Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sundays in Fall are for Football, Family and Food

I woke up this morning at 5 a.m. It may be early to some for a Sunday morning, but since I wake at 4 a.m. during the week, I actually slept in.

Waking at 5 a.m. gives me a chance to welcome the day slowly. I stretched for a few minutes until I pulled a muscle in my shoulder which gave me a good excuse to head straight to the kitchen and start the coffeemaker.

Sunday is my day to get organized in the kitchen. Sunday is football from 9 a.m. Arizona time until I go to bed. I grew up in Wisconsin knowing my team, the Green Bay Packers, would be on television because their games were always sold out. Our Sunday meals revolved around the game and, of course, unless it was Thanksgiving and the Packers were playing the Detroit Lions, the game was only on Sunday. It might be hard for this generation used to NFL Network, Football Night in America, Monday and Thursday night football to understand how simple our team's schedules were at that time.

There is something in the air that innately changes my perspective after the autumn solstice. Could it be that despite the 100 degree days in Arizona I sense a bit of coolness in the air? Could it be that without the constantly scorching sun I realize I can turn on the oven and not turn my house into a sauna? Could it be that you can take the girl out of Packlerland but you can't take Packerland out of the girl? Despite my team playing on Monday night, the Sunday tradition is too hard to break.

Whatever it is, after making my coffee, I immediately started to make raisin bran muffins. As they bake in the oven, I plan the rest of my cooking schedule: fresh green beans, Brussels sprouts, and butternut squash. Cantaloupe and honey dew melons need to be cut and stored.

It also makes a perfect day to continue revising my first book Value Meals on the Volga. Everything needs a face lift after a few years and now it is this book's turn. Who hasn't seen their first book published and saw a few little flaws? That is part of the business. This second chance to get it right has not been a chore. It has taken effort to review each page, update a few key phrases here and there and put more punch on its front and back covers. It has been a work of joy. And, I know my Mom is still watching over me as I write and cook, adding her two cents to help me get it right.

So as I sit peacefully at my table, I sip Java Time coffee from my Grand Canyon mug. As I type and watch the sky slowly change from black to a pale gray blue with bright white edging out at the horizon, my oven timer beeps and my muffins are ready to come out of the oven.

What a wonderful way to welcome the day of football, family and food.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Nicholas Sparks was not my favorite author...

Nicholas Sparks was not my favorite author, he was my mother's favorite author. She read everything he had published, saw the movies inspired by his books, and looked forward to each new novel.

Yes, I enjoyed the movie "The Notebook" and listened to "At First Sight" and "Dear John" on audio book. I read "Last Song" and cried during the movie especially when Luke Benward, who I knew when I lived in Franklin, Tennessee, was on the screen.

I routinely tracked the new fiction arrivals in bookstores so I could buy the book for my Mom for her birthday, Mother's Day or Christmas. Usually the Nicholas Sparks book was a Christmas gift.

Last April, I was dismayed there was no new book or DVD by Sparks which would be available before her birthday on May 7. The "Dear John" and "Last Song" movies were weeks away from distribution. What could I possibly get her that could compare? There was nothing.

But, then I thought, what if? What if I could contact Nicholas and ask him to send my mother, one of his biggest fans, a birthday card? I searched his website and sent my request to the first email address I could find. What did I have to lose? He was a busy man and it was doubtful whoever received the email would even pass it along much less respond.

Within two weeks, I received an email that Nicholas would sign a card for her. I was astonished and tickled pink that this busy author considered my request and would make time for her. Within one week I received a wonderful belated birthday card signed, "I wish you the best and many more years! Nicholas Sparks."

With great anticipation, I delivered the card to my Mom at Desert Cove Nursing Center. She saw the card and opened it cautiously, wondering who was sending her a card after her birthday. She read the card and it took a few minutes to register that it was from her favorite author. "Is it really from him?" she asked. "Did he really send a card to me?" I assured her it was and he did.

The joy on her face was worth my small gamble. Her heart was touched and I so enjoyed when she told others he sent her a card. She was amazed and awe-struck by his acknowledgement.

Mom only lived another month after receiving Nicholas' card. Since that time I framed the card and hung it in my mother's room. When I created the movie of her life, I closed it with Miley Cyrus singing "The Last Song," which was the final movie my Mom saw in a theater. She lived long enough to see "Dear John" on DVD in the hospital room for the second time.

I told a number of people this story so they would know the extraordinary act of kindness Nicholas had done for me.

One friend said, "He writes those sappy novels, he had to do it." I thought, no, he didn't have to do it. He heard my plea about my mother's health but there is no way he can honor every request. Nicholas touches our hearts with each book, he has an extremely busy schedule, he helps his community and has children of his own yet he chose to take a few minutes to write a card. He went above and beyond what was needed.

Last week I closed the chapter to this story by sending Nicholas a thank you note with a card from my Mom's memorial service. He helped us both during a difficult time and has added a wonderful story to our family history. I hope he knows just how grateful I am for pleasure the card gave my Mom and me.

Sappy novels? If heart-warming, heart-wrenching, beautiful stories of love are sappy, so be it. I may just have a new favorite author.