My Momma and Me

I began to take note of the numbers 926 about 13 years ago.  It struck me as funny that these seemingly random numbers 9-2-6 began to appear everywhere…on the clock in the morning and the evening, on time stamped messages, on receipts, license plates, addresses, phone numbers and room numbers.

It got to the point where I felt like God was intentionally opening my eyes to something.  Being the optimist that I am, I was sure He was preparing me for something incredibleBreathtaking.

9/26.  Perhaps the date would reveal something exceptional.

On the morning of 9/26/01 I was busily preparing the day for my third grade students.  When my dear teaching friend Abby popped her head in I remember telling her, “Something BIG is going to happen today.”

To say that I was unprepared for what followed would be the most monumental understatement of my life.  That afternoon at school I got a call from my mom, my world.  She had been diagnosed with breast cancer.  Breathtaking indeed.

I began to detest 926.  I blocked it out, not wanting to see it or be reminded of something so awful.

My Beautiful Mom

A little less than 3 years later we had to say our final good-byes to the most amazing woman I’ve ever known.  I had no idea how I would live one more day of my life without her.

It didn’t start back up right away, or perhaps I wasn’t yet open or ready to acknowledge it.  That’s grief.  Eventually, in the year after my mom’s death, I began to see it again.  Everywhere.  926.  And somehow it didn’t hurt so much.  It felt more like my mom was with me.

Over time, 926 became a source of comfort for me.  I remember crying in the car one day, feeling like I’d never be the kind of mom for my kids that my mom was for me.  I felt her there then.  And of course when I glanced at the clock it was 9:26.

From that moment forward, every time I was with my kids and we saw that it was 9:26 I would say, “Grandma Paula loves you.”  These love reminders transformed me.  They made me face my sorrow and open my heart.

4 years ago today I had a 37-week prenatal appointment for my third baby.  I had intentionally scheduled it for 9/26 because by this time it was clear…whenever there was 926, my mom was present in her own special way.

At my appointment everything seemed routine, but while listening to the baby’s heartbeat my doctor became concerned about a “blip” he had heard.  He set me up for monitoring and announced a short time later that he could not in good conscience send me home not knowing for sure what was going on.  His main concern was cord compression.  He said, “Looks like you’re going to have a baby today.”

I was monitored in Labor & Delivery all throughout the day.  I was filling out papers and forms and the date was everywhere.  It was a 926-FEST.  I felt surrounded by love and lifted up.  I knew 2 truths that day:

  1. As worried as I was, everything was going to be okay.
  2. As much as I wanted my mom physically present in my hospital room, she was there all the same.

I was anxious about the C-section procedure, having had my first 2 children this way.  I was also nervous about getting my IV because traditionally I have to be turned into a human pin cushion to get it just right.  Ugh.

Enter my nurse, Madonna.  I kid you not.  Madonna, the very epitome of mother.  We had an instant connection.  She inserted the IV with ease.  Later we bonded, and she shared the story of losing her daughter to cancer.  I was goose-bumped and speechless.

Madonna spent a lot of time with me that day and was such a comfort as I waited for my husband Adam to arrive.  He was home with our other two kids and quite surprised to hear that my routine appointment was going to result in a baby within a few hours.  He had about a million details to tend to before he could come hold my hand.  I was appreciative that Madonna was so willing to sit with me.

My doctor was on duty and ready to perform the C-section that evening, but in the meantime I was being monitored by a different doctor.  I had just enough experience with this doctor to know that I didn’t feel at ease with her.  So when she came in, briefly glanced at my read-outs, and proclaimed that there didn’t appear to be any problem whatsoever and I could go home, I thought in my mind, “Um, no.  It’s 9/26, my mom is clearly with me, my husband is on his way, I trust my doctor implicitly, and he heard something odd.  I’m having this baby today thank you very much.”

That night, our sweet and spunky Finnigan Henry was born.  The cord was

Welcoming Finnigan

indeed wrapped around his neck, though thankfully he was fine.  Perfect.  I won’t even let myself think about what could’ve happened if I’d simply decided to go home.  But why would I have done that?  It was 9/26, the perfect day to welcome a baby into our family.

And now we have the gift of days like today.  We get to celebrate Finn’s birth, faith, our connection to my mom, and God’s blessings.  Our eyes and hearts are open to the wonder.


** Word count: 926 (of course) **

“C” is for Children’s Books

I’m most passionate about writing for children.  I wish there were more hours in the day that I could dedicate solely to researching and writing for my favorite group of people.

I could not be more excited to attend the SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Letters and Lines Fall Conference this coming weekend so I can do just that.  I have been present at the annual conference for the past 3 years, but always as a spectator. I’ve been inspired and awestruck, taken copious notes, and filled notepads with ideas.  But I’ve mostly kept to myself.  I wasn’t sure I had anything to offer.

Move over self-conscious-former-writer-self.  Letters and Lines, here I come!  This year I’ll be equipped with 4 polished picture book manuscripts, looking forward to an appointment/critique with literary agent Karen Grencik, and signed up for a picture book intensive before the conference officially begins.  I’m staying the whole weekend, so even when I’m not taking part in sessions like “Writing with Illustrations in Mind,” “Minding Your Ps & Qs: A Picture Book Revision Workshop” and “Joys and Challenges of Writing Nonfiction,” I will have uninterrupted quiet time to write in my hotel room.  Heaven.

I will miss my family like crazy, but I think it’s good for everyone if Mommy feels fulfilled and rejuvenated.  My 3 little munchkins will always be my babies, but my favorite picture book manuscripts are like my babies too.  I’ve got enough love in my heart for all of them!

Here’s to a phenomenal weekend!