Author’s Roundtable: Amy Oscar

How long have you been writing?

Since I could hold a pencil. My mother is a poet and a painter and encouraged us to read a lot – and to write. I have kept a journal since I was 12 – something I highly recommend if you want to develop a relationship with your inner self. 

Has writing always been something you wanted to do?

Yes – although I never thought that I really could do it. To me authors were important and powerful wisdom keepers. I never saw myself that way. I still don’t – and yet, here I am, writing. Perhaps those authors I admired felt a similar way.

What books or stories have you written? Published?

I’ve written two books – the first one, My Guardian Angel – which I co-authored with Doreen Virtue, was traditionally published by Hay House in 2009; when I finished my second book, Sea of Miracles, I decided to self-publish, as an experiment. It’s worked out quite well. Right now, I’m working on another book. (I won’t reveal the title until it’s finished.) 

Can you tell us a little about your books? What are they about?

My books explore self-empowerment, spirituality and miracles. I also write about angels. All of this can sound pretty woo-woo but it’s not – not really. After reading so many – thousands – of personal accounts of angelic encounters, I’m a witness for the reality of the presence of angels in our very real lives. 

How did you get inspiration for the characters/books?

I get inspiration from my real life and from the stories my readers send to me. 

Is there any advice you have been given that you could give to a young up-and-coming writer?

  1. Write about real things. Real feelings, real places, real red apples sitting on the real wooden table with the chipped white paint. Even when you’re writing fiction. Bring your scenes to life with simple, sensory details: the scent of the woodsmoke from the fire, the snap of the branch as it falls to the snow, the bite of the cold against the skin.
  2. Quirks are interesting. Perfect people are boring. Try writing about weirdos and outsiders.
  3. Write to one person – make it a person who is VERY interested in what you have to say. Don’t know anyone like that? Make one up. Invent an avatar – an imaginary perfect reader. Write to that person. 
  4. Don’t try to figure out what the market wants. Create the new market and build a tribe around it.
  5. Write when your heart is on fire. When your heart isn’t on fire, write anyway. 
  6. There is an audience for every author. 
  7. Just say it – your way. But make your way as interesting as you can. Do this by delighting in language, texture, color, detail. Do this by entering the world of your story and looking around. What is that redhead in the corner up to? Where did that gentleman get that silly blue hat? As your lovers argue over custody of the cat, what’s going cold on the dinner table? 
  8. Let your characters tell you who they are – let them surprise and delight you. They know MUCH more about your story that you do. Ask them about the world they live in. Catch what they tell you on paper.
  9. Let us see you thinking. Let us see you feeling. You don’t have to open a vein but if you do, let us see and smell the blood.
  10. Take yourself seriously. Are you a writer? Grab a pen and write. 

Can you talk a little about the benefits of getting your work professionally edited?

The first time that I self-published, I did not have my work professionally edited. I received e-mail from several readers pointing out every grammatical error, typo, misspelling. My readers taught me that they do care – and quite a lot – about how the work is presented. Editing shows that you took the time – that you care about the reader’s experience. 

What are some of the hardest things you’ve had to overcome as a writer, in order to be published?

  • My inherent laziness. Given unlimited resources I suspect that I really would wind up lying about, reading luxuriously written English novels. I’d lie on a velvet divan in an island cottage. Can you see it? Wide open windows, overlooking a quiet sea; silk curtains blowing in the breeze; I’d rise only to be fed. A perfectly ripe pear. A runny French Brie. Cafe Creme. 
  • My shyness. I am often afraid to send out query letters or ask influential friends for help. I argue with this part of me every day.
  • My disorganization. I cannot figure out the proper structure for my books. I try and try and ultimately wind up asking the angels to slap them together for me in the proper order.
  • My allergy to doing things the conventional way. For example, it really irks me that, in order to get a book published, you have to write a book proposal. But you do. In fact, the first time that I hired a professional book editor, she took my book for four months and, instead of returning it to me edited, she gave it back to me just as I’d sent it to her – with a mile-long book proposal. THAT, apparently, is what a book editor does (unless you specify that you want line editing). (Honestly, I am still not sure about this.)

How did you find time to write your books?

I started writing professionally when I was a stay-at-home mom, penning essays about life with small children for a local parenting zine. Later, I self-syndicated the same pieces, selling them to dozens of other zines across the U.S. and Canada. That led to freelance work for Parents’ Magazine and Family Fun. 

I wrote from 4-6 a.m. I wrote again while they napped and while they played. I jotted notes in the car (not recommended). I wrote during vacations and holiday parties – in fact, my family will tell you that I skipped many holiday parties in order to write.

For my birthdays, my husband took the children to his parents’ house for a long weekend – for a writing mommy, this was the BEST present ever.

Several of my guests have often said writing is therapeutic and relaxes them. Can you talk a little about how writing relaxes you? Any specific examples you can share?

Writing doesn’t relax me – it transports me. When I write I enter another realm – a flow space where I am in the room of the work. Writing, for me, is probably like acting for an actor. I enter the work. If the piece that I’m working on is high-stakes, exciting, my heart is pounding and my breathing is quicker. If the piece is more mellow, I’m chill as a yogi. In other words, whatever the work is doing – I’m doing. Kinda.

Has writing made you a better person?

I don’t really know. What an interesting question. How would one answer that?

Do you like to read? If so, what are your favorite genres and why?

Reading is my passion, my true love (don’t tell my husband). I am often reading several books at once. Some for research. Some out of curiosity. Some for pleasure. Right now, I’m fascinated with the frontier between science and mysticism so I’m reading The Holographic Universe by Michael Talbot (science) and To Hear the Angels Sing by Dorothy Maclean (the story of Findhorn Garden). At night, I don’t want to read anything but novels; my favorite authors are Julia Glass, Joann Harris, Anne Tyler, Ann Patchett, Joanna Trollope, Elizabeth Berg, Zadie Smith and Jonathan Franzen. Oh, and I love Dave Eggers.

Can you talk about how important reviews are to writers?

Reviews help sell books – especially reviews on So in that sense, they’re vital. However, the importance of, and impact on, the writer’s sense of her own talent and ability is a personal matter.  

Have you ever received a bad review? If so how did it make you feel?

No. Not really. If I had, it would hurt my feelings, of course.

Also, would you mind sharing an excerpt from your books?

I’d love to – thank you for asking.

Excerpt from Sea of Miracles: An invitation from the angels 

Years ago, before everyone had a cell phone, I ran out of gas on the Throgs Neck Bridge, a massive span of steel suspended over the Long Island Sound, 12 miles from New York City. As my car lost all its power, the steering wheel locked, and we rolled to a stop in the right lane, just after the curve. From this position, oncoming motorists couldn’t see us until they were 50 feet away. Approaching at 60 m.p.h., they swerved around us, brakes screeching. Several shouted rude remarks, shaking their fists.

I could make excuses: it was Thanksgiving, and we were running late. I had a terrible cold. My two-year-old daughter had been screaming on and off for two hours, upsetting her four-year-old brother and distracting me. Exhausted, overwhelmed, I’d missed the red fuel light on my dashboard. Still, it hardly mattered why we were stuck—I had to do something to protect my children, and my car, from being hit from behind.

My son was fast asleep. Pulling my wailing daughter from her car seat, I set her on my hip and walked behind the car. There, I began flapping my free arm like a broken windmill, warning approaching motorists away.

In the high November winds, with a guardrail only up to my thigh, Katie and I could easily have been blown right off the bridge!

God help us! I shuddered.

Instantly, a small red fire truck pulled behind my car, lights flashing. At the exact same moment, a Boar’s Head truck pulled in front of us. Provisions, read the sign, painted on its side. We were saved!

“I almost hit you,” said the driver of the fire truck. “I was looking down changing the radio stations and wham! There you were! Walking down the road with this baby in your arms. What a picture!”

As he went to search for the bridge’s emergency phone, the other driver spoke to me quietly. “Ran out of gas?” he asked. “Happened to me once.”

“Really?” I asked. I felt instantly better, calmer and a good deal less ridiculous. He told me to wait in the car for the tow truck, which he explained, would push my car off the bridge. “Get off at the Clearview and pull over first chance you get. I’ll drive ahead and get you some gas.”

“Bless you, thank you,” I said.

