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When life throws you down a crooked track, hold close your family, latch onto new friends, throw up your hands and find something to smile about.
While 2014 was definitely a crooked track for us, I want to close it with a look to the good. Shortly after our diagnosis, I had a friend reach out to me amidst his own health crisis. My advice to him was, “Hear the negative, focus on the positive and know that God has both covered.”
Good advice? I think so – but much easier said than done. This world screams negative. We are bombarded with the bad. The nightly news covers everything wrong with our world first and longest before they throw in one human interest story just before saying good night. (If you missed Kylie on the news, you can watch it HERE)
While sifting through the ruins of this broken world, how do we see what is good? I have seen a lot of things in my 47 years. To borrow the movie title, I’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have driven a man out of the slum of Port ‘au Prince, Haiti and watched as he was given the keys to his new home. I have been fortunate enough to help put a roof on a hut in Swaziland for a family decimated by HIV. Beauty plucked from ugly, good snatched from bad. Both started with a choice to engage.
Despite my experiences, never in my life have I seen the good side of humanity than from the day Kylie was diagnosed with cancer. The flood of well-wishes, prayers, and support for our family has been as overwhelming as the diagnosis itself. When you hear the words, “Your child has cancer,” the temptation is to curl up in the fetal position, shut out the world and cry. When I was at my weakest, I found an abundance of arms to hold me.
Friends, family, our school and church rallied to our side.
The nurses, doctors, childlife specialists, and staff of the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta became dear partners in this journey. We also found great care at Levine Children’s Hospital in Charlotte.
Organizations came alongside to help navigate and let us know we aren’t alone: 1 Million for Anna, Make-A-Wish, Cure Childhood Cancer, The Truth 365, Rally Foundation, Melodic Caring Project, The Jesse Rees Foundation, Along Comes Hope, 3/32 Foundation, Blessed Beauty, Open Hands Overflowing Hearts, Kingdom Kids, Lily’s Run.
We have seen built a network of people who pray faithfully for Kylie. To be totally honest, I admit there are times when I cannot lift a word to heaven. Maybe a grunt, maybe an angry shake of the fist. Without a doubt, I know there are many people praying for my little girl when I can’t. That is incredibly humbling.
Then there is encouragement and love. Kylie gets cards and letters daily. At least a dozen young ladies have donated their hair in Kylie’s honor. People all across the country and literally around the world have been #SmileyForKylie. As of today, 87 countries have done it. Grown men have written it on their bald heads.
Between Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook, we have received over 10,000 smiling selfies for Kylie. Unreal. We have gotten them from celebrities, athletes, and Kylie’s beloved Broadway performers. Idina Menzel made a video. Kristin Chenoweth made two pics and talked about her on a radio show. Laura Osnes posted a word of encouragement to her. She got a box of Broadway treats from Hunter Foster. She had pics from 9 out of 12 musicals nominated for Tony Awards, and the cast of her favorite show, Aladdin have reached out to her over and over again. Sometimes we can trace the web that led to the picture, but most of the time we have no idea how they happen – we have no line to these people. It’s just good. And it is out there – making a choice to engage with our little girl in a time when she so desperately needs it. A thank you will never be enough, but all I can offer.
Regardless of your view of the Bible, Philippians 4:8 gives us sage advice:
“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.”
I’ll not be able to change everyone’s mind. You can remain a cynic if you choose to. But the things I have experienced in 2014 prove to me that there is good in this world. I choose to think about such things – it is what has kept me going.
In 2015, we look forward to hearing the words: No Evidence of Disease and watching Kylie resume a normal life. That will be something worth throwing up our hands and smiling about.
Happy New Year from Portsong, your humble mayor & Kylie
Every year as more and more retailers are opening up earlier than ever on Thanksgiving, I look forward to the P.C. Richard & Sons advertisement they publish in many newspapers across the nation at this time of the year.
The most disingenuous three words in the English language. Unless you are the ultimate cynic and cast your lot with I love you. I hope that’s not the case.
