I’m so excited to announce this event! In celebration of the release of the book “Wrap Your Heart Around It” we are gathering friends for a night of stories and songs, all to benefit several special needs organizations! So come join us, eat some smoked Slovenian sausage, have a drink, be encouraged and entertained! The Horton Building is a really cool new venue right off of Broadway in Nashville if you’ve never been! Oh yeah, and it’s pretty awesome to have Vince Gill stopping by… and bringing some surprise guests! BUT…there are only a limited number of tickets, so get yours today!! Xo
March 11, 2016 – 7pm
The Horton Building
136 Rosa L Parks Blvd.
Reserve Your Seat Today!
No Refunds – Will Call At The Door Only
Unable To Attend,But Would Like To
Support the Charities with a Donation?
We’ve Got You Covered!
Heller Keller said, “Quit looking so close at the closed door that you fail to see the door that is opening in front of you.”
As expected, the phone has quit ringing, the barrage of emails stopped arriving and the buzz is dying down. I found myself so sad and a bit lost yesterday. Walking around mumbling “Now what?” as I stumbled through the house, tripping over dirty clothes, a pile of unwashed dishes in the sink and a stack of unopened mail.
And then this morning, I remembered this photo. I was so caught up in the busyness and business of the week that I failed to embrace and rejoice in the true and real part of this story! The fact that James and I got to touch people all over the world.
James is in a typical classroom in an inclusive program. With the help of his incredibly talented and patient aid, Catherine, he is thriving in his environment. He has trouble with speech and we are working extremely hard on his writing skills.
Catherine has been following along all week with all the hype and I told her I wanted to do something to express our gratitude to the thousands of people all around the world who have reached out to us. She helped James write these words and she snapped this photo.
Until I can respond to the hundreds and hundreds of personal messages, please know that both James and I are so grateful for your kind words. To the brave mothers who have trusted us by sharing your own painful stories – all I can say is you are loved and support from afar!
And as great as this photo is, the bigger lesson for me this morning is that I failed to send it! I let myself get worried and bogged down with how to keep the momentum going that I totally missed the most beautiful part. The fact that James’ life has impacted people all around the world. The fact that out of a moment of our pain, so much good has appeared!!
Doors are closing. And that is a scary feeling. Because when that happens you feel that your are not in control, and reminded that you were never in control in the first place! But as Hellen Keller said, windows of understand and possibility are opening. I have no idea what this day holds, but my personal goal is to stay open to even THIS part of the journey. The low part. The valley. The part that seems darker than yesterday. Because there are lessons and beauty even in that season. Xo
P.S. I’m trying to figure out how to stay in touch with everyone… if you have a moment please visit my website and sign up for the actual email list. This will help me keep you informed of future wall-hitting life-changing moments! www.lynnmarie.net
And then this happened….
Nashville Folks – can you help me find this guy on FB? Or do you know any big-wigs at Apple who I can send this too? They need to know how awesome this employee is!!!!
Dear Apple Store in Green Hills,
I’m writing to let you know how great your employee (pictured in this photo) was to me and my son, James, yesterday when we came to the store to buy a new iPad.
When James was about three-years-old we bought him his first iPad. It turned out to be more than a device to watch videos. It became a way to help James communicate.
Because James was born with Down Syndrome, and at six-years-old was diagnosed with Autism, we use his iPad everyday as a learning tool. Sadly, even with a life-proof cover, after seven years of use, James’ first iPad was no longer working. We had replaced the screen several times and it just kept breaking. It was obviously time for a new one!
I had lunch with a dear friend, who noticed the ‘state’ of my iPhone 5. I told her that it was covered in snot, and limping along, not because of me, but because of James. (My phone became the replacement to his iPad.)
To make a long story a bit shorter, that friend happens to be on the board of a charitable organization, The Fiona Rose Murphey Foundation Charitable Trust, who graciously offered to provide James with a much needed new iPad.
On Thursday, James and I made our way to the Apple Store in Green Hills. While looking at the iPads James must have seen something that sparked his interest in the mall, and he took off running full speed out the door. The problem was he wasn’t at the door, but at the clear glass wall. He slammed into the wall full force which knocked him over. The entire store gasped as they heard the sound of James’ head hitting the glass and then the floor.
I ran to him and tried to comfort him. James has a very high tolerance for pain, so his tears and ‘fat lip’ were brief. Mine however were not. As I hugged him sitting on the floor your employee came over and sat down next to me. He asked if he was okay and if there was anything he could do. I think it was at this point that he realized James had special needs.