The tow driver arrived, barking instructions. He would push my car from behind. “Put it in neutral, stay off the brakes,” he said, and BANG! We were off. He pushed, I steered, doing some of the deep breathing I’d been saving for emergencies, and we made our bumpy, jerky way down the exit ramp. I pulled into a grassy embankment at the side of the highway and stopped to wait for the Boar’s Head driver to deliver the gas.

But, “You idiot!!!” the tow truck driver came running from behind. “You had an angel meeting you, you didn’t listen.”

“What? I don’t…”

“That guy, he was meeting you at the Clearview, the Clearview,” he shouted, his face red. “This is the Cross Island!” Then, storming back to his truck, he left us there.

I cried for a while. Then, I got out of the car. I put a blanket around Max’s shoulders and wrapped Katie inside my jacket. We began to walk toward some stores that I could see behind the embankment. If I can find a deli, I thought, I can get something warm for the children to eat. We could go to the bathroom. Maybe they’ll let me use the phone…

We’d gone only a few yards when…

“Mommy,” Max asked. “Who’s that man by our car?” I turned and there he was — the driver of the Boar’s Head truck, already putting gas in our car.

When I tell this story, I usually leave out the part where he lifted one end of my car and shook it, to make the gas run into the lines. It seems so outlandish that even I’m unsure sometimes if that really happened. I skip ahead to the part when my car was turned on, the engine humming, the heat warming my children’s hands, and I turned to thank our rescuer.

“Let me pay you for the gas,” I said, holding up a twenty, all the money I had. “Let me buy you dinner.”

He smiled, and I noticed, for the first time, his beautiful eyes. “You keep it, Ma’am,” he said. “You go home and live a good life and raise these kids. That will be thanks enough for me.”

“But,” I stuttered. “I want to do something… at least, tell me your boss’s name, I’ll send a letter.”

“My boss knows how sweet I am,” he said, smiling. “Go on home.”

As he walked away, I scribbled down the name of his company and the phone number painted on the side of his truck. Then, I put my car into gear and drove my children to their grandparents’ house. All the way there, I composed the letter in my head. I imagined the gift I’d send: an American Express gift certificate, tickets to a show…

But a few days later, when I called the number that I’d carefully copied into my journal, it was out of service. When I phoned the Boar’s Head company they told me there was no distributor in the town that had been painted on the side of that truck, nor was there one on record with its name.

Back then I didn’t know how to explain it. But I do now: he was an incarnated angel, sent, in a truck marked Provisions, to rescue two children and a frazzled mom from the top of a bridge, and to remind us: You are never alone.

Today, I am here to say the same thing to you.

No matter how lost or alone you may feel or how stressful your life, you are surrounded—right now—by a responsive, loving energy that wants you to be happy.

Though most people never see their angels, you’ve been feeling their presence—through intuitive hunches, ‘coincidental’ encounters, signs and synchronicity — all of your life.

Your every longing is heard, your every prayer responded to. Five years ago, I wouldn’t have been able to say that with such authority. But I can now — now that I’ve found myself swimming in a sea of miracles.

Since 2004, I’ve been reading stories about angels—stories from real people from around the world who’ve had direct, personal encounters with the divine: people just like you.

I’ve read stories of terminal illnesses that were instantly healed; disembodied voices shouting life-saving commands; mysterious nurses who appear beside hospital beds in the middle of the night to offer comfort; doctors who materialize at accident scenes to speak life-saving advice before emergency crews arrive and then disappear without a trace.

I’ve read stories about lost heirloom jewelry—watches, wedding rings, diamonds — suddenly found. I’ve read about children led home by gentle strangers no one’s seen before (or since); flocks of butterflies returning day after day to comfort the grieving; birds that visit the lonely, the frightened, the seriously ill — bringing the courage and hope they need to survive.

I have always believed in angels, people often begin or, I’ve never been sure about angels… but I am now!

I know just what they meant. Though I’d worked with spiritual materials for 25 years, as a spiritual counselor, writer and teacher, though I’d experienced many things that couldn’t be explained as mere coincidence I simply wasn’t prepared for the way that reading those stories would change my life. 

You see, I didn’t believe in angels. 

To me, the winged and haloed messengers were the stuff of myth — they were metaphors, I thought, an attempt for human beings to explain their interactions with something they couldn’t quantify, see or understand any other way.

I believed in that something — and I’d built a relationship with the presence that seemed to be everywhere, always available to listen to my prayers or read over my shoulder as I scribbled in my journal.

I just didn’t believe in angels.

Little did I know — a well-worn phrase, beloved by storytellers and editors that perfectly sums up my state of mind when this project began. For little did I know, as I opened the first letter and began to read, that these stories would deliver—drop by precious drop—an infusion of Grace straight to my heart.

Little did I know that this work was a response, sent to answer my most fervent prayer, Please fill my life. Give me something meaningful to do. And please, oh, please make it about more than just me.

That’s the thing about miracles; they rarely come as we expect them to. There’s no flutter of wings, no dramatic flash of lightning. Most miracles come gently, subtly, in a slow-moving wave of Grace only discernible when it’s over.

This is the story of how I was transformed from editor to witness, from student to teacher, and from being a person who wrote about other people’s lives to a person living fully at the center of my own.

This book is an invitation—and a guidebook. For after <nine> years of swimming in this Amy Oscar 1Amiracle sea, I can honestly say: angels are everywhere, every minute of every day—and all you have to do to bring them into your life is open the door, and welcome them in. 

About Amy Oscar

Amy Oscar is an intuitive spiritual counselor and the author of Sea of Miracles: an invitation from the angels. She offers The Soul Caller Training, a five-week online program. You can connect with her on Facebook, on Twitter and on #SoulCall, a Sunday morning chat about living a spiritual life in a material world. 

Why Me, Lord?

“The closer you are to God, the more likely He is to listen.” The past couple days I’ve been reflecting on this statement by Reverend Robert Alden from Little House on the Prairie. Yesterday I went to have lunch with a very special friend of mine, who works at a restaurant a couple miles from where I work, and this statement was on my heart so I drove to the top of Kennesaw Mountain, about 20 minutes north of Atlanta. When I got to the top and got out of my van, I couldn’t believe the view. I’m usually scared of heights but yesterday I felt this calming presence come over me, almost surrounding me with a safety net, letting me know I was safe on the mountain top and wouldn’t fall.

IMG_3171If you’ve followed my journey, you know the past several years dating back to 2005 have been really tough for me personally and emotionally with my grandmother’s passing in March 2005 and my grandfather’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s shortly thereafter. I’ve really struggled with myself knowing there is so much more I could do to help my grandfather forget about his Alzheimer’s and try to remember the great times he has had with his family, and the fact I could have spent more time with my grandmother when she was alive, or called her on the phone to talk for a couple hours every week. Some of these memories I will never get back, and this breaks my heart knowing I will never see my grandmother again or get to go fishing with my grandfather or get to see him drive his tractor, plowing his garden in the spring.

As I was up on Kennesaw Mountain yesterday, and all day today, I’ve really been thinking about what else I could do differently to cherish the time with my family and friends, and more than once I’ve asked, “Why me, Lord?” Why has He placed all of these situations in my life, knowing I am not prepared to handle them? Why has He allowed my grandfather to slowly die in front of me when I can’t help him? Why did He take my grandma away from me before I could give her another hug and tell her how much I loved her and how much she has helped me become the man I am today? Why did He let me be born with spina bifida, unable to walk or feel my legs and confined to a wheelchair all my life? Why did He bless me with a wonderful job with the city of Marietta’s communications office, when I knew nothing about writing articles for a website, how to take pictures and upload them to Flickr or when He knew I am really nervous and stutter a lot when I meet someone new or am out in public, talking to strangers about what my office does?