Do we ever mean it when we ask? Really? When is the last time you passed someone in the hall and said “how are you” and truly wanted to take the time to know how they were? I’ll bet it’s been a while.
I’m not holier than thou. I say it all the time and rarely care. If some slick gunslinger is quicker on the draw than me, I even add the oft-disregarded, “I am well, and you?” Of course, I don’t want to know.
I get these wild hairs – often they involve really stupid things, but this one actually had redeeming potential. I decided to spend my lunch hour in the lobby of my building asking people I saw, “How are you?” and giving them available time and a proper interest to see if they would answer.
Most people don’t stop long enough to notice my disarming voice beckoning them to unburden themselves. The first seven I asked kept moving and gave the appropriate return without so much as an upward glance.
I don’t believe that anyone is “fine” like these seven told me. Pawn your lies and rote responses elsewhere.
Number eight seemed to think I had serious mental problems and eyed me warily while reaching into her purse for either a small handgun or pepper spray. Needless to say I decided against an elevator ride with this charmer. “I’ll take the next one, Bonnie Parker.”
You can trap the elderly.
In walked a slow, older gentleman. Number nine. He began scanning the directory and seemed somewhat confused.
“How are you?” I asked in a very welcoming and reassuring tone.
“I’m fine young man, just fine,” he replied. Something was different, though. Before he spoke, he turned and made eye contact.
He was rather unkempt, smelled like my high school gym teacher, and had a thick bushel of hair growing out of each nostril. But he smiled warmly. In fact, he smiled all over… an infectious smiled that started at his lips, slowly ran through his eyes and worked its way off his person and onto me. I liked this old dude.
“Say, would you know where the office of Litton & Driscoll is located,” he asked.
“I think that’s on the fourth floor.”
He patted me gently on the chest with some paperwork he had rolled into a tube, like a kid’s telescope. “Thank you, friend.”
“Don’t mention it.” Judging from his demeanor, this might be my first victim who actually was okay. He might just be fine. I had to be certain, though. “Are you sure you are fine?”
He looked at me long whilst I returned my best, biggest, dopiest smile.
“Well, I am headed up to settle my wife’s affairs. So, if you want an honest answer, I suppose I’m not fine.”
Oh boy… Panic! In over my head… I thought I would learn about a foot ailment… or a wayward kitten. Not this. Why am I so stupid? All of me wanted to say, “I’m fine, and you?” But I got myself into this.
“I’m sorry to hear that. I can’t imagine.”
“Yes, sir. For 22 years now.”
“Seem young for that.”
I really liked this old dude.
“How long were you married?”
“Fifty-three years last August….”
And so began a wonderful story of love and loss.
You know what? I’m glad I asked. In fact, I’m going to break the habit of asking when I don’t care. From now on, I will only ask, “how are you” if I have time and interest in the answer. Try it yourself. Better yet, come join Joseph and me for coffee tomorrow morning and see that infectious smile.
Justice is a matter of belief that fairness has won the day, that truth and honesty has prevailed …
FRIENDS!! If you are like me, you have a great group of friends. My friends teach me the lessons of life by the way they live. My friend Lucy is a servant. My friend Nancy has a huge loving heart. My friend Ronnie taught me how to draw cartoons. My friend Leana is wise. My friend Karen is my party friend, always bringing us all together to laugh. My friend JoAnn is a chef! My friend Juanita is a creative soul. My friend Rachelle is soft-hearted. My friend Lin is a kindred spirit. My friend Sue is an amazing teacher. All my artist friends AMAZE me! … the list goes on. All are unique. All are a part of my heart. I am thankful!
Last week I spent time with my Vivian friend. We were going to go visit our friend Clara in a nursing home. I wrote out a little card and tucked it in my purse. When Vivian got to my home she came bearing flowers, magazines and muffins! All were for Clara. I watched Vivian talk to Clara. She was all there, in the moment, not thinking about what she was going to do when we left. She was completely present and asking Clara this and that. It was wonderful to watch. Her heart was bursting with love. It made me smile. THANK YOU VIV!
