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I didn't expect to be crying at breakfast this morning about someone I have never met, but the passing of beautiful @Nightbirde has touched my soul.


In August of 2021, I first saw @Nightbirde on AGT. In a carousel of sometimes unusual performances, she stopped time for her audience that night, as she poured out her feelings about her cancer journey into her song "It's OK". Please take a moment and watch this


What got me was not only her beautiful lyrics and voice, but the message. She seemed to be one of God's angels sent to tell us after a year of Covid what we needed to hear.



This beautiful and faith-filled songbird has changed many lives in her short time on this planet with her faith and optimism. Her courage in fighting her cancer hits particularly close to home for me. There are two young women in my life that have fought the good fight, My precious daughter Erica Leigh and Cassidy.


Erica Leigh and I


It was only a few years ago that my own precious "Nightbirde", my daughter Erica Leigh, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer that threatened to take away not only her beautiful voice, but her life. Erica's courage to take this cross she was given, bear it, endure and overcome to create a beautiful new life for herself is nothing short of inspiring. We were extremely blessed. By the grace of God, and the miraculous surgeon, Dr. Randolph at Mass General, my sweet Erica Leigh has survived, and now many years cancer-free, we are looking forward to her marrying the love of her life in June.


Cassidy and the book I sent her.


And sweet Cassidy, whose journey I have followed for awhile now. (See one of her "Candid with Cassidy" fireside chats here.) Her optimism, sense of humor, courage and openness to share her cancer journey at such a young age is beyond words. Like @Nightbirde, I have never met Cassidy and yet, I feel like she is part of my family. There are some who can touch your soul from miles away. Cassidy is one of those people.


My very own "Cassidy Original."


Recently she sent me one of her original paintings she auctioned off to support kids with cancer and to make her way to Veterinary Camp. It now hangs in a place of honor in my studio. Like @Nightbirde and Erica Leigh, her words and courageous example will continue to mold and change me for the better.


Hearing this morning, that @Nightbirde had passed after such a gallant and brave fight, brought me to tears. Tears of sadness that the world has lost such an inspiring soul, but also tears of happiness for her. Her faith in God shined through every moment of her life, and now at last she is free and by His side. I could almost hear the words we all hope to hear one day...

After my mother passed last March, I struggled with the fact that she was gone

and asked her to come to me...to bring me peace.

That night, she came to me in a dream and said ,


"Cathy, You have no idea. It is more than you can imagine."


@Nightbirde, I hope it is more than you you ever imagined :)

Rest in peace. Your heart-felt message of trust and joy

will continue to send out ripples in to the world.

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- Wisdom from my mother, Nancy


Act One: Dreams in the Making

I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer. I loved words and expressing them as a kid in classroom writing assignments, on the stage in musicals and as a Mom in preschool newsletters. You would have thought I would follow the journalism or Kid Lit track in college, but when the time came to decide what my post high school life would look like, my father had a different take. He didn't feel a four year college was necessary for me, that the best thing I could become was an executive secretary. So I lived at home and settled into a 2 year business administration track at Mass Bay. I did well but still was not sure what the long-term picture looked like.


Scott and I - 1981


Act Two: Wife, Mom Entrepreneur

I married young at 22 and soon began having a family. This changed everything. It was important to me to be a stay at home mother, and so I did. I was creative in choosing the part time jobs I could do at home when the kids were young. I was a bit of an entrepreneur back in the 90's having several business out of my home: cake decorator, seamstress and licensed day care provider. I loved every second of those years. Though the desire to write was always percolating in the back of my mind, I did not have the energy or time to pursue it back then. Life took precedence.


L-R: Scott, Jared, Me and Mark


Act 3: Building My Skill Set

As the kids headed off to school, I found a bit more freedom to work outside the home. I dabbled in many things acquiring helpful new skills, having a lot of fun and interesting experiences.

-Working in the bridal department of Fabric Place helping DIY'ers pick out lace, satin and beading for their gowns.

-As a Bakery on the Common opening manager, working a 4 am-1pm shift so I could be home when school got out. EXHAUSTING!

-As a fashion labeling designer at a major retailer, with the perk of travel to Hong Kong and London

-As a Director of Religious Ed getting involved in over 30 service projects with teens

-As a Receptionist at a spa- Oooo, how I loved the etherial music, aromatherapy and quiet environment.


"The Road Not Taken" by Robert Frost.


"I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference."



Act 4: Back to the words, at last.

Then finally, a few years ago, a job opened up in the editorial department of Charlesbridge Publishing. They needed an admin to support five editors. I savored every minute being immersed at last, in words and all things picture book. Working with other people's books, my hunger to work on my own books grew. I felt like the cobbler's son who was immersed in making other people's shoes and longed for a pair of his own.


Act 5: Life intervenes- A change of hats

When my mother grew ill and was heading to Hospice care, I knew I needed reluctantly to leave Charlesbridge and care for her. So for the next couple years, I managed her medical care from many states away with the help of my siblings. Picture book ideas were set aside and instead, my writing filled many journals where I could process the challenges and end each day with three good things scribbled down. My writing became my road to sanity.