IMG_4607As I am sitting here writing this, and over the past couple years, God has answered all of these questions and so much more. I know God would never give me more than I can handle and that He will be here with me, guiding me in every decision and problem I face. He has been with me in the operating room every time I have had surgery and has healed me completely from my operations. I remember several years ago I was asked to give my testimony at a local church, and when the preacher asked me if I would share my heart with the congregation, I was scared to death. But God calmed my worst fears and I heard Him say, “Jason, you need to share your testimony. You will inspire so many people just by getting up and sharing your heart. Who cares if you stutter or forget to mention something? The congregation doesn’t care if you’re nervous or scared. They love the man you are today and they see a man who’s overcome so much in his life. I love you, Jason, and I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

I think the same can be said about why I was given the chance to share my talents and abilities at the city of Marietta. I’ve met so many people in the community and at work who come up to me, wanting to know about my story. They always pat me on the back or give me a hug and tell me what an inspiration I am to them. While it’s true that I am there to work for the city, I think I am serving a higher calling by being in the position I am. I firmly believe there is someone out there, God only knows where, who may be having a rough day or need a word of encouragement or a comforting word of advice, and God has placed me on a course to one day meet them, take them aside for a few minutes to talk and hear their story and share what He has done in my life. Maybe they just need to know they aren’t alone, that there is someone who understands what they are going through and will be there for them when they need a helping hand. Maybe I am the person who God has chosen to minister to a lost soul or a single parent with a special-needs child and let them know that God loves them and will always be there to comfort their worst fears.

God has also given me several key verses in the Bible that I carry with me every day of my life. One of these is James 1:2-3, “My brethren, consider it all joy when you face various trials and tribulations, knowing that the trying of your faith brings patience.” This verse means so much to me that I couldn’t possibly share it in this post. I will just say that I am a better man because of the situations God has placed in front of me, particularly my grandma’s death, my grandfather’s Alzheimer’s and my disability. Every day I wake up amazed by how much I have grown as a man, personally and professionally, thanks to the challenges I’ve been given. I would have given up long ago but my faith is as strong as ever, and I don’t think it would be this strong if I hadn’t forged ahead and worked my butt off to get through the tough times. A weaker man would have surrendered, but God has been right beside me, holding my hand and has led me to bigger and better things I never would have had the opportunity to receive had I surrendered. I’ve also become much more patient and have learned different ways of doing things because of my disability. Now some of the ways I get things done have taken some time to think through to come up with the best possible solution, but I’ve stuck with it and have overcome so many limitations it’s unbelievable. I just hope one person sees how much I have overcome and understands that they can do anything they set their mind to if they just believe in Christ to carry them.

IMG_4622This reminds me of the verse I’ve built my life on, Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Growing up, I used to depend on my parents to do practically everything for me, including help me get a shower, get dressed, make me something to eat or drink or drive me to school or a doctor’s appointment. Now I am very independent and am doing things I never would have dreamed of. I’ve been honored as the best ambassador for the city of Marietta and have helped update a large three-panel display at work. I am in charge of creating Marietta’s weekly e-newsletter and am out two or three times a week in the community taking pictures and writing articles for our website. I’ve attended several three-day weekends hosted by Marietta’s Gone With the Wind Museum and have met some of the actors who played in the movie including the beautiful and amazing Ann Rutherford, who played Scarlett O’Hara’s sister, Careen. I’ve had the honor of meeting legendary Georgia Bulldog’s head coach Vince Dooley, the “Voice of the Dawgs” Larry Munson and current Top Dawg Mark Richt.

Recently I applied for a promotion with the city of Marietta, and one verse that gives me a glimmer of hope is Romans 8:28, “Now we know that all things work together for good for those who love God.” This verse is so powerful and so very true. I never would have dreamed I would be working with the city of Marietta after five and a half, almost six years. I never would have imagined I would have the amazing self-confidence I do from working with the city. Now, I hardly think twice about going out in public and talking to someone over the phone. It’s almost like breathing that it’s become second nature. I’ve made so many wonderful friends and have formed so many strong relationships with my co-workers and people I’ve met in the community that I feel like the richest man in the world. It’s pretty remarkable to think that the once scared to death, nervous, stuttering kid in a wheelchair who was afraid to see his own shadow is now a very successful man with the best job in the world and has surprised himself by how far he has come.

Now instead of asking “Why me, Lord?” I just say a prayer of thanksgiving, smile and thank God for everything He has given me. Thanks God!!

HIS Story

The idea for HIS Story started way before I wrote it; there were plenty of notes to choose from while preparing this anthology of God’s interventions, messages, and messengers. The motivation for this book is below.

It’s easy to be uplifted by another’s tragedy because, as an observer, you suffer less pain than the victim. For the most part, your body and soul experiences the inspirational part of their misfortunate circumstances. Rarely, does the spectator wish to be the suffering soul but the witness gets to live vicariously through the other person’s adversity. These stories are important to share because they help humans keep faith, hope and love alive in their lives. For years, I wrote about others’ deaths, near deaths, and triumphs over trials and tribulations. In comparison, my life felt like a “cake walk.”

After breaking my upper arm and getting a partial shoulder replacement, I faced my moment of true faith. After years of writing, compiling, editing, ghostwriting and co-writing others uplifting narratives, where their hardships turned into triumphs, I suffered my moment of trust in God’s plan for my life. About thirty days after my upper shoulder replacement surgery, my physical therapist sent me to my surgeon suspecting an infection at the site of my operation. Having a trauma surgeon and it being Friday, I had to enter his world through the emergency room or slowest possible method.

Four to five hours later, the ER doctor excitedly said that if my arm was infected that the apparatus (unspoken=arm) would be removed to save my life. Racing in my room, my doctor’s intern scurried around taking pictures with his cell phone of my swelling; he ordered blood tests and scans to detect infection. The man agreed with the ER physician’s prognosis before disappearing. For hours after the tests, my mind wandered through the “what ifs” of my situation. In the end, all I could do was cling to the end of my rope and pray.

Hours later, my surgeon’s associate came down to the ER. He was visibly and audibly upset but not at my arm. That man seemed livid at the staff for starting antibiotic before the test results warranted them. After explaining himself and my condition to me, that medical associate sent me home without scheduling surgery because my arm was NOT red hot because of infection. Many other things happened in the ER during that more than nine-hour ordeal but I left with my left arm still attached as well as facing months and month of rehab. In short, my silent prayers were answered.

As a result of my ER minor miracle and inspiration, this book idea developed. This is a collection of stories from years of talking with people about their relationship with God. It runs the gamut from the power of prayers as well as living life filled with faith, hope, and love. This book contains stories and short prose from various walks of life. It, also, has “one liners” or more text from online chats and discussions.

No author names are used. For the most part initials are inserted in the stories presented because these testimonies were penned by God’s Word then portrayed or witnessed by humans and other beings including angels and saints. It’s not good to eat too much honey, nor is it honorable to seek one’s own honor. (Proverbs 25:27) In other words, no one is special except the source of these accounts-God. 

For the most part, these testimonies are small and larger miracles. Their inspiration evolves from the interaction between God and our human spirit. He intervenes when situations appear to have lost all control providing clues that He regulates the outcomes of these events, dreams, and visions. The results include encouraging tales and “silver linings” that attach to those hardships. As a human, our control is our reactions to such harsh conditions. In other words, the soul involved in the drama can find the inspiration that leads to faith, hope, and love or choose an alternate path that may lead to a feeling of abandonment or depression. 

Through good and especially bad times, God offers guidance. When accepted, the types of Divine interventions included in the text of this book reveal the depth of His daily interaction with humans as well as the depth of His caring. Furthermore, sometimes, tragedies startle us enough to promote or reawaken our faith in a Higher Power; they may urge a soul to grow stronger in trust in the Divine plan of life. The goals of this inspiration anthology are similar. May the reader grow in peace and trust through faith, hope and love as presented through the undercover witnesses in this compilation.

Furthermore, “For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.” (2 Corinthians 10:18)

A couple of very short stories from this compilation of HIS Story follow.

Funeral Humor

Unexpectedly a young mother died in a car accident. Her best friend, a cancer survivor that relied heavily on the deceased soul bravely volunteered to do the eulogy. Another young friend decided to gift those present with her angelic voice. 

The singer worried about her strength to make it through her songs. I drove her early to practice so her husband could await their babysitter before following us. As she belabored her fear of crying instead of singing during the part where the words are “and I will lift you up on eagle’s wings…,” I joked about other creatures and song lyrics. Lines from “Mickey Mouse” poured out of my mouth breaking her tension. 

As we laughed, I parked my car and told her to look at me and watch my lips because they will be harmonizing with that other animal song. During the actual funeral, my neighbor didn’t have to find my face because as we entered the church the face of the clock hit us in the funny bone. This Orlando church made its timely purchase at Disney World; there the mouse stood greeting us with his arms marking the hours and minutes. 