You see, to have friends you have to be a friend. We can all improve.
You have to get outside yourself and look into their faces and participate in their lives. Lives touching lives makes us all better people.
|Talking About Life and Death|
|A teen with cancer is a difficult thing to understand.|
|Life is fleeting.|
I was just thinking that it’s not the perfect flower I look for in my photography, it’s the perfect feeling, same with my friends, they all have little flaws just like me but when I close my eyes and think of them I only know the sweet essence of their perfection and see how wonderful life is to let me see them … Love you all !
Welcome to the first of what I hope will be informative, entertaining blog posts … a bit about me and my work, as well as conversation about the world of children’s publishing.
Thanks to my involvement in SCBWI, I’ve developed friendships with writers and illustrators from all over, from Australia to America and lots of places in-between. I’ve had opportunities to learn about craft from some of the best writers in the business. This is why – if you ask me how to get your children’s book published – I will always tell you that joining SCBWI is the best first step, and the best investment you will ever make in your writing (or illustration) career.
I may also share tidbits here about works in progress and my radio commentaries, as well as news about other projects.
Mainly, I hope this will be a place where we can get to know each other, a place where I can share the wisdom I’ve learned from dear friends like the wonderful illustrator Priscilla Burris:
Until next time … write on!Add a Comment
A Snicker of Magic, Natalie Lloyd’s sensational middle grade debut novel, begs to be read aloud and shared with an audience of dreamers.Add a Comment
written by Mark Myers
published by Mark Myers 12/19/2013
Age 8 to 13 222 pages
“Welcome to the sleepy little town of Portsong, Georgia where there is a struggle a foot. Unbeknownst to the current owner, Virgil Creech has his selfish eyes set on taking back a dog he considers his. To be fair, as the youngest of nine bickering and bustling brothers, Virgil has always had to fight for the few things he could call his own. In this case, the property in question ran away from Virgil several months prior and now wants nothing to do with the boy, for he has found a happy home with the kindly Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle. Undetered, Virgil teams up with reluctant friend, Henry Lee, to retrieve the dog.”
“That was a mark!” yelled Henry as he disappeared behind the row of elm trees to round up the ball.”
Four friends, Virgil, Henry, Willy, and Joe are playing in the town green (like a park) when Virgil kicks the ball hard and too high hitting Colonel Birdwhistle in the back of the head, knocking him out onto the pavement. The boys cautiously check to see if he is alive and Virgil accidentally causes Birdwhistle to hit his head again, knocking him cold. Later, at the hospital, Willy and Joe check on Birdwhistle and leave believing the boys have caused Birdwhistle to become blind. Willy, Joe, and Henry decide to find a dog, train it as a Seeing Eye dog, and give him to the Colonel.
At the city dump, the boys find a dirty, matted, and awful smelling mongrel. Henry gives the dog a half-hour session in leading the blind, and then takes the dog to the hospital, leaving it in Birdwhistle’s room. The Colonel takes the mutt home, cleans him up, and decides to keep him. The dog, now named Oscar, is now a happy dog.
Virgil realizes Oscar his is dog and is mad that Birdwhistle stole the dog from him. According to Virgil, Birdwhistle came right into his house and took Bertie (same dog, different name). Virgil is determined to get his dog back and enlists the help of his one friend, Henry Lee. Henry is determined to keep Virgil sway from Oscar. To complicate matters, a nationwide contest for a trip to Africa gets the town, including Virgil, up in a tizzy. Virgil knows he is the winner and must just wait for the day his name is called. When he returns from Africa, he will then get his dog back. But Colonel Birdwhistle has been entered hundreds of times by townsfolk who appreciate and admire him. Birdwhistle wins, causing Virgil to believe the Colonel has now stolen two things from him. He is madder than two Creech boys fighting over a chicken drumstick are. How will Henry contain Virgil and keep Oscar safe and with Birdwhistle. Can he do it?
Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption tells the story of two boys, Virgil, Henry, a British transplant, and the man’s dog, Oscar. Virgil is a mean boy, the last of nine boys. Not a day goes by that he is not beat or taken advantage by one of his brothers. In turn, Virgil always has a chip on his shoulder, beats up kids at school, must always get his way, and has no friends. Virgil’s temper is as short as a temper can possibly be. Henry is a kind, well-mannered boy from a fine family. After Virgil kicks a ball that knocks-out Colonel Birdwhistle, the boys, especially Henry and Virgil, are thrown together for survival.
The well-planned and well-written story will keep you turning the pages. The author understands the psyche of the twelve-year-old boy and offers explanations and comments throughout the book. At first, I thought these annoying, but as more and more pages turned, the narrative became more natural, the comments regarding boys in general became interesting, and the story became a smooth ride, except for the Virgil bumps along the way. Packed with humor, tender moments, and upheaval only two young boys can cause, Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption will please adults as well as kids.
I enjoyed the story, which focused more on Henry and his life than on the main character, Virgil. As one reviewer has already pointed out, Henry should be the protagonist. Virgil is a perfect antagonist and causes most of Henry’s stress. Once Henry understands how Virgil treated his dog and how the dog ended up living in the city dump, he vows to keep Oscar with the Colonel. Even Oscar stays away from Virgil, refusing to go anywhere he can smell the boy—which is not hard for anyone to do. At one point, the author states that Virgil is the only Creech that did a selfless act. Not so, the two brothers who rescued Bertie (Oscar in a former life), and cared for the dog, albeit in a dump, thought only of the dog, not themselves. Seems any Creech could have a heart deep within his chest.
There are no illustrations in the story. Oscar is a small dog, one that Henry can easily pick up. The dog on the cover is not small. I do like the angry hate-the-world scowl on Virgil’s face. This accurately portrays the boy’s disposition. While reading the story, Colonel Birdwhistle looked very near the image on the cover. The houses seem out of place for an area of town filled with green grass. Maybe on the other side they would be correct. Having saidall that, for someone who has not read the story, the cover is inviting and makes you want to know what the scamp on the cover has done.
I am not overly fond of the trick Birdwhistle and George, Henry’s father, plays on the town when Birdwhistle decides not to accept the trip he won, without entering himself. I like the first part, but what is the difference, as Henry asks, between leaving for three months and hiding out, without your dog, for three months. The Colonel does not want to leave the town, where he feels accepted and a member of nearly every family, yet he is still gone from the children and the story hour Birdwhistle did not want to miss. It would have made more sense for the Colonel to feign an illness. The author wanted a twist that would delight the reader but I think this failed to hit the mark.
Kids who love adventure or family-spun stories will enjoy Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption. For his first book, Myers offered readers a well-crafted story, less the twist. There is a second Virgil Creech story to be released this Fall. I cannot wait to find out what bothers Virgil enough to make his face “glow red.” It is entitled, Virgil Creech Sings for His Supper. There is no preview, so make of this title as you will. Just the idea of Virgil singing scares me.
For a middle grade boy’s perspective of Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption click HERE.
VIRGIL CREECH TAKES A SWIPE AT REDEMPTION. Text copyright © 2013 by Mark Myers.
Learn more about Virgil Creech Takes a Swipe at Redemption HERE.
copyright © 2014 by Sue Morris/Kid Lit Reviews
Watching some Harry Potter!Add a Comment
Inspired by the Sketch Dailies topic today, and how much I loved using ink yesterday I created this! I know how nice it is to snuggle with your best friend, especially if it is sort of smelly, but happy with a tail.Add a Comment
It is hard to say goodbye to an old friend. I am currently having to do just that. Sometimes, things deteriorate beyond salvage and the relationship must end. I have had this happen before, not very often – but it has happened.
