• My Thoughts

    20 Years Gone…

    It doesn’t seem real to think you’ve been gone for twenty years, Pingon. It’s never easy at the end of September as I let this day loom over me. It’s been twenty years but I still cried a few times today. Rich bought me some Cherry Garcia, and I finished the new final chapter of the novel I’m writing. You’re in it, you know? It’s a small part but I smile when I write her – that Lori – who also loves hairspray and hooker boots.

    It’s really not the amount of time that has passed that gets to me when I think about you not being here. It’s about the amount of moments we didn’t get. The guys, the marriages(I’m one and done), the kids(Alex is 25 now!), the jobs, the hobbies, the heartbreaks, the adventures, the setbacks. All the things I’ve tackled in life that you didn’t get to be there with me for. I’ve made it a long way from that last shopping trip we went on together before you passed away. I hope you would be proud of me.

    I wonder sometimes what you would think of what we’ve all been up to. What you would think about the things I’ve done – would you like Rich? Would you read my multiple drafts of my novel and give me unlimited feedback? Would you visit us in Washington? Where would you be if you were still here? Who would you be? Losing all of those moments is what hurts the most after twenty years. I think it always will. Love you, Lor.

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  • My Thoughts

    TMI PSA

    “If you’d waited another two years we’d be dealing with cancer.” That was one of the first things I heard after my first colonoscopy one year ago today. Personal? Sure. TMI? Maybe to some. But that was a moment that triggered me. Motivated me? Woke me up if nothing else to making sure my life is what I want it to be. I’d been dealing with “health issues” since the beginning of 2020 that were new. My doctor was looking into a few things, test were done, meds were tried, and then it was time for the specialist. I was in her office for less than 15 minutes start to finish, and in that time she’d started with “we’ll do some tests and decide if we need to schedule a colonoscopy.” and switched to “I think we need to just do the colonoscopy. We’re going to need to check for cancer.” She said a few other things after that but my brain was stuck on her use of the word cancer.

    I went home from that appointment a little rattled. I mean, I didn’t like having anyone use the C word regarding my health, but then I decided we were both probably overreacting. Two days after that appointment Chadwick Boseman, a man my age, died. When they said he died from colon cancer I spent the rest of my evening running down the rabbit hole. Attached to one article was a questionaire – 9 Signs You Might be Dealing With Colon Cancer. I took the test and scored 7 out of 9.

    The next two weeks were fun for my husband! I flipped back and forth from I absolutely was dealing with colon cancer, and I absolutley was a hypochondriac and was probably wasting everyone’s time. That was the mindset I went into the actual procedure with two weeks later – I’m going to have to apologize for wasting everyone’s time.

    When the results came back I was relieved. But I was also well aware that I’d gotten lucky. I had a great NP who was going to get to the bottom of things. And I had a great RN cousin who was willing to answer a few embarassing questions and gave me the recommendation to the specialist that I trusted right away. If you’re 45+ talk to your doctor now, and make sure you’re getting scheduled for your colonoscopy.

    They’ve reduced the suggested age to 45 because the number of younger people – people like Chadwick Boseman – are a fast growing number of colon cancer patients. There’s no need to wait for 50 anymore. My symptoms were the types of symptoms that we sometimes ignore. Please don’t ignore them. Please have enough faith in yourself to trust when you think something might be wrong, even if it’s embarasing to talk about. That embarassing conversation could absolutely save your life.

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  • HA HA

    Too Old For This Sh%t

    Why I can’t do 3am writing sessions anymore:

    • you stay up all late, drag ass the entire next day then go to bed at 8:45.
    • Wake up to pee, worry about husband who hasn’t come to bed, check phone to realize it’s 11:20, so he’s fine.
    • Go back to bed.
    • Wake up at 2:45, when the dog falls off the bed. Comfort dog until 3:30 when she decides she needs to go out.
    • Put pants on, take dog out, get dog water, get dog a little snack, wake up sleeping husband, get back in bed.
    • Lay in bed at 3:54, feeling rested, wondering if it’s too early for breakfast.