God has a sense of humor, too.

 The Joker

You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples. (Psalm 77:13-15)

HisStoryCov600 001 (423x640)Breathless

My young life felt unbearable; my father suffered mental illness pouring it out on his family. We suffered dysfunction; I never truly trusted any family member except, maybe, my mom. 

When I asked for a sixteenth birthday party, she informed me that my lack of boyfriends and girl pals signaled no need for a celebration similar to the one my sister enjoyed two years prior to that request. Feeling isolated, with no hope, I began slowly giving up life. Being a coward, suicide was not my option. Instead, I allowed the next big virus to overcome me.

In the middle of the night, after repeated relapses of this illness, my body succumbed to walking pneumonia; I was breathless. As I let go, my room became as bright as daylight but no one had turned on the lamp in the area. The radiance spread out from just behind me encompassing the entire space while slowly surrounding me as if in a hug. I knew its origination remained behind my line of vision but avoided turning towards that glow. It felt as if I spun towards the source’s brilliance that my soul would be captured and moved to the afterlife; I remained a bit of a coward in that moment. My spirit wasn’t sure what it really wanted but God knew His plan.

Soon, I heard two, male voices chatting about me. One commanding Spirit asked why I arrived at the gates of heaven. St. Peter replied that he had no idea because it was not my time, yet. The booming, authoritative man commanded, “Then, send her back! She has not yet completed her mission.”

My bedroom fell dark as I realized that my mind and soul was engrossed in “The Lord’s Prayer.” At that moment, I had no idea what my mission might be but I knew God sent me back to finish it. My spirit was a bit shaken by this experience; I was breathless in anticipation.

I kept that encounter secret until my mother’s deathbed. She shared her “tonsil operation” vision; at age ten, she was in the tunnel with The Light but was sent back. While smiling, I mentioned that God made me stop short of Heaven, also. After that testimony, unconditional love- A.K.A. my mom- was breathless. This time, she raced towards the light to be with God in Paradise.

The Missionary

Textbook Case

After breaking my bone in multiple places, I spent hours waiting for doctors to decide my fate. From the first ER, they transported me to a trauma center. In spite of having my loved ones by my side, I worried so I prayed. 

When we arrived at the specialty hospital via ambulance, a girl with the waltz of a ballerina came in to set me up in my hospital room. We found out she lived two counties away but chose to be a patient care technician there because a trauma doctor saved her life. 

She’d been texting and lost control of her car amputating her legs. In spite of the fact that she coded, that physician reattached those limbs. Now, about a year later, we met before my partial shoulder replacement surgery. 

She’s a textbook case of why texting and driving is bad. More importantly-she’s a textbook case in trusting God’s Will because her surgery made her stronger in life as well as shoring up her faith. She showed how much she cared when that young lady lovingly told my family her story showing me the path through my own surgery and recovery. 

God’s love joined us as we repaired life’s damage.

Her patient

Harmonizing in the Spirit

I recently wrote a friend an e-mail about my accident because he was going through hard times. To this day, that intersection-where I faced death-makes me think about bypassing it and taking a different way home. But, I try to face it head on to get over the fear. 

I don’t remember all of my car wreck but a few things come to mind. Right after the other driver plowed through my vehicle, in that intersection, my body felt queasy anytime my eyes opened. It felt worse and worse-soon after the accident. So I shut them keeping them closed tight.            

I remember parts of the ambulance and helicopter ride. All my injuries that made them call for that emergency transportation caused me extreme nausea; I continued to keep my eyes closed even while coherent. It felt better that way. However, I was awake and aware while in the air; I heard the paramedics and people on the radio repeating that I coded. At that point in time, I felt light as if my soul detached from my nausea-ridden body but there was a peace not a fear in that knowledge. It wasn’t scary just bright and kind of nice to be hovering away from my physical pain.

During the flight, I heard myself singing a religious song. I felt calm and happy enough to sing. It may have been my mind or soul enjoying the tune because the crew just kept administering medical aide trying to revive me.

Later, my dad said that he heard the same song that my soul sung; it came on the radio as he raced to the teaching hospital to see me-alive-hopefully. Unaware of my peaceful reverie, separated by miles, my father harmonized with my soul belting out the same exact tune while sensing that God guided him safely to the trauma center.

During the ordeal, I remember being very serene as well as aware that if I permanently coded (died) that my family and girlfriend would be in MORE PAIN emotionally than my body currently, physically suffered. As we landed at the hospital, I was very aware of the lifesaving activities taking place even though my brain felt semi-comatose, in a coma, or worse. Quickly, nurses and staff raced to me to help; they cut off my clothes and prepped me on the run for surgery and other life-saving procedures.

One nurse kept chanting, “We can’t let this one die; we have to save this one.” God lovingly agreed restoring me to life.

The Not-at-Fault Driver and Soul

Trust in God heals the heart, mind, and soul.

Cruise2012 001About Cindy Hanson

I work for GOD! Is she crazy or telling the truth? What I mean to say is that I write many nonfiction books that are really just scribing the history of His stories. My tales are Christian-based; at least one of those books points directly to heaven. Most of the time, I explain how bad situations and good ones have the potential to bring hope and love along with stronger faith.

My writing started after a major life change or trauma. In fact, my favorite question during book interviews is: How did you get started writing? The short answer is that in 1991 my mother died. Some people dream of being authors; my writing began as what could be described as a nightmare! However, as she died, mom experienced what would be called a Christian near death experience (NDE) or miracle. My nonfiction witness became Mom’s on the Roof, and I Can’t Get Her Down by Cynthia Meyers-Hanson.

Since then, I diversified into the other books and genres; I continue to toy with writing. I’ve co-authored or compiled several other divine tales. Meanwhile, I have ghostwritten many novels under the pen name Sydney S. Song. I use a pseudonym so that people know when my books are telling the truth and when I am fibbing (a bit). Recently, I’ve produced many picture books for children. I also compile collections and anthologies filled with true short stories from the Divine to mundane including humorous tales.

In real life, I’m a friendly Floridian, born and raised in Miami’s megalopolis. I currently live a bit further north with my husband. We are semi-retired. Our children are out of the house; some are married with their own children. We love outdoor activities such as boating and swimming at the pool, springs or beach.

My author site on Amazon includes my paperbacks and Kindles.

My other author site includes sections for my book genres as well as a blog and video section (the videos are mini movies as book trailers). This site also has my contact information.

Smashwords includes all other e-book providers and formats used for my books including Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, etc.

Check out my other blog on Blogspot.

Other contact information

Put Yourself in My Wheels

Sorry if this offends some people but I witnessed something this morning that really ticked me off and almost caused me to make a scene at work. I’d just gotten to work and was getting ready to pull in the handicapped parking spot I usually get, but somebody was parked in it.

Now, usually when something like this happens, I’ll check for a handicapped permit or license plate so I can write their tag number down and give it to a police officer, but this morning was different…. This woman (and I use that term VERY lightly) was SITTING in her minivan WAITING on somebody to come back out!!! Really? REALLY?!?!

There were 20-25 regular parking spaces that were empty but this $H*C# was sitting in a handicapped parking space reserved for people like me who NEED the spaces. It was raining and I got damp, thankfully it wasn’t a monsoon or I would’ve had to run home and change, and I don’t have two hours to spend running up and down the road because somebody only cares about #1 and doesn’t care who she’s taking advantage of.

IMG_7176You know I wish some people would just show a little damn respect and think about the rest of us who have to park in a handicapped space to let our lifts down so we can go to work or wherever else we need to go. We are people too by God and it’s high time I took a stand and let people know that this kind of disrespect and abuse will stop.

I bet she would have raised T-total hell if she was the one in a wheelchair and I parked there and just sat there reading a damn book or took a nap while she figured out how she was going to get out……….. and you know what, I would’ve just sat there and not moved just to prove how hard it is on some of us who have to survive every day in a wheelchair while the rest of society passes us by and looks down their noses at us.

Author’s note: I just want to say how incredibly lucky and blessed I am to work in a place where my co-workers respect me and are willing to do whatever they can to help me when I need it. I will never, ever be able to thank my friends and co-workers for showing me the respect and giving me every opportunity to succeed. I just hope I can continue to do a good job.