My beautiful mother, Nancy and I


Act: 6 Reclaiming Cathy

When my mom passed last year, saying goodbye and settling her estate was job one. My creativity was sapped and drowned out with greif. I slowly began to attend webinars when the pandemic hit and started rediscovering who Cathy was again, word by precious word. With the unending help of my beautiful daughter and illustrator, Erica Leigh, I had the courage to take on self publishing my first picture book, "Forever Home." Holding that first copy in my hands and sharing it with her was amazing. I started to believe that I was really a writer.



Me and my talented illustrator and daughter, Erica Leigh


Act 7: Getting Out There

Yesterday, a part of a dream that I only imagined, happened. Erica Leigh and I were invited to be guests on the wonderful new podcast, ACT 2, YOUR ON! If you had told me back in the 90's that I would one day publish a picture book, my daughter Erica Leigh would illustrate it and her baby sitter across the street when she was young would be interviewing us... I would have said you were crazy! The team at A2YO was so professional and made us feel so comfortable. During the taping Erica and I got to share some behind the scenes stories of our journey with "Forever Home." The challenges, the joys and everything in between. For the first time in my life, I really felt like I was an author. The road I took to get there may have been very winding with many hills to climb, but it all fell in place. I cannot recall being so happy, and as fully myself as I was yesterday. It was a welcome and desperately needed feeling.


The talented A2YO team: Kate M. Leavey, Rhonda Garvin Conaway and Linda Corwin Tighe Illustrator Erica Leigh and I


Act2, Your On! is an amazing podcast meant for those considering reinvention in their lives with great advice and experiences shared by a breadth of people who have done just that.

I am a regular listener and have garnered many of their "golden nuggets."

Our episode will air on March 28th. I am so excited to share our podcast with you very soon, and will be posting the link across my social media as we get closer. I hope you will check out one of the most joy-filled days of my life:).


My next Act: Write, Share and Query

This month, I am participating in author Tara Lazar's "StoryStorm", which provides inspirational blogs each day and challenges you to come up with 30 new ideas for picture books in 30 days. Today, day 29, I have 29 new ideas, many I can't wait to write! I have already written two new first drafts and revised another manuscript and am actively seeking an agent. Momentum is the name of the game this month. It turns out, the forks I took in the road to get here, prepared me for this great next writing next act. I am blessed!


And Mom, you were right... I didn't get to do it all at the same time,

but I finally got to be where I wanted to be.


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Pondering which of the many household tasks I should attack this morning, "cleaning the bathrooms" lost to "organizing our old guest bedroom." I am in the process of making it my creative space. Lots of inspirational things to foster creative writing, sewing and whatnot are in boxes and baskets. I am eager to get it done, but am enjoying the process of discovering what can be tossed and what inspires. Simplify is my new motto for 2022.


I love the simplicity of this cover design :)


Pawing through a basket, I found a story written and illustrated by my oldest son, Jared many years ago. He is now thirty-seven with three kids of his own. It is a simple, laminated fold-up book dummy that I have kept for many years as it is so precious to me. On this cold, rainy Martin Luther King Day, Jared's simple words have got me thinking.


"Once there was a seed that growed."


Yesterday, on CBS Sunday Morning, Journalist Steve Hartman once again brought me to tears. He shared an amazing segment about a white woman who fell in love with a black man when they were in school. Because of very difficult family situations, with deep disapproval from her mother, she broke up with Steve. She always regretted not marrying him, and the mention of that time brought her to tears.


So many years later she decided to track him down. Against all odds, she found him in a nursing home. Barely recognizing him, she still saw in his eyes he was the same Steve Watts she had fallen in love with. He had endured a very difficult life, two strokes and being homeless on the streets.


"and it grow and growed."


But love prevailed... and those seeds of love, which began in rocky soil many years ago were ready to grow again. Just so I don't ruin the ending, please watch this segment yourself. Get your Kleenex ready. It will warm your heart.



"and he was all growed up."


So what does Jared's story and Steve Hartman's segment have to do with Martin Luther King? He and so many others, planted seeds of peace, discussion, education, inspiration and change so many years ago. The learning and understanding still continues in 2022. Watching this story, I wondered how these two lives could have been different if the seeds of their love had fallen on rich and fertile soil.


I think that today is all about love. To quote a Beatle's lyric, "Love is all we need." Imagine what a world it would be if we all mindfully approached every moment of our day with love.


Think about that for a minute....


We could change the world.


To honor Martin Luther King today, let's take the rocky soil of hate, distrust and selfishness, throw it into the back yard pile and compost it back into fertile soil. Let's plant seeds of compassion, empathy, understanding, service and community and see what grows.

We might just end up singing, "What a wonderful world." (listen here)


"The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky,

Are also on the faces of people going by.

I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do.

They're really saying I love you."


Or maybe if we love, just the beginning :)


"Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that."

Martin Luther King Jr.
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A little bit of this & that