    ...
  • My Thoughts

    I Wanna be a Paperback Writer

    I’ve been writing. A lot. I write. I write. I doubt myself. I write some more. So, if you haven’t heard from me, this is what I’m doing. I’m almost done for real. I know a lot of you have heard that before but it’s true this time. Looking forward to some time with some yarn and some needles and hooks, but for now I’m writing. 💜

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  • My Words

    In Memory of Grandma Buster

    My Grandma Buster, Janice Malstrom Dumas, passed away today. It wasn’t unexpected. I don’t think many of us expected her to stay long after my grandpa passed away fifteen days ago. They’d been married for 65 years and 8 months and raised five kids together in their little home on Amber Lane, in a house that holds many of my childhood memories.

    Growing up, my brother and I had Grandma and Grandpa Bear and Grandma and Grandpa Buster. The identifiers were the names of the dogs that lived at each house. My grandmothers were very different people. Grandma Buster was an observer who would spoil you quietly. Grandma Bear was the more spontaneous one. Sleepovers at my Grandma Bear’s house usually included lots of kids sleeping on floors. We’d have the run of the house, the yard, and the fridge if you could find anything in it.

    Sleepovers at my grandma Buster’s house were less frequent and less chaotic.Sleeping over at my grandma Buster’s house in my memories was usually just me. I can remember mini pancakes for breakfast and following her around the house while she did her cleaning with her fancy canister vacuum trailing behind her. There were toys that had belonged to my aunts and uncle. Plastic Disney figures that still stick out for me included a blue plastic Tinkerbell with pointy wings that I loved.

    We read books like Harold and the Purple Crayon, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble, and Henny Penny. She’d paint her nails with one of the variations of neutral she kept in the fridge, and we’d drink Lipton iced tea on the back porch swing and watch the whirligigs flutter from the maple tree. I’m not sure who thought of it, but one day she helped me turn the whirligigs and some popsicle sticks into fairies.

    One day in 2019 I found a random maple whirligig in my car, and it brought back the memories of making those little fairies in the backyard. I wrote a note and mailed the pod to my grandma, who by that time was not doing well. Between the day I sent it and the day she received it she suffered a fall that changed everything. She was fragile and frail and the dementia was stronger than ever.

    In early November 2019 I visited with my grandma at her care center when she was still healing from her fall. I sat down at the table, and she asked if I worked there. She was relieved when I said no. I visited for a bit, but she never did remember who I was. The only time a connection was made was when something was said about my son, Alexandre. “He had some troubles a while back, you know?” she said. I told her I did know and that he was doing well now. “Good. I hope he learned some good life lessons from that.”

    I asked my grandpa about the letter I’d sent, and he told me it was received but she’d never seen it. But Janice wanted to know what we were talking about, so I told her about the maple pod and the fairies from long ago. “I’m sorry but I don’t remember,” she told me. I told her that was okay because I remembered enough for both of us, and she laughed. It was the genuine, familiar laugh from my childhood. Quiet, trailing a little, then done.

    The loss of her health was hard to watch but the loss of her memories, the loss of what made her herself, was unbearably cruel. There was so much about my grandma that I will continue to remember for the both of us. Her mini perfume bottle collection that I never got told I couldn’t touch. Shoe shopping for each new school year. Our Ashton Drake doll obsession in the 80s. How much she enjoyed taking Alexandre “downtown” in Sandy. Chicken noodle soup, green Jell-O, Angel Food Cake, and the absolute perfection that was her smashed potatoes and gravy. And numerous evenings laying in her lap in the living room while she listened to her family talk around her. All of those happy moments where there was never any doubt that she loved us.

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  • My Words

    My Many Colored Days: Celebrating Dr. Seuss

    Every March 2nd we celebrate Read Across America Day, otherwise known as Dr. Seuss Day. Theodor Seuss Geisel was born March 2, 1904 and went on to become one of the most beloved children’s authors of our time. His stories are known for their quirkiness and whimsy, and the distint cartoonish style in which he brought his characters to life.

    His professional career, under the pen-name of Dr. Seuss, took off in 1927. Originally, he worked as an illustrator, and political cartoonist, before publishing his first children’s book. That first title, published in 1937, was And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street. The book’s Seuss-ian rythm was inspired by the rocking of a cruise ship during a trip to Europe with his first wife, Helen. Though it was eventually picked up by Vanguard Press, with help from a connection with an old Dartmouth classmate, Dr. Seuss suffered the typical rejection that most authors face. And to Think That I Saw it on Mulberry Street was initially rejected by over 20 publishers!