Five More Minutes

I got this in my e-mail last week, and knew I should hold on to it… won’t you give someone you love just five more minutes this week. I know I’m going to 🙂

Five More Minutes

While at the park one day, a woman sat down next to a man on a bench near a playground.

“That’s my son over there,” she said, pointing to a little boy in a red sweater who was gliding down the slide.

“He’s a fine looking boy,” the man said. “That’s my son on the swing in the blue sweater.”

Then, looking at his watch, he called to his son, “What do you say we go, Todd?”

Todd pleaded, “Just five more minutes, Dad. Please?

Just five more minutes.” The man nodded and Todd continued to swing to his heart’s content.

Minutes passed and the father stood and called again to his son. “Time to go now?”

Again Todd pleaded, “Five more minutes, Dad. Just five more minutes.”

The man smiled and said, “O.K.”

“My, you certainly are a patient father,” the woman responded.

The man smiled and then said, “My older son Tommy was killed by a drunk driver last year while he was riding his bike near here. I never spent much time with Tommy and now I’d give anything for just five more minutes with him. I’ve vowed not to make the same mistake with Todd.

He thinks he has five more minutes to swing.

The truth is, I get five more minutes to watch him play.”
Life is all about making priorities, what are your priorities?

Give someone you love five more minutes of your time today.

I’m Back with the Eye of the Tiger!!!

Okay, you can cancel your APBs and tear up your search warrants, your favorite spina bifida guy is back… Yes, after a long, stressful absence, I’ve finally returned to show the blog some much-needed TLC.

I still have a lot to do on a big project at work, but a couple hours ago, I finally said the heck with it and decided to wait until Monday to try to finish it. I probably would’ve been done by now, but my computer (at work and home) keeps freezing, and the website we’re trying to update keeps being a pain in the royal butt. I spent half the time the past few months waiting, tapping my fingers, waiting, going to the bathroom, waiting some more, going BACK to the bathroom, talking to co-workers who passed in the hall, waiting, going BACK to the bathroom and writing articles for work… oh yeah, did I mention waiting and going to the bathroom?

I tell you what, I haven’t been this frustrated working on a project ever. I was more frustrated than George Brett when the umpires found too much pine tar on his bat and called him out!! I don’t care who you are that’s funny right there!! Speaking of funny, did you hear the one about the guy who went to the doctor? He walked in and said, “Hey doc, I think I got some fluid on my knee.” The doctor said, “Well obviously your aim was a little off!!” 😉

But honestly, while I’ve been away from the blogging and social media communities, I’ve really done some soul searching and learned so much about myself. I mentioned I’ve been working on a huge project for work, which should have been done WAY before now, but as I said, technology can be a pain in the butt. While I’ve been trying to get everything done, I’ve felt like giving up a few times and have even wanted to just walk away from everything a couple times. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve felt like Rocky Balboa, getting his head bashed in by Apollo Creed, Mr. T and Hulk Hogan. I know he’s a fictional character, but Rocky’s given me a new release on life, and every day from now on I’m going to get up, stare my troubles in the face and fight back with the “Eye of the Tiger.”

A lot of people have told me that I’m bigger than my problems and should be proud of everything I’ve accomplished. A few Twitter friends have even said something I had totally forgotten, but should always remember: God loves me unconditionally and knows everything I go through. This is so true and something we should all take comfort in. Even though we feel like giving up and quitting, God will ALWAYS be there to hold our hands and guide us through the storms we face in life, no matter how big or small. After all, He overcame some of the biggest storms anyone should ever have to face and rose from the dead to protect us, love us and guide us in the way He would have us go.

I’ve spent a lot of valuable, quiet time with the Lord the past few months, at work, driving down the road, eating dinner and relaxing in my room before bed. He has spoken to me several times, and told me that He loves me and will never leave nor forsake me, and that I truly belong with the city of Marietta, and for that I will forever be grateful. It’s really comforting to know that I belong with the city of Marietta and have a loving Savior, Who will always watch over me and help lead me to choices that are in my best interest. I truly believe I belong with the city of Marietta, and hope I’m working there for many years to come, but it’s taken a lot of prayer and looking deep inside my heart to realize this.

Well, I just wanted to stop by and let you know what was on my heart tonight, and thank you so much for listening. I really hope and pray you will keep following the blog and keeping up with me if you see me on Twitter. January and February may be a distant memory, but I have a feeling that the rest of 2012 is going to be awesome. If you have something you’d like me to discuss on the blog this year or want me to expand on a post I wrote the past year and a half, you can always reach me, either in the comments or by e-mail. It may take a while to respond but I will… thanks for hanging around for the ride. I’m just sorry it took a while to fix that loose wheel!!! 😉

Stay strong, and remember “Eye of the Tiger!!” 😉

Purple Butterflies

Editor’s Note: This is the very personal, inspiring life story of Peggy Abner, who I met on Twitter just about a week ago. Some things Peggy mentions and some pictures may not be appropriate for younger readers. Parental and reader discretion is advised. The pictures of the rashes on the chest, arms and legs, and also the picture of the uterus are NOT Peggy. I got them off Google to show what could happen if someone has lupus.

I became ill at the age of 26. I had a four-year-old and a two-year-old at the time. I was misdiagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the beginning. When my left leg swelled up twice its size, they realized they were treating me for the wrong thing. It was lupus. That first year I was hospitalized twice, five days each time. I couldn’t walk, and had extreme muscle weakness, memory loss and fatigue. I didn’t have organ involvement at the time. Mainly joint and muscle involvement. I spent almost a year in every kind of therapy imaginable. Occupational therapy, physical therapy, massage therapy, water therapy, three days a week for months. I learned how to walk again, got my strength built back up in my muscles and fought my way back, literally. I had two small children who depended on me. I had no choice. After almost three years we had the disease in remission. At that point I took a remission drug and went back to work. I worked in a hospital laboratory as a phlebotomist/lab assistant. My disease stayed in remission for four years.

In January of 2007, it came back with a vengeance. My luekocyte, lymphocyte, and monocyte counts were all elevated, and my red cell count was too low. I had kidney and intestinal involvement and lung, heart, and liver involvement soon followed. My blood inflammation levels were through the roof. To keep my levels as close to normal as possible, I was started on two chemo shots a week, along with plaquenil (an anti-malaria drug) and a slew of others. I was back to using forearm crutches and a cane. I could hardly get out of bed. Despite how sick I was, I still made sure I cooked supper for my family every night. I swelled up from the shots and all the inflammation. I didn’t recognize the person in the mirror. I started planning my own funeral, convinced I would not survive. There were days my children were afraid to go to school and leave me alone. They feared I would need help and no one would be there, and some days they feared I would die. Water therapy is primarily the only kind of therapy that is productive for me now.

I started rhemicaid, a super anti-inflammatory, two years ago. It helped reduce the inflammation the lupus was causing and in doing so decreased the amount of activity and damage it was doing. Once I had been on it a year, I was doing better, feeling better, but my insurance refused to pay for it any longer. So, I had to start taking Enbrel shots, which do not work near as well as the Rhemicaid IV. About the time I was switched from Rhemicaid to Enbrel, I decided to start trying to make a go of my photography career. It has been slow going, and I don’t stay very busy, but it has given me something else to focus on, something to look forward to. Right now, I just try to maintain, get through each day, keep my pain level down and squeeze as much out of each day that I can. I never plan ahead, and I try not to promise anyone anything because I never know what day is going to be a bad one until I get out of bed that day. And sometimes, days that start out great end really badly. I have learned how much I can push my body and what signs to look for. I also know what those signs mean.

What lupus is

Lupus is a chronic inflammatory disease (also autoimmune) that can damage any part of the body……joints, skin, organs. In Lupus, something goes wrong with the part of your body that usually attacks germs and viruses (immune system). It starts attacking your body. You are born with the predisposition to develop Lupus. Most people who develop Lupus have other problems first. I had endometriosis. It is also an autoimmune inflammatory disease. I had seven surgeries on my female organs between the ages of 18 and 25. The seventh surgery was a complete hysterectomy. My body was used to attacking my uterus and ovaries and when they were removed it chose another form of attack. And to answer your question, I DO feel like less of a woman. It wasn’t just the hysterectomy. It was all of it. Everything and years of sickness all wrapped up into one big ball.

