black bubble that nobody could penetrate.  The best part of the day was bedtime, when I could shut everything off for a while.

After a few weeks of this, we decided to take the kids and rent a house in the mountains for a long weekend.  We needed to spread out and also give my beleaguered mother a break from our two energetic toddlers (not to mention my constant sadness).

Somewhere on the drive up, Jay had a diaper explosion of epic proportions, such that when we arrived, we had to strip him, put him in the bath, wash the

Em and Jay, ages 4 and 1, while we were living at my mother's

clothes and the car seat cover and hose down the car seat frame.  The next day, Michigan lost their football game.  That may seem like a small thing, but since my father and I bonded over football, it made me even more depressed.  I slept by myself in the cold basement because the slightest human sound (snoring, kids tossing and turning), kept me wide awake.  So much for rest and respite.

The last day of our stay, I took Em to a little paved trail at the center of the house’s subdivision.  This trail surrounded a small man-made pond.  (Native Coloradans would call it a lake, but as a Michigander, I knew better.)

Em said, “Mommy, I want to go down to the beach and look for seashells.”

Me: “We’re not going to find any seashells here, Em.”

Em: “Why not?

Me:  “Because we’re in the mountains, honey, so there won’t be any seashells here.  Plus, this is a man-made lake, so there probably isn’t anything living in it that wasn’t put there on purpose by the people who made the lake.”

All she heard was “mwa mwa mwa mwa mwa,” like the teacher in the Peanuts cartoons.  She was unrelenting.  “Please, Mommy!  I know we’ll find shells there if we just go look.  Please, please, PLEASE!”

I did not want to walk down to the lake, only to spend an hour looking for non-existent shells.  At four years old, Em did not take disappointment well and I could see an irrational outburst in my future.  But I swallowed everything I wanted to say about how nothing could live in this tiny pond at 9000 feet, that Colorado hadn’t seen any ocean since the Cretaceous period, and that even if there had been fossils here at some point, they’d be long gone after the excavation and building of the subdivision.  Off we went to the rocky “beach.”

Within one minute, Em came running to me with a small, gray shell in her hand.  A shell that had clearly had an aquatic creature living in it in the recent past.  I could not process what I was seeing.  I dropped to my knees and started sifting through the rocks and sure enough, there were shells.  Everywhere.  Hundreds of them.  Soon, the two of us were running around the beach, laughing and collecting as many shells as we could.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, that event lifted a tiny bit of pressure from my heart and marked the beginning of my recovery.  Grief can take you to very dark places.  I’ve said before that you don’t ever “get over it,” but you can incorporate the loss and enjoy life again.  That day, my daughter and her sheer force of “belief” reminded me that life is a miracle and meant to be lived.

We’ve kept those shells and they seem to move around the house.  They’ve been inside the glove compartment of the car, in Em’s room on her dresser, in Jay’s closet, in a little Tibetan prayer altar I have on my dresser, on the kitchen counter.  It’s as if they turn up in different places so we can rediscover them and replay that beautiful moment over in our memories.

Now, I am sure there are scientists out there who could give me a perfectly grounded and logical explanation for those shells – what they are, why they live in that pond, etc.  If you are that person, please save yourself the time.

Because the fact that the shells exist is not the miracle.  The miracle is that we found them.

Do you believe in miracles?

 

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I realize it’s Monday, but after spending the weekend in the Black Hills of South Dakota, we arrived home too late last night for me to post.  This trip came about because Phil’s father had always wanted to see Mt. Rushmore.  While Mt. Rushmore was never on my own “Bucket List,” I was completely seduced by this beautiful land — Little House on the Prairie and Dances with Wolves in the flesh.

In these rolling, golden grassy plains with a sky that stretches to eternity, we saw herds of buffalo, antelope, deer, coyotes, prairie dogs, wild turkeys, and bighorn sheep (females – not the rams with the

Buffalo Roam

curled horns).  The desolation of the land is part of its beauty, but it comes with a latent sadness.  One can easily imagine these hills so teeming with wildlife that they would resemble the Serengeti more than an empty prairie.  The history of the bloody conflicts between white settlers and Native Americans hangs heavy here.  So for today’s “gratitude” quotes, I am using inspiring proverbs from several Native American tribes.

Quotes: Native American Proverbs:

“Our first teacher is our own heart.” — Cheyenne

“Man’s law changes with his understanding of man. Only the laws of the spirit remain always the same.” — Crow

“When you were born, you cried and the world rejoiced. Live your life so that when you die, the world cries and you rejoice.” — Cherokee

Gratitude List for the week ending October 29:

  1. Seeing buffalo close enough to touch.  Majestic.
  2. Walking the Presidential Trail with Em at Mt. Rushmore, giving us many different perspectives on the carvings.
  3. Crazy Horse Monument in progress

    The play of light on the carvings as clouds come and go. The moving light and shadow makes it a living sculpture.

  4. Seeing Crazy Horse Memorial in progress.  It will be stunning and haunting when it is finished.
  5. We stayed two nights in Hill City, and discovered that on Saturday, Main Street businesses give away candy and kids dress up in their costumes and trick-or-treat on the town.  We got

    Kids trick-or-treat in Hill City

    some silly hats and joined in. Such a nice surprise.

  6. Phil and I went to the Halloween Wine Dinner at the State Game Lodge where we stayed in Custer State Park while his parents ate dinner with the kids and watched a movie with them.  It so happened that it was the night before our anniversary, so we appreciated getting some adult time.  We sat with a very nice local couple – Nancy and Larry.  In fact, we learned that it was Nancy’s grandfather who discovered the Mammoth Site in Hot Springs and made sure that the bones would remain in situ on the site, making it the largest collection of Columbian and Woolly Mammoth bones in the world.  When we visited the site the next day, we relished having heard the backstory behind the discovery and excavation
  7. Reading Mary Pope Osborne’s Tales from the Odyssey, written for young readers, out loud during the drive. The kids and adults enjoyed the story.
  8. At the end of the day, whether you are in Italy or South Dakota, the connections you make with people is the biggest reward of travel. We met the family who owned the tiny BBQ restaurant in Wheatfield Wyoming, the waitress at the Hill City Cafe who made necklaces, of which we bought three, many business owners giving out candy in Hill City, a nice Dutch couple in the bar at the State Game Lodge and of course Nancy and Larry at the wine dinner.
  9. A low-hung crescent moon, cat’s eye yellow, dangling in the black sky on the drive home.  A Halloween moon if I ever saw one.
  10. Last, but definitely not least, I am grateful for the number of people who have expressed interest in joining me for my brand new 12×12 in 2012 picture book challenge!  And that PiBoIdMo starts tomorrow!

What are you grateful for this week?

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