Make Way, Proud Mama Coming Through


Thunk, thunk, thunk.

That’s the sound of the my full heart.

The sound of my chest beating with pride.

The sound of my love bubbling up from inside.

Other people now see what I’ve known — this child of mine is letting her light shine.

Just about 15 months ago, Momo — as she is affectionately known — our now 13-year-old daughter picked up the camera and began to snap some shots of this and that.  The more photos she took, the more she refined, took note, and used this medium to help her articulate how she feels about and sees her world. Her keen interest and enthusiasm have gotten her up before sunrise, to get shots during the “golden hour.” Her inspirations have her laying on her stomach in the snow, standing on ladders, and having her friends model wherever they go.


Gold Key Winner "Jump"

Gold Key Winner “Jump”

Just recently, Marjorie joined the school art club, made new friends and through their and the teacher’s urging, she entered the Scholastic Key Awards.

Yee-ha now– she earned two Gold Keys for two of her photos, plus four Silver Keys and a couple of honorable mentions.

Gold Key Wiiner "Stairs."

Gold Key Winner “Stairs.”

Gallery DebutFriday was her coming out party– all Gold Key works were on display at the Holland Project in Reno, NV. To be on hand for her artistic debut, to see her face shining and her excitement growing — THAT was a Thunk, thunk, thunk.

Gallery Debut

Little Things Make Her A Bright, Shining Birthday Beacon


“It’s a girl!”madeleine infant

Sixteen candles will be on our daughter Madeleine’s dessert – blueberry pie — tonight.

The big moments – her birth, first word, first smile, first day of school, losing that first tooth, first time riding her bike, saying “I Love You,” stand out in time. These rights of passage play over and over in my memory as the playbook of her life.

But it’s the little moments that make her Madeleine.

madeleine painter

  • The time she thought the leprechaun potion had shrunk her
  • The way she sings in the shower with true abandon
  • Her child-like giggle
  • The way she lives out the stories she reads and sees. Go to a movie with her and bring some tissues!
  • Her incredibly kind spirit, especially with children
  • The time she lost her ring and we looked everywhere for such a long time. It was the end of the world until she found it was in her pocket all the time
  • Her new habit of translating everything she thinks, hears and sees from English into Frenchmadeleine snowman
  • The music that explodes from her in song form via guitar, drum, piano and rickety chop sticks
  • Her sudden tempers that melt into tears and really all-too-many “I’m sorries.”
  • Oh so polite and yet suddenly unrefined in just the way teens tend to be
  • The creative touches she has with everything she does – with notes, homework assignments – she’s a cartoonist, poet, doodler, song-writer
  • Imagine this: a flat tire     the very first time she drove with her learner’s permit
  • Nerd to her core, she embraces her Dr. Who, Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings.
  • She loves color – she doesn’t even realize she must own 7 orange shirts and her day-glo orange shoes and backpack help me pick her out in any crowd
  • Dauntingly positive – “We can do it, Mom! Who cares what other people think?”
  • Despite their sibling jabs, she really loves being a big sister and would take on any bully to protect The Mo
  • The way her hugs go on and on
  • How she worries about her friends and is willing to carry their problems for them
  • Her 1000-watt smile that lights up the room

Madeleine’s smarter than most, (I know, I’m her mom, but it’s simply true) she’s got big dreams and though I wish time would slow down because I want to savor every quirk and ancillary anecdote I also am excited to see what she’ll be, do and think as she finishes adolescence and explodes into young adult.montage of photos Madeleine

  Love you my Laney-Loo. Love you all the time!

Where the Books Meet the Shelf


I guess it’s something about the DNA. Our daughters have inherited our love our books — what a joy that they can learn, grow, change, embrace, discover, escape and blossom through books. HOWEVER, we do not have infinite space to collect books. Before this next project our small home boasted 11 bookshelves in all and each are bursting with non-fiction, history, classics, mysteries, fun fiction, mysteries, realistic fiction, fantasy and historical novels.