I became ill within three months after the last surgery, but it took a year for them to realize just how serious it was and to start running tests. They thought at first I had cancer. Normally our immune system produces proteins called antibodies that protect the body from germs and bacteria. With an autoimmune disease your immune system cannot tell the difference between these germs and bacteria and your body’s healthy tissues and creates autoantibodies that attack and destroy healthy tissue. These autoantibodies cause inflammation, pain, and damage in various parts of the body. The inflammation causes massive damage that cannot be repaired. Lupus is a disease that has “flares” and remission similar to cancer. However, it is unlike cancer in the fact that cancer has abnormal tissue (tumors) and in Lupus healthy and normal tissue is what is attacked.

Many things trigger lupus flares including exposure to sun, certain antibiotics, pregnancy, surgery, infections, viruses, stress, to name a few. Stress on lupus is like pouring gasoline on a fire. It will cause instant flares. When a flare occurs, you break out in a rash. My rashes are usually on the face and chest, but they can also be on the torso and limbs. However, some of the rashes you see online are of people who have the type of lupus that only affects the skin, not systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE). Keep that in mind 🙂 They don’t tell you what type of lupus a person has in the pictures so you never know.

I get sores in my nose and mouth. Weakness, fatigue, headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and increased pain in limbs can all happen during a flare. These are signs that you are having a flare, and you need to notify your doctor. Other symptoms of lupus include hair loss; weight loss or weight gain; allergy to the sun; extreme fatigue; painful and/or swollen joints; fever; edema of hands, face, feet, or legs; butterfly rash on face; anemia; pleurisy (my first round was three years ago); tendency to get pneumonia; Raynaud’s; and Sjogren’s syndrome. It causes inflammation of the kidneys, liver, pancreas and intestines. It can cause inflammation around the heart (pericarditis) along with other complications of the heart. It causes problems with blood sugar (mine bottoms out). It can even cause brain inflammation. Lupus causes high blood pressure. Because of kidney trouble, you can require dialysis and even kidney transplants. Inflammation of the nervous system and brain can and does cause memory problems, confusion, headaches and strokes.

Inflammation in the brain’s blood vessels can cause high fevers, seizures, behavioral changes, hardening of the arteries (coronary artery disease), and heart attack or heart failure. There is no part of your body this disease does not or cannot affect. It can even cause eye diseases. To be clear, I have SLE, the most common form of lupus. All symptoms I have listed are symptoms involved with SLE. There is a form of lupus that affects ONLY the skin.

Pain in lupus is caused primarily from inflammation. Inflammation of the joints, bone, muscle tissue, even organs. I experience kidney pain, intestinal pain, and even tenderness and pain in the pancreas. When I have pluerisy, my lung hurts. When inflammation is decreased, pain decreases. Fighting inflammation is the most common thing treated and fought in lupus. If inflammation is under control, life for a Lupie is much better! The lupus has caused me to develop fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. These are called overlapping diseases. People with lupus are usually diagnosed with more diseases before their life is over. However, the lupus is the direct cause of these diseases. That’s why they are called overlapping diseases.

I have been hospitalized for migraines from the lupus. I have a lot of pain in my legs. That is the part of my body that hurts the most. I had cellulitis of the face a year ago that I would have never had if it had not been for the lupus. My immune system is shot and I can’t fight off anything. In part because of the lupus, and also because of the meds I take to purposely lower my immune system to try to make the lupus less active. I get pnuemonia easily, I have problems with low blood sugar daily. I have to take a heart pill twice a day to try and keep my heart in a normal rhythm. I have numbness in my limbs due to vasculitis from the lupus. The nuerontin I take really helps with this. I have dizzy spells a lot for which I take meclizine. My doctors keep me stocked in prednisone the Lupus responds well t it. I take three shots a week, two enbrel shots and one methotrexate shot. I have 13 prescriptions I get filled monthly. Muscle relaxers help with the pain, stiffness and Charlie horses in my muscle tissue.

Dr. Richard Wiethoff did my surgeries and if it wasn’t for him, I wouldn’t have the two kids I have. I lost four babies. Two died in utero, and they had to go in and take them. I wasn’t far enough along either time to have a burial. The other two I miscarried. I had two “D and C’s,” and the other surgeries were removing cysts off my ovaries and the endometriosis off of my uterus. He just kept cleaning me up to try to help me have children. A “D and C” is where they scrape the lining of the uterus. They clean out the inside of your uterus and get rid of what they call “nasty old junk.” It makes you more fertile. It makes the uterus healthier and better able to carry a child to term.

I was told after my surgery at the age of 18 if I wanted any children I had better do it soon. I had surgery once a year. When my stomach started hurting really bad I knew it was always time to go see the surgeon again. I was told right after my first surgery I would have a hysterectomy within 10 years. It was a lot to go through being a newly married person. I was in college at the time, too, which I ended up not finishing. My husband has been great through all of it. Any other man would have left long ago.

When I received the diagnosis of lupus, it devastated me. A good lifespan of a lupie is 30 years, which meant I would have been 56. I grieved for what could have been and what would be. At that time my family was no help. Even my mother fought me and the doctors. The only help we had was from friends at our church. They are the ones who took me to my therapy and doctor’s appointments when my husband couldn’t. And keep in mind I also had two toddlers in tow.

We had no idea when we did the hysterectomy when my youngest was 18 months old that my body would find another mode of attack. We thought we were solving my problems and things would be more normal. No more pain.

I had to have the hysterectomy when I did. I was losing too much blood. The endometriosis had wrapped all over my other organs. It would have turned cancerous quickly, and I would have died. It is easy to say you would change choices you made in life, but when you don’t have a choice to start with, you really can’t change it.

It wasn’t until the second round of bad health that my family started coming around more. And it wasn’t at first. It took a couple years. When they saw I wasn’t snapping out of it this time, they realized I might die. My sister and my mother started taking me to my doctor’s appointments almost two years ago. I am four years into it this round.

There is a new drug on the market now, Benlysta. It is the first drug in 50 years to be approved for lupus treatment. We are trying to get the insurance to pay for it because it is so expensive. At this point, it is my only hope of ever getting this disease in remission again.

A prime example of how my life is affected occurred the other night. I had to drive 15 miles to the next town to pick up my 16 year old. Halfway there, my sugar bottomed out on me. I didn’t think I was going to make it to my destination and then I was stuck sitting in a gas station parking lot for 10 minutes eating a candy bar and drinking a pop to try and get my sugar up. I was dizzy, couldn’t focus and probably appeared to be a drunk driver. I had no business driving back home, but my son can’t drive yet, and my husband wouldn’t answer his phone. I had no choice. But in my defense, I was fine when I left the house. It hit that fast!!! So I never know what is going to happen or when.

A typical day

I am 100 percent disabled according to the federal government. It’s funny because ever since they “deemed” me disabled, I have been desperately trying NOT to be disabled. First off, I have no typical weeks. There is nothing “typical” about me. I get up and make sure the kids get ready for school and on the bus. I find a little something to eat for breakfast and take a handful of meds. If I am extremely tired I lie down and take a nap. My days start slow. I am stiff and sore. It usually takes two hours to become productive. I clean as much of the house I can while everyone is gone to school and work. How much I get done depends on how much energy I have and whether or not my sugar level crashes (thanks to the pancreas!). I study photography lessons for an hour or two, or if I have editing to do, I will do that instead. When they get home at 3:30, I start cooking supper and clean up the kitchen. If I have errands to run, I usually do it around 4:30 so I have someone with me in case I need them. Then I spend an hour or two on the couch relaxing and getting caught up on the laundry at the same time. I also have to make sure the boys’ homework is completed and showers are taken (They are boys). Then I have to make sure everything is in the backpacks, clothes are laid out for the next day and my 16 year old’s bag is packed for weight class. Then I start the nightly drama of going to bed. I have to find a snack and take another handful of pills. My legs hurt a lot, and I have to get my pain level down enough to go to sleep. What I have described is a GOOD day. If I have a bad day, I stay on the couch all day, and the only thing that gets done is supper (and the clothes laid out and backpacks packed). Nothing else gets done because the fatigue is too bad, and the pain is too high.