In my younger days, I was a bridge-burner. I just moved on. I left high school and kept up with very few friends, mostly the ones who went to the same university. After four fun-filled years at college, I left those friends with every intent of doing better. I did not. Oh, I tried. For a year or two I kept up with some. But we all got scattered around the country and once-close ties severed. I predate social media, so we didn’t have that easy connection to tether me to my friends.
I have had to end relationships since then, though not as frequently. It was much easier to end friendships when I moved cities. I have lived in the same city for twenty-five years now and have no intention of leaving. So I can’t pack up and forget to give a forwarding address. Also, the aforementioned social media makes ending a relationship a public event. You have to be sure it is the proper thing to do before you push “unfriend,” or “block.”
What are some causes of ended friendships anyway? Here are some big ones. It isn’t an exhaustive list, you might have experienced other issues.
A trust violation – can be major or minor, equally damaging.
Priority shift – things become important to one and not the other.
Lack of support – a friend has stopped being there for you.
Selfishness – the friend who has all day to complain but has to go when it is time to listen.
Drift – Sometimes, friends just drift apart. It isn’t a willful decision on either side.
Friends can’t always be replaced. Depending on the length and emotional depth of the friendship, there can be a sizable void when the friendship ends. Pain. Regret. Panic, doubt, and second-guessing can even set in. Most of the time, there is even a grieving period when a friendship dies.
So it is with this friend. We’ve been through a lot together. There were entire days we spent together and I don’t regret them. They were good days… comfortable days. Never tight or strenuous, my friend and I got along perfectly. We fit together. I felt a certain contentment with this friend that I rarely feel. In fact, besides my wife, I’ve been closer to few others.
Why, do you ask, must this friendship end?
Is my friend moving? Did my friend betray me?
No, due to old age, my friend’s elastic waistband ripped through the soft, cotton fabric and my favorite pair of boxers is caput. The friendship is no longer salvageable. I could save it for a dust rag or staining cloth, but that’d be weird… unlike writing a blog post about underwear.
Photo attribution: Bert Kaufmann from Roermond, Netherlands (Loneliness Uploaded by russavia)
“Come, Henry,” Colonel Birdwhistle called as he shouldered his cane pole. “We should be on our way. The day is ending and your mother will be spreading supper soon.”
“But we didn’t catch nuthin’” replied the glum boy.
“We didn’t catch ‘anything’, you mean. And catching fish is but a small portion of our purpose here. We are here primarily to enjoy each other and the beauty of creation. If a fish should happen to find our bait attractive, that, my boy, is simply a bonus.”
Unconvinced, Henry pulled at his pole hoping for a nibble that would keep them a little longer. Receiving nothing for his trouble, he reluctantly stood and followed the Colonel toward home.
The two had not gone far when they heard the sound of an approaching horse. Soon it came into view as it galloped their way. Noting its speed, they moved well off of the path. When horse and rider came alongside the pair, the man on top pulled back on the reigns bringing the chestnut to a stop in a cloud of dust.
“Hello there,” called the rider from atop his mount. “Is this the way to Warbler’s Ridge?”
“I believe it used to be…” began the Colonel.
“I’m in an awful hurry,” interrupted the man. “I have urgent business at the paper mill there. This must be the right way, it was given me by the sheriff. I believe Whitaker was his name.”
“Yes, Hub Whitaker is the local sheriff. But as I was saying, this road…”
“Big fella, your sheriff. I’d guess you don’t have to worry much about crime here with a huge man like that minding the wall.”
“No sir,” answered Henry. “Things are pretty quiet round here. But…”
“That’s good, son. Real good,” cut in the stranger. “Well, I ain’t got time to sit around here talking. Like I said, I’ve got important business in Warbler’s Ridge. So if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be on my way.”
With a click of his tongue and flick of the reigns, he urged his horse forward while Henry held up an arm in protest.
“Mister, wait!” called Henry in futility, for the horse was gone. Turning to his companion, he asked, “Why wouldn’t he listen?”
“Henry, you have just learned an important lesson,” returned the Colonel. “Some people don’t understand that having a conversation means listening as well as talking. If he had taken a moment to close his mouth and open his ears, what would he have learned?”
