A few days ago, my hero died.
My Grandma Ann, who some of you may remember from my book dedication, passed away on Sunday evening after a long battle with cancer.
That’s her in the photo, running her first marathon. At fifty.
She didn’t let her age restrict her.
Not even at the end. As long as she was able, she ran, then walked through her neighborhood daily.
She went to college when her kids were grown. Not a lot of women went to college when she was younger.
She did not let society’s ideas about gender limit her.
She traveled the world with my Grandpa Jim. (He was another great hero, a fire chief, Purple Heart recipient and a wonderful man.) They spent 18 months living in Costa Rica and learned Spanish to do so. She also drove from Maine to Oregon with him- in a fire truck.
She didn’t turn away from adventure.
She was always kind, even when she did not have to be.
She acted with grace and respect at every turn.
She was stubborn in the best possible way.
She never gave up.
As an author, I create pretend heroes. The heroine of my book takes characteristics from my grandma. This is no accident. When I was writing “Nellie Nova Takes Flight,” I used a writer’s workbook to help me fine-tune the book. At one point, it asked me to think of a moment when someone showed a characteristic I wanted my protagonist to have and I thought of my grandma.
A few years ago, my grandma fell and broke her hip. I flew from TX to WA to visit her after she had hip replacement surgery. The next day, the hospital staff asked her to walk, with a walker. I thought, “That’s too much! She’s still recovering! She’s in pain!” But my grandma got up and did it. Each step was excruciating, but I vividly remember the look of determination in her eyes. I will never forget that strength.
She was strong beyond measure.
That moment is what I looked back on when I wanted to think of ways to make my character strong.
There are several definitions out there that tell us what a hero is supposed to be, but I don’t need one. I have a lifetime of memories of my grandmother to illustrate what the life of a hero should look like. I only hope I can live my life with half of the strength,dignity,and bravery that she did.
Goodbye, Grandma. I’ll see you again someday.
Who are your everyday heroes? Tell me about them in honor of my Grandma Ann.
Last month, when I was visiting family in Seattle, I got an email inviting me to be a guest on Radio Active Kids on Asheville FM. I gladly accepted and started planning quick trip to Asheville, NC with my family. I thought that the kids would really enjoy seeing how radio programs are made, plus the whole Asheville area is ridiculously beautiful.
A few days before the show, my husband suggested that I go alone so I could have a relaxing trip.
Okay, moms. You get this. ALONE.
Friday afternoon, I returned home from a reading at a local elementary school, packed up my stuff and headed out the door. Even though I had a 3.5 hour drive ahead of me, I was excited. I had two new audiobooks on my phone. I listened to an entire book on the way there. (“Your First 1000 Copies” By Tim Grahl) Even though I was basically working while driving for hours it was great. It was quiet. The scenery, while it was still light out, was beautiful. The book was interesting and seems like it will be helpful.
I got to Asheville about 9:00pm. I’d booked a room with Air BnB and stayed in the home of some local musicians halfway up a mountain. It was gorgeous and my host was friendly. IE she offered me an adult beverage after my arrival. This is glamorous stuff for a homeschooling mom of three. The wild woman that I am, I took my single drink to my room and worked some more. It was so quiet. I loved it. (Also- my Educational Activity Guide to go with “Nellie Nova Takes Flight” is really coming along!)
The next morning, I awoke to realize how much colder it is up on a mountain than it is in Raleigh. Duh.
I didn’t pack for 40 degrees. It was in the 60s when I left Raleigh. So I got dressed and shivered my way to the car. I was pretty excited when I found my husband’s winter jacket when I got to the car. I mean, I looked ridiculous wearing a cute dress with little birds all over it, heals, and a large ski coat, but at least I was warm.
I drove to the radio station and got there 30 minutes early. I was excited. Can I admit that? This stuff is still new to me, so being interviewed on the radio was a really cool to me. Yes, I said cool. I may sound like an overzealous teenager talking about meeting a boy band, but I felt that way. I got to be interviewed on the radio!
The interview went really well and was actually a lot of fun. It can be found here until 4/16/16. Scroll to “Listen.” It’s about 36:30 into the episode.
Afterward, I wandered around Asheville a bit and did some shopping. I was able to get some birthday gifts for my son, who turns nine today. Then I had to head back to my husband, who had come down with a nasty virus and did not want to be alone with the kids any longer.
I listened to Mindy Kaling’s “Why Not Me?” on the drive home and enjoyed all the beauty North Carolina has to offer. I was happy and feeling pretty good about myself. I stopped for gas and snacks in some tiny little town. As I got back on the freeway, I was thinking about how maybe, just maybe, my writing career could take off. I picked up a piece of candy and unwrapped it, only to find that it was stuck to the wrapper. There’s nothing like trying to pry a grape Laffy Taffy out of its wrapper with your teeth to knock you back down to reality and make you think that maybe you have a long road ahead before you’ll be successful.
And that’s okay. I get to write books. I get to speak to kids about writing! Kids have told me I have inspired them to write or read more often! And I still get to teach my own kids. Things are pretty great.