Hobbies, holidays and heritage

Almost three years ago I decided to start studying photography. I decided to turn a hobby into a career. I wanted something I could do for me, that would make me feel worthwhile again and something that didn’t require a lot of physical activity. Photography was something I could work around MY schedule and my body.

My interest in photography came from taking pictures of my kids ALL the time! I had a camera as a teenager and took pictures all the time. I loved taking pictures of nature’s beauty. Through the years, my mom decided I was a better photographer than she was so she started telling me to bring my camera to certain functions, and she would pay for the prints. Then I became the official photographer for the family. I would take the pictures, and they would make three or four copies of each print. About four years ago my niece got married, and my pictures were almost as good as the official photographer my sister paid to do the wedding. His poses were better. His prints better quality. So my family started urging me to “do something with it!” I didn’t figure I stood a chance, so I did nothing. My uncle got married a few months later and after looking at the pictures of my niece’s wedding that I took, his soon-to-be wife fired her photographer and asked me to do it. I mimicked the poses and such the other photographer had used, and they turned out really well! So, I started studying photography. I went to the library and checked all the books they had and studied them. I went to another library and checked out all their books! Then I started digging around for anything I could find on the Internet. I found several big sites that offered daily tips and lessons straight to your inbox and signed up. I still study photography and still have a lot to learn. I haven’t studied anything since the boys have been out of school for Christmas break, so I have 34 emails to catch up on! I am what they call a self-taught photographer because I have never stepped foot inside a classroom. Photography gave me and still does give me something to do, something to look forward to, a reason to force my body to go when it doesn’t want to go anymore.

I know I have said my kids do that, but they only do so much. They are older, require less care, and I don’t have to push my body so hard. I think photography saved my life two years ago. It gave me something that made me feel like a productive human again. I didn’t start advertising or trying to make a career out of it until about eight months ago. Until then, it was a hobby. Trial and error. Learning what worked and what didn’t. And it gave me time to find a professional print lab that turned out quality prints at an affordable price! My goal was to bring quality, professional prints to the masses that anyone could afford, and I think I did that! So now I am just hoping it takes off and I can stay in business enough to pay for a studio! I also needed something that didn’t require a lot of physical exercise that I could actually do, and photography gave me that!

The holidays are very important, but the importance is mainly on my family, in this house. I have tried to create traditions for the boys. Going to midnight mass on Christmas Eve. Putting up the tree and decorating it. We make a gingerbread house every year, Jared didn’t help me decorate it this year, just Camron. That made me sad. We usually make Christmas cookies and candy, but we didn’t do that this year. I lost all my recipes. We used to go drive around and look at lights. They are too old for that and don’t want to do that anymore. I always had their pictures taken with Santa, and we wrote him a letter, until they stopped believing in Santa. We have the traditional family Christmas at my grandma’s and then one at my mom’s. I only have two Christmases left with Jared until he graduates high school, and then everything will change. I am very aware of that, and trying to squeeze out ANYTHING and EVERYTHING I can at this point!

My grandparents died before I was born. I look just like my Indian grandma, except with strawberry blond hair and light skin, which I got from my grandpa. They say the lupus came from the Cherokee side of the family. People with American Indian heritage are more likely to develop lupus. My grandmother went to a Baptist church and was not raised on a reservation. She was born in North or South Dakota and ended up in Kentucky. My grandpa’s parents came over here from Ireland before he was born. My dad got everything from these two people, and a lot of it rubbed off on me. They were hard working, poor people, and didn’t take handouts from anyone. They instilled that in their children. My father instilled it in me. My grandmother didn’t pass down any customs from the Cherokee heritage to her children. Why, I don’t know. But they believed in the earth. As if she was a person. Respect her, and she will respect you back. They were all about farming and planting flowers and trees. That is about the extent of what I know about my great grandparents’ way of life. My mom’s side of the family is all Irish, so I am 3\4 Irish and 1\4 Cherokee.

What might have been, what will be

I think we all wish we would have told someone we loved and lost that we loved them more often. My dad died when I was 21. I was pregnant with Jared. My relationship was rocky at best. He apologized a week before he died. That’s all I ever wanted: acknowledgement of his wrong doings and an apology. He died a week later. I grieved for what could have been, what never was, and I felt robbed. All we can do is the best we can with the time we are given and always tell someone you love them every time you hang up the phone or leave their house. I should spend more time with the only grandparent I have left. But life gets in the way. I call her often, tell her why I haven’t been to see her and always tell her I love her. She also knows that I will move her in with me before I will see her go to a nursing home. Even with me being sick. I am the only one in my entire family that has promised her a place to stay if she wants it. That promise alone means the world to her. I took pictures of our family (Brian, the boys and myself) and had prints made of all of them. She has them scattered in her kitchen, dining room, family room, and living room and she knows I am only a phone call away. And she is more proud of those pictures than anything else I have ever given her.

I know that life is not guaranteed. Any day could be the last. There is no point in worrying about things we cannot change. And judge no one. You never know what is going on in someone’s life.

Helping hands, earth angels

My husband’s parents have been a huge help this time around. Without them I don’t know what we would have done. Three years ago I really started thinking I was going to die. If the disease didn’t kill me, the meds would. That same year, because of cancer I buried two people I loved dearly. It makes you face your mortality. I became sad and depressed, afraid I would be dead soon, too. I had things I wanted. Things I needed to know would be taken care of if I did die soon. My boys are still children. They still need taking care of. So I started planning and making people promise me certain things. I needed assurance that if I died within months everything would be okay. And in my defense, I am not the only one who thought I wouldn’t still be here today, we ALL thought it. We all thought I only had months left.

My children have suffered a lot, feared a lot, and I can’t ever change that, take it back, fix it. But I do try every day to make up for it in any way that I can. I think it has made them better human beings. They are more caring, kind, considerate, understanding individuals than they would have been. They have at times been my caregivers. Help me get from the couch to the bathroom. Bring me a glass of water when I am vomiting. Little things. But it’s those little things that mean a great deal. They are turning into fine young men, and I am so proud of them for that. I have started growing closer to my family just in the past year, but I am still very guarded with them, still afraid of being let down and hurt. My husband deserves a medal or something for dealing with all of this. He helps me when he can and tries to pick up the slack around the house when I physically can’t do it. He has been my angel here on earth. He is the only one who has stuck by my side through all of this no matter what.

People tell me all the time how brave and strong I am, but I don’t see it that way. I feel weak and scared most of the time. I just don’t tell anyone that. If I am brave, if I am strong, it’s because I had to be. I didn’t have a choice. My kids needed me and needed me to be strong for THEM, to protect them and make them feel safe and secure. And no matter what life has thrown at me, I have fought tooth and nail for my boys!

Four years ago, when I first became extremely ill again, when the lupus came out of remission, my best friend Michelle was there for me when my family wasn’t. She took me to doctor’s appointments. These doctors are an hour and a half away from me, so it tied up her whole day every time, and she never complained. She cooked supper for us more than once, helped clean my house, etc. Michelle has been a second mother to my children. She is another one of those angels God sent to me. The people from my church were our angels the first time around. I think God sends us angels as we need them.

My husband tells me all the time I am still beautiful to him. Even when I look like something the cat dragged in! He still loves me, wants me, needs me and makes sure I know it! Little hugs here and there, kisses on the cheeks and forehead, telling me he loves me every day. All those little things matter.

If I had it to do all over again, there are things I would have changed. But unfortunately a lot of it was out of my control. I will never regret having my children, for they are my life. My reason to live. If I would have had more money, it would have made life easier and would to this day, but we can’t change that, either. I have gone without meds and still do for lack of money. There are some meds I wouldn’t have taken, but we didn’t know the side effects or what it would do until we tried them. It’s trial and error. I don’t think the doctors could have done anything differently if they tried. I had a team of five doctors working together to try to get the best outcome possible. Those moments when I wallowed in self pity, I wish I hadn’t done that, but I am only human. Sometimes I think it was a blessing I got sick with the lupus when the kids were so small. Camron doesn’t remember the first time around at all because he was so young, and Jared remembers a little but not all of it. Yes, it made my life difficult, but it spared them long-term emotional scars. Jared remembers me not being able to walk and me being sick but nothing like it would have been had he been older.