“I think we’re gonna be okay,” I said. “But it looks like he’s gonna have quite a goose egg on his forehead.” Your employee asked, “What can I do for you?” (I wanted to ask for a margarita or a donut but I was pretty sure they didn’t have any of those in that secret back room.) I said, “Well, we actually came here today to buy an iPad which was donated to James, but if we’re going to proceed would you be willing to sell it to us and set it up… down here on the floor?”
And so he did. Your awesome employee sat with James on the floor of the store and set up the new iPad. There are no words to accurately describe how grateful I am that he took the time to ‘meet us right where we were.’ He didn’t have to sit down on the floor with us. He could have easily waited for us to stand. Could have easily waited for us to come back another day. But he hung out with us in the midst of our pain. He even got a fist bump from James, and I snapped this photo.
Life is a learning journey. And I walked away from this experience with the reminder to always meet people where they are at. It’s so easy to be so focused on our own mission or plan (or sale) that we fail to see what people really need. I long to be better at this. I long to not be so self-absorbed that I never miss an opportunity to love exactly like someone needs in the moment.
Thank you to Apple, your employee, and the Fiona Rose Murphey Foundation Charitable Trust for being a part of our never-dull lives.
In the emotion of the day I can’t remember his name, but I’m hoping someone will see this and get this “Thank you” to him! (Until the snow clears and I can get there myself! Which in Nashville could be weeks! ha)
P.S. And a big thank you to Apple for making products that are changing the lives of special needs kids!
Dear Southwest Airlines,
This is a thank you letter to Flight Attendant Juan Rivera, Captain Marc Bonisch and Capt. Marc Nannini, who went above and beyond the call of duty.
My son James was born with Down syndrome. When he was six-years-old he was diagnosed with Autism. I want the whole world to know how much Southwest Airlines cares about all of their passengers, including those with special needs – which in theory is all of us!
What happened to me and my son on our flight from Baltimore to Ft. Myers is by far the worst situation I have ever found myself in with my special needs child, and I apologize if the carpeting in front of seat 3A on that Southwest Airlines Boeing 737 will now have to be replaced.
James had a minor surgery the day before we were scheduled to fly. He seemed to be recovering just fine and when I told him we would be going to the beach he was so excited. James has been flying since he was six-weeks-old. At one point he had more frequent flyer miles than I did and has no trouble sitting in his seat for hours at a time. And… the fact that he loves pretzels (one of his few foods of choice) makes flying Southwest an added bonus.
Our flight took us from our home in Nashville to Baltimore. During our layover in Baltimore it was evident James did not feel well. He laid on my lap, which he never does, and shivered. My hope was that he would just sleep on the flight to Ft. Myers and when I arrived and met up with my husband Jim, we could get some medicine in him.
James did in fact sleep for almost the entire flight. I prayed for him, gently rubbed his forehead and snapped this sweet photo. But this was the calm before the storm. But what happen next would prove to be the most challenging circumstance I had ever found myself in.
Sparing your readers, the gruesome details, I will just tell you that James had a horrible potty accident. Horrible. Violent. Volcanic. The likes of which I have never seen before or since. It was so bad that I didn’t know what to do or where to begin. I sat in my seat frozen with fear and sadness and humiliation. It’s one thing when something like this happens at home and you can strip your baby down and throw them into the tub. It’s another when you are in an airline seat and your child is eight-years-old.
I was on the verge of a complete meltdown when Juan, the flight attendant put his hand on my shoulder and said, “Ma’am what do you need?” I said, “I need trash bags. Two of them. I need wet paper towels. Hundreds of them.” Then, for the next fifteen minutes Juan helped me clean up my little boy. I wiped and cleaned and wiped and cleaned. Juan picked up trash and brought stacks and stacks of wet paper towels and encouragement. “It’s going to be okay,” he said.
After Juan and I were able to get James clean I started to work on the floor. But the more I rubbed the worse it got. I did the best I could and handed over the last of the paper towels to Juan. I let the tears silently roll down my cheeks and Juan brought me water. I looked at James, as clean as I could get him, quietly sitting in his seat. And in his awkward tongue he said, “yank you bobby.” (Thank you Mommy.)