    You might not have realized it but Dr. Seuss created the idea of “Beginner Readers” books. In 1954, Life Magazine reported that children were not learning to read in school. Some believed it was because there wasn’t anything out there kids wanted to read. School books were boring. A publisher of children’s text books challenged Dr. Seuss to write something kids wouldn’t want to put down. They gave him a list of 250 words they thought were most important for first graders to learn and told him to use only words from that list. The Cat in the Hat was the result of that challenge! Dr. Seuss used 238 of the 250 required words. Next came Green Eggs and Ham and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish, and a whole new world of children’s literature was created.

    One book that didn’t make it to that stack initially was a manuscript Dr. Seuss completed and submitted with special instructions. Although he’d done the illustrations for his other books, he didn’t think his art could stand up to this one. He set out on a quest to find an artist who could make what he called “the first book ever to be based on beautiful illustrations and sensational color.” He wanted to find an illustrator who wouldn’t be dominated by him, and whose art would carry the story. Dr. Seuss didn’t find the artist he was looking for and the story stayed in the dark for more than twenty years.

    After his death in 1991, Audrey Geisel picked up the quest for finding the right artist for the story her husband hid away. She found a husband and wife team and she knew instantly these two were the artists her husband had been looking for. Under he skills of Steve Johnson and Lou Fancher the long-hidden manuscript was brought to life. In August 1996 it was published as My Many Colored Days. The prose and rythm in My Many Colored Days is unlike anything else written by Dr. Seuss. It’s a story of emotions, assigning each feeling to colors, creatures, and sounds.

    The book combines these colors and creatures in what is argubly one of the most beautifully and thoughtfully illustrated children’s books published. From the happy, jumping Pink Days, to the lonely Puprle Days, the book moves through each emotion in a way a child can recognize as part of themselves. “Then come my black days. Mad. And Loud. I howl. I growl at every cloud.” shares the page with a howling black wolf. Red is equated with energy, and green days are slow days. There are yellow days and blue days, and at the end of the book there is a mixed-up day with all the emotions scrambled together in confusion. The moreal of the sotry is loud and clear on the last pages.

    This book, with the stunning art from Johnson and Fancher, is a beautiful tool for teaching young children about feelings and the normalcy of having different emotions. Just as he was challenged in 1954, Dr. Seuss wrote another book that kids can’t put down to teach them something important. I think he would have been thrilled with the strength of the artists who eventually found their way to the story. Celebrate today by checking out My Many Colored Days, and say a little thank you to Dr. Seuss.

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  • My Words

    Fairy Tales


    I wrote this last year as a blog post for a crisis center I used to volunteer for. You can find the original, unedited version at www.imalive.com, and a good resource for mental health crisis as well. For this little blog, I cleaned it up slightly to celebrate that tomorrow, February 26th, is National Fairy Tale Day. I love me a good fairy tale. Stella and her Djinn are characters I want to play with more, but for now I encourage you all to write a little fairy tale of your own and celebrate tomorrow. (Apologies for the formatting. The preview does not look like the published version no matter what I do!)