What drives Peggy, makes her tick

I know for me, the pain, the constant feeling bad (like I have the flu), the constant medications, doctors, poking and probing make me want to give up. It just gets monotonous. What makes me tick? Good question. I can’t stand being lied to. I believe you should treat others the way you would have others treat you. Don’t judge a book by its cover because you never know what that person is going through. Try to be respectful of others. Screw me once, shame on you. Screw me twice, shame on me. I do tend to hold grudges longer than I should. I get that from my Cherokee Indian grandmother. I love photography! It is my joy in life. I love doing portraits of people and watching their faces light up when they see the prints. There is a satisfaction in knowing I did that like no other. I brought joy to someone else’s life in some small way. And last but definitely not least, it’s my boys. I live for them. They make me tick, drive me. To be a better mom, a better woman, a better person. I live to watch Jared play football. He is an amazing wide receiver and defensive back. I love watching him pounce like a cat on whoever has the ball in hand at the time. I love watching Camron play tennis. Although that sport bores me to tears, I couldn’t be prouder!

Peggy’s advice for others who have lupus

Just do the best that you can to get through each day. Do whatever YOU have to do to get through that day. Don’t worry about what others will think because what they think won’t change your situation or get you through it. And don’t be too hard on yourself. Learn to forgive yourself. You didn’t ask for this disease or any disease for that matter, and you can’t help it. And stop apologizing for it. (Things I have to work on daily!)

About Peggy Abner

I am a wife and a mother of two teenage boys who play tennis and football. I will be 38 years old in March. Photography is my passion. I live in Indiana, but I am originally from West Virginia. I love the mountains with every fiber of my being. I feel at home and at peace in the mountains, any mountains. I have lupus, but it is not who I am.

The Love of a Mother

Editor’s Note: This post first appeared on Shauna Smith’s blog,, and she has graciously allowed me to re-publish it to my blog. I’ve featured Shauna on my blog before, and also featured her co-owner of, Sonya Palasiuk, discussing how the idea of LeanOnUs came about. Sonya and Shauna are two of the sweetest, most caring, greatest people I’ve met on Twitter and I can never thank them enough for their support with the blog and being there for me when I’ve had a rough time. Thanks Shauna and Sonya!! I love you.

The Love of a Mother

By Shauna Smith

My girls mean the world to me. I have watched them grow into these beautiful young women. I don’t mean beautiful in just the way they look, I mean they are beautiful people inside.

Thoughtful, caring, moral and real are just a few ways to describe my girls. I am very proud of who they strive to be, how much they care for others and how they don’t always think of themselves first. They are not perfect. They make mistakes. They are teenagers, so attitude is just part of life now, but they are loving people even when they are trying not to be.

I have tried to teach them to respect themselves and, even though my oldest is struggling with this because of her lack of confidence, I do believe they will respect themselves as adults and need others do the same. My oldest, especially, since she requires that from her father, even though she doesn’t get the respect she deserves as a person from him!

My oldest is smart, beautiful, sensitive, caring, thoughtful and very capable of anything she wishes in life. She suffers with Bipolar II Disorder, just like I do, but she has been treated since she was young, and I believe it will not keep her from being a very successful woman! I believe she will end up in a field that helps others. She is excited about the prospect of driving and getting a job. I believe a job would do wonders for her confidence level! She is creative and a bit artsy! She is full of anxiety at times but doesn’t let it cripple her! She is still a bit shy but that has improved every year. She is amazing to me and deserves the best out of life!

My youngest is a complete opposite of my oldest, from their looks to their personalities! She is full of energy, and never stops moving or talking. She is a smart girl but things don’t come easy for her in school like they do for my oldest. She works hard and gets great grades. She has a serious anxiety issue developing and suffers with depression. She has been treated for the depression for a couple of years now, but the anxiety, although it has always been there, has developed into a disorder lately! She is confident, outgoing and a social butterfly. She is starting to have boyfriends and, as I have always known, will be a teenager to keep an eye on. She is very capable, thoughtful, caring, has tons of friends and feels bad when she does something wrong. She is a people pleaser! She strives to be a good person and therefore she is! She loves and accepts people for who they are, and although she is easily hurt by others, it doesn’t keep her from moving forward. Just like my oldest, she is amazing. She is a terrific person and a beautiful girl! I couldn’t be more proud of her!

I love my girls with all my heart and have always tried to think of them as PEOPLE. They are not just kids, they are small adults in the making and deserve respect and caring. I find so many parents treat kids as if they really aren’t people; they just want to rule them, and that isn’t healthy for any child! We are here to correct them and teach them, but we don’t rule them. They have their own feelings, and although we may not always agree with the way they feel, they deserve to be respected and treated fairly. We must, as parents, take their feelings into consideration when we make decisions in our lives. Every move we make affects them, and it is our job to consider them as well!

We should know them well enough to know how our decisions will affect them and consider that every time we change something in our lives. I believe honesty is the most important thing in your relationship with your kids. How do we teach them to be open and honest yet lie to them about things in their lives. It doesn’t work that way!

I love my girls, and I hope that they always remember that no matter what happens in their lives!

About Shauna Smith

I am the mother of two teenage girls, ages 12 and 15. I love my girls to bits; they are the light of my life!

My life has been a struggle from almost the very start. I have had to deal with depression my entire life basically. About 16 years ago, I was diagnosed with Bipolar II and have been in treatment for it. I am pleased to say that I am doing well with the treatment, but it hasn’t been an easy time.

My illness definitely had a negative effect on my marriage; I was out of control at times, and I know it isn’t easy to live with someone like that. I recently divorced after being separated since 2006, and almost a year ago I met a wonderful, caring man, whom I am still dating.

My life has been difficult, but I worked hard to learn to control what I could about my illness and changed some bad thought processes. After my separation, I realized “Happiness is a choice!” I have always been a real intuitive person, and I think I may be able to help others realize happiness! My goal is to help others achieve true happiness, friendship and support, and that is why I am now working as a partner at

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Christmas Callie

Christmas is coming. Ginny and I turn on the Hallmark channel and watch Christmas movies. It’s the time of year to open our hearts and feel the love and life around us. We both have soft hearts and love a good cry.

We paused the movie, as I yelled, “No, Callie! Get away from the tree!”

She was just a tiny ball of gray and beige fur living in the grass and brush behind our apartment. I rescued her a few months before Christmas. Ginny named her Callie because she is a calico.

A week after I rescued her, Ginny looked at me, “Mike, the Christmas tree!”

“Huh?” I looked at Gin. “What about it?”

“Mike, what about your tree? Callie will get in it.”

I thought about my precious ornaments. Many came from my childhood. Some were gifts from a dear friend and expensive. “You’re right, Gin. I never thought about that. I’m sure it will be OK.”

I was wrong!

Ginny and I took a trip to the storage shed, piled the boxes of ornaments and the tree into her daughter’s van and brought them home.

As I put the tree together, Callie climbed the branches. Each layer I added, she climbed higher. “Callie, no!” I yelled – my new mantra. I grew impatient and locked her in the bathroom until I was done.

I spent the evening trying to keep her from the tree. She hid behind my shoes and waited for me to look away. As soon as I turned my head, she ran to the tree, pawed at the lower branches and sprinted away before I could get to her.

We found a water bottle. It could squirt water a good 10 feet. It became my weapon of choice to use on the little tree hugger. I’d notice ornaments swaying and know our grey Christmas destroyer was in the tree again. I peered through the branches and saw her looking back at me with a guilty look that said, “I can’t help myself, daddy. It’s even prettier on the inside looking out.” A few squirts of water from my trusty bottle made her climb out and slink away to lick her wet fur.
We can’t leave her alone in the room where our tree is displayed. Ginny made that mistake once. She went shopping with her daughter one day. When she got in the car, she remembered but knew she’d only be out for a little over an hour. “How much damage can she do in that little bit of time?” she reasoned.

When she got home, all the balls on the lower branches were missing. Callie knocked them all off and played with them. Ginny found them in the kitchen and down the hall.

Callie is a handful, but we love her, tree climbing and all. She cried in the brush. We saved her. It’s her first Christmas. She’s making the best of it.

Michael T. Smith

Happy International Day of Persons With Disabilities

Happy International Day of Persons With Disabilities. It’s about time the “rest of us” were recognized for what we can contribute to society. I guess we had to just wait for the “official verification” according to Barney Fife, M.D. … Mayberry Deputy!!!!!