Both bibliophiles are library junkies who bring home up to 20 books (the very limit you can borrow) each at a time and devour them all. We donate the books that aren’t keepers, but recently Mo’s small bedroom was at the limit for books.

Being our resident style maven, not just any bookcase would do. We searched our local second-hand stores and behold this sweet find at Junkee Clothing and Antique Exchange in Reno, NV:

The finish was one of those hideous faux paint jobs.

The first phase was the real challenge. Although the piece of furniture is made of good, solid wood, not plywood or sheet wood, the previous owner had used a faux finish that resembled plasticized wood. (Gotta question the judgement there; why not just buy a plastic shelf?)  After sanding and sanding and sanding, then scrubbing with plain water for better part of two hours, the finish just oozed off. Sick! But the result was that we had a clean canvas on which to work.

Next a coat of white spray paint on the exterior. We took turns painting, with me teaching the nuances of spray painting and Mo learning so that she can do this with other projects in the future.

Painting outdoors — a must.

Next step, applying the sweet turquoisey-teal color our girl knew would accent the existing small bedroom. Again, we took turns with the paintbrush and roller so that in the end, we were both proud of our part in the product.

Then, to make it one of a kind, she selected ribbon to festoon the outline. A dark pink on light pink scroll patterned ribbon framed the shelving with style.

We used a glue gun and worked quickly together. Definitely a two-person job.

Now ensconced in her room, Mo has arranged each shelf by genre with some of her special memories to set off her beloved books.

The finished product shines.

For me, the best part was doing this together. She learned a lot about seeing a project through from start to finish and I got to spend a glorious day with her and now have the books off the floor.

Breaking for Heartache


A sharp intake of breath, then lungs full, but not a cry – yet.

“Oh no. My baby.”

A parent recognizes the cry of her child. The tired cry. The hungry cry. The frustrated, sister took my toy cry. The “Owie!” cry.

But this cry – different. Never before heard, but I knew.

I pulled the car over and asked Madeleine, then 8, “Baby, has it happened, are you at the end? Oh dear.”

Madeleine begged to read “Where the Red Fern Grows.”   “Well, are you sure?” I asked. “It’s SO good. Might be sad, though”

Unperturbed, she ordered the Wilson Rawls’ classic from the scholastic book order.

by Wilson Rawls

Voraciously she read the story of Billy, Old Dan and Little Ann – a boy and his two dogs. On the drive home from a visit with friends, it was dark. She wanted the dome light of the car on to finish. Seeing she was close to the end, I told her that the dome light disturbs the other drivers (I wanted to delay the inevitable). However, light is just a little thing to an eight-year-old.

Now at the curb on Mayberry drive – how prophetic – I hastened to her side of the car while six-year-old Marjorie asked what was it. “Is she OK?”

For this was the cry of heartbreak. The First heartbreak.

“Why mom? Dan AND Little Ann? Why?”

The truth. A book can break your heart. Oh, there’s the poorly written book, and the one with the stupid ending. The one with the evil villain – but that end is expected, it’s telegraphed throughout the narrative.

This is different. Be clear – a good book will break your heart with its unexpected beauty, the characters you’ve fallen in love with for 226 pages; these characters are good and solid and innocent. Oh. Hurt.

It can be that the story is so well written. It may also be that this heart wrencher is the mirror in which you see yourself.

A long time ago, “Laughing Boy,” a short 1930 Pulitzer Prize fiction winner by Oliver La Farge about a Native American couple in New Mexico was my Red Fern. I had no knowledge of this book, only that it was on the stack of a brother’s college books. The same thing – at the climax, I cracked open with a force of emotion. Utter meltdown.

That memory helped me sooth my girl.

What could I say? Just hold her. Let her cry.

After a while, I managed to say, “Let’s go home. We’ll read the last bits together.”

The heart can mend. Wild violets, rooster heads and mountain daisies still make us smile.

Madeleine’s fifteen now and growing in every way. Ever optimistic, she barrels into life, school, and friendships and some day it’ll be a relationship. She’s bound to have those Red Fern days; I just want to be there with her to find the wild violets, rooster heads and mountain daisies by and by.