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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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Me: Good morning, Honey.

Honey: Hey there, Grammie.


Me: I am excited to share the story behind your illustration in "Forever Home." For full disclosure, I should let the readers know that I may be impartial in this interview, as you are my new "grand dog." :)

Honey: Good idea, Grammie.


Me and my "grand-dog"


Me: Tell me a little about your journey to find your forever home.

Honey: I was living on the streets of Texas, hanging out with a pack of stray dogs. It was a scary life, just trying to find food and shelter. Luckily, I was rescued along with a few of my buddies in the hopes we could find our forever homes. The ride up to Baypath Humane Society in Hopkinton was very long and tiring, but the people at Baypath were very nice. They checked us out and made sure we were healthy and ready to be adopted.


My forever family: Sean (Papa), Erica (Momma) and Honey

Photo Credit: Abigail Jean Photography


Me: Tell me how you met Erica and Sean.

Honey: Most of my brothers from the pack had been adopted and I was beginning to wonder if I had made this trip up for nothing. Erica and Sean wanted to adopt a dog and saw my picture online, along with a couple other dogs. When they came to meet me, Erica saw my sweet face and immediately fell in love with me. I do know how to work those big brown eyes! I started to feel the same way and had to let her know. First, I dropped toys in Erica’s lap to see if she liked to play. Check. Then I got closer to see if she was good at rub downs. Check. Then the final test, I licked her cheek. She let out a big, “Awwww.” That sealed the deal. :)


Me: I’m so glad they found you, Honey. You are a wonderful addition to our family.

Honey: (Tail wagging in circles.) From the first step inside their house, it felt like home. This is a video taken of me and my new "Momma" just a day after going home. Do I look happy or what?


Feeling sleepy and right at home.


Me: Tell me what a typical day is like for you.

Honey: I am Erica’s studio canine assistant. She works very hard as you know, illustrating, making music and all kinds of creative stuff. It’s important that I take care of her. My job is to be sure to remind her it is time to eat, go on a walk or visit the ladies’ room. I try to look as cute as I can till Erica has no restraint and I can get her out on a walk. I may even invite her by bringing her my toy for a little game of fetch. This aerobic exercise helps loosen up her drawing arm and I have a little fun. Win, win!



Me: I’m so glad you take such good care of her.

Honey: Don’t get me wrong, she and Sean take very good care of me too. I get snuggles and a full belly rub twice a day - when I wake up and before bed. Erica even treats me to a “Spa Day” where I get my teeth brushed and nails done. I am living the life for sure.


Relaxing on "Spa Day."


Me: I love the illustration in “Forever Home” of you and Sean arriving at the shelter.

Honey: It was scary to get off the bus with all the new smells and commotion, but the Baypath volunteers made me and my brothers feel loved and cared for from day one.


Arriving at Baypath.


Me: It was nice talking to you, Honey.

Honey: Thank you, Grammie. And thank you for buying me doggie ice cream and laying out a doggie bed for me when I visit. I hope you feel how much I love you when I put my head on your lap.

Me: I know Honey. :)

Honey: I love my forever family.



The beginning :)

Photo Credit: Abigail Jean Photography




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