    Happiness for Stella
    By Natalie Dumas-Heidt


    The frosty drizzle coming from the grey blanket above me was fitting for the day I was having. Once upon a time life had been good but that life had been ruined. Today started with a broken shoelace and that was followed by spilling my much-needed, extra large latte. Yesterday my cat watched a mouse run across our counter and then went back to his own breakfast like it wasn’t his job to be concerned. Tuesday was the kicker though. Chris left on Tuesday. Packed up and moved out with barely a goodbye, and now he’s in the Bahama’s sitting on the beach with his chiropractor’s receptionist.
    A cold wind pushed my umbrella inside out and the drizzle turned to penetrating rain. I ducked into the first shop on my right, my broken umbrella dripping on the tile floor. I stared at it and the growing puddle, lost.
    “Trade ya?” A young man with kohl black hair smiled at me, holding out a clear vinyl umbrella with a shiny pink handle. My hesitation made him chuckle. “Free of charge. You look like you need it more than I do.”
    “Um…thanks,” I stammered. I took in the look of the young man in front of me. He was tall, probably over six feet. Definitely taller than Chris. His dark hair was long enough to hang in his eyes, and his grin was punctuated by two dimples. I would guess he was in his twenties, but his purple silk paisley shirt screamed ‘I rocked this in the seventies.’ I swapped him for the new umbrella and followed him to a cashier’s counter where he ceremoniously dropped my old one into a trash can too small to adequately hold it.
    “Take a look around.” He brushed his dark hair off his forehead. “We might have something else that strikes your fancy.” He smiled and I was drawn into the warmth of it. His eyes flashed in the most enchanting shade of green I’d ever seen. “The umbrella is still on the house though.”
    Knick-knacks, vintage clothes, and boxes of vinyl records were stacked throughout the small shop without much order. It was exactly the kind of shop that Chris would have hated. ‘Other people’s garbage’ he would have called it. I loved it. Each gob of rhinestones with a pin back, every porcelain cat, had a story. I ran my fingers across baubles stacked amongst teacups as I walked, stopping when my hand landed on a bejeweled teapot sitting on a collection of old VHS tapes. A surge of electricity jumped through my fingertips. At the same moment the shopkeeper was at my side.
    “I thought it might be you.” He grinned and his green eyes lit up again.
    “Me? What might be me?”
    “My lamp tends to call people in on occasion. They always find it when they need it.”
    I laughed nervously, unsure if this was his attempt at a pick-up line. Who tries to woo a girl with a lamp covered in plastic gems? “I thought it was my broken umbrella that brought me in?”
    “Nope. It was the lamp. I’m sure you’ve heard the stories – three wishes, no more than three, and your wishes can’t be wishes for more wishes.”
    “Don’t I have to rub it first and wait for the Genie to pop out?”
    “I’m already out. Haven’t lived in there in a long time. Found myself a bigger place with rent control.”
    “You? You’re a Genie?” I couldn’t help but match his grin. His playfulness was catching.
    “Ah, well…Genie, Djinn, tomato, potato. It’s all close enough. The rules are the same. You found the lamp, you touched the lamp, now I get to give you three wishes.”
    Thoughts raced through my mind like wild butterflies and the prospects of this being real. Was he flirting or could he really grant me wishes? At a minimum could playing along get newly single me at least a coffee date? With that smile, those eyes, I’d take a coffee date. “Alright, I’ll play. I only have one wish.”
    “Just one?” He cocked an eyebrow, disbelieving.
    “Yep. I want to be happy. Always. No sadness, no depression, just happy.”
    “All rainbows and dragonflies, huh? That’s the best you’ve got? C’mon! I can make you famous. I can make you rich. I can make chocolate a health food. Let’s hear it.”
    “Happy. That’s what I want. I’m tired of broken hearts. I’m tired of being sad. I just want to be happy. All happy, all the time.”
    His electric green eyes swept over my face. I felt like he was looking into the core of my being. Uncomfortable with the concern, I shifted out from under his gaze. “How will you know?” he asked finally.
    “How will I know?”
    “It’s a simple question.”
    “Right now I’m sad. Yesterday, I was sad. I don’t need sad; I just want to be happy.”
    “But what does that mean; to be happy?”
    I laughed at the ridiculousness of his question, and his eyes crinkled in the corners as he smiled back at me. “Happy is the opposite of what I am right now. Happy is not being dumped by the boyfriend who promised to take you to Paris this summer. Happy is not looking at the prospect of going to your best friend’s wedding in two weeks without the Plus One you RSPV’d for.”
    “Alright, but how would you know? If you’ve never been anything else how will you know happy? And what level of happy do you want to be set at? Perfect coffee happy? Ecstatically happy? Room full of puppies happy? Great sex happy? There are flowers and rainbows because there are dark skies and rainstorms. The world would be flat and grey otherwise.”
    “I thought you were a Genie…”
    “Djinn,” he corrected.
    “Potato,” I returned. “It’s my wishes, right?”
    “Just think about it first, is all I’m asking.” He was so sincere, his green eyes almost pleading, that I stopped. I took in all that he’d said and let it tumble around in my brain. Was I asking for the right thing? Was he right? Would I lose knowing the difference between good coffee and holding a Goldendoodle? Would it be worth the risk if it meant not knowing heartache?
    “You can make chocolate healthy, huh?”

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