“That the bridge he’s headed toward fell into the river a long time ago,” answered the boy slowly.
“I believe he should figure that out for himself any time now.”
As if on cue, a loud splash could be heard from the direction of the river. The old man and his young friend ambled quickly to the river and past the horse to help the fallen rider out of the water.
“You okay, mister?” asked Henry.
“Why didn’t you warn me, son?” inquired the dripping stranger.
“We tried, but couldn’t get a single word past all of yours,” returned the Colonel. “You missed a turn a ways back and need to follow the river a mile north to get to the nearest working bridge.”
Once more on his horse, the humbled rider continued on his way with every intent of listening for an answer the next time he asked a question. Henry and the Colonel headed home for supper, laughing the entire way. They may not have caught a fish, but they netted a good story to tell.
brand new local retail establishment, I couldn't help but notice that everything is looking pretty spiffy and inviting. The art brain was also working a little overtime this past week -- and at two drastically different scales (GIANT signs and tiny comics) to boot. "Lookin' good" to all and thanks for stopping by!
|The almost blank canvas (letters lightly penciled in)...|
|...to early progress from the Genie Z Boom...|
|...to getting pretty close...|
|... to the final touches...|
|...and the finished product!|
|David (left) pictured here with equally excellent illustrator Mike Whonoutka and their MN Book Award winning hardware for MOO!|
In the distance I hear the band warming up – not a single note piercing the air sounds right. Each is singular, isolated, and the sound of them issuing from so many instruments almost hurts the ear. It is not melodious or rich. It sounds a mess.
People young and old run and walk around me, depending on their ability. The youngest citizens are aided by the hands of parents who steady their wobbly steps. The elderly are aided by their children, their children’s children, or a kind neighbor. No one is alone.
Excitement is high. I can see the shopkeepers giving out red, white, and blue buttons, pinwheels, and balloons on sticks to anyone who wants them. Somehow, today isn’t about profit or loss. Those cares will wait until tomorrow. Competition forgotten, today they smile together and serve.
The entire of Main Street is lined with flags – 48 white stars, seven red stripes, and six white. My own native flag boasts the same colors but in a much different configuration. I never saw it displayed so much when my home was there. Of course, as countries go, mine is old and gray while this one is but a newborn. In the latter years, one doesn’t celebrate birthdays with quite as much vigor as a youngster. One hundred and fifty years old today, I’m reminded.
This little town of Portsong is like any other in the country. It boasts nothing outside its borders that make it unique. It is known for nothing, remembered by few, and can’t seem to grow despite the mayor’s efforts. Yet there is something special here. While I cannot put my finger on it or label it properly, there is something that made this old Brit stay and set up shop.
I believe the allure is in the small details. For instance, I have been asked to join the festivities no less than seventeen times since I came and sat on this bench. Five of those offers came from people I do not know and four more came from people who saw me at a distance and went far out of their way to make their inquiry. I have been here since just after sunrise and it is now nearly eleven o’clock. In that time, I have counted forty-three people of various ages who have passed me. Forty-two of them shared a smile and kind word with me. The only one who did not was little Esther Parsons and being two, she was in the middle of a fit about her bonnet, I believe.
In most places I have been, an old man on a bench can blend in… be anonymous… simply fade away into background. Not here. In this place this old man has been knitted into the fabric of the community so tightly that I believe I would be missed if I left. Yes, I believe there would be a hole in the quilt if I or anyone else took flight. And that is the loveliness of Portsong. Does it exist in other small towns? I am certain to some degree. It is certainly here to stay. As am I.
The parade is about to start. As I leave my seat aided by the hand of a beautiful child with golden ringlets, I hear the marching band leading the way. No longer are they clanging individuals striking off on their own notes. Now they play as one group. Their sound gets closer. It is beautiful, melodious, and wonderful. Like this place, it is a collection of people working together in harmony.
I truly love it here.
-Colonel Clarence Birdwhistle
July 4, 1926