As we exited the plane, surely engulfed in a Pig-pen-esq cloud of smoke, there was a team of people, dressed like Hazmat workers, waiting to board the plane. As I stood on the jet way, waiting for James’ stroller, I over heard the pilot, (Capt. Marc Bonisch or Capt. Marc Nannini – I’m not sure which one it was) say to the workers, “Yes, there was an incident on board and we need you to see how bad it is before we can make a decision as too whether or not this plane can stay in use.” He looked over at me. I couldn’t decide whether to cry, to scream or raid the liquor cart. The Capt. personally brought me my stroller. I told him how sorry I was that this happened. And then he comforted me, “Ma’am, these things happen. It’s okay. We can’t thank you enough for flying with us!” There he was, thanking me, when I may have just put the plane out of use!
I would have never have been able to get through such a challenging circumstance if it wasn’t the kindness and support of two amazing SWA employees.
I am recording artist. I have been doing a house concert tour, flying SWA every weekend to different cities all over the country. I schedule my shows only where SWA fly’s to… because I know that SWA will not only get me their safely, but they will get me there feeling supported and loved. You are my airline of choice because you care.
I was able to confirm Juan and the pilot’s names via social media. I first posted this story (along with all the gruesome details) on my Facebook page.
Thank you again SWA for your kindness and ability to look past everything you could see (and smell) and care for our souls.
TBT…Sweet 16. 1981. Lake Catholic High School. Bye Bye Birdie.
“Do anything, but let it produce joy.” Walt Witman, Leaves of Grass
I tried to clean my attic this week. Which means I mostly sat on the floor, surrounded by boxes and memories, laughing and crying and remembering. When I came upon this photo, I was immediately struck by the innocence and joy it conveyed. Little did I know that within about the next eighteen months, I would experience my first heart break. That my sober alcoholic father would begin drinking again. And that I would lose my mother within 3 months of a cancer diagnosis.
But this was a season of pure joy. Four souls, just learning about life and love and friendship. Fragile yet eager and hungry to experience all that life would offer us. It was a time when I believed that I could do anything. Be anything. It was a time when the biggest worry I had was what I was going to wear to the party Friday night. (A dilemma only uniform-wearing Catholic school girls would understand). And there was no fear of being unloved. No thoughts that I might someday be unwanted or even parentless. No mean voices in my head about how inadequate I was as a person. Everything was possible. And as I stared at the photo longer, I had to ask myself, “where did this bright-eyed girl go?” And “Is it possible to return to a such a state of pure joy?”
James was “helping” me clean the attic. As I looked through old photos, he would pick up one and say “cheese” and move it to another pile and repeat. Then it dawned on me, “James will never look back at a photo of himself and say, “wow, I was so happy back then, how do I get back to that?” Loss and pain in life will never take away his joy. Because his joy is not circumstantial. His brain does not live in the future or the past, but in the right now.
I went to Lake Catholic High School in Mentor, Ohio, and this photo was taken during our theater production of Bye Bye Birdie. The show was directed by John Paulett, an incredibly talented and kind and generous man. I will never forgot my first audition for him. I sang “Que Sera” and when I finished he got up out of his seat, walked up to meet me on the empty stage and grabbed my hands. “That was great,” he said. “Now do it again, but I want you to let go. I want you to be in the moment.” He gave me my first leading musical role as Kim MacAfee. We won the Lake County Rotary Award for Best Musical that year – to toot our own horn! I turned sixteen this week and life couldn’t have been sweeter. But things change.
We grow up. We grow old. And everything gets complicated. Year by year, wound by wound, we start to close up. The mean voices in our head get louder and louder. And we begin to think they matter. We start to shrivel, then hide. It’s taken me years of therapy and chocolate to understand what happened in my own journey. To be at the place now where I can look at this photo, and many others from this season in time, and understand where the foundation of shame was laid. Where the walls got built. Where and when and why the anger dug its heels into my heart. But we don’t see it.
But what I know now is that for me, is that it wasn’t just that I lost my mother, it was that I had no idea nor the tools to deal with the grief that came along side her death. It wasn’t that (name withheld) broke my heart, is was that I didn’t know the difference between my internal voice telling me I wasn’t good enough for him, and the truth, which was that he wasn’t good enough for me! Or the real truth… which was that we just weren’t suppose to be together. And it wasn’t that my father began drinking again, it was that I thought his drinking was my fault, and worse, that I could stop it.
Lake Catholic High School and Mr. Paulett created more than just a successful drama program. What they did was create a space for teen-aged girls to have fun and learn about life. A safe place to grow and be inspired and build friendships that would last a lifetime. I am so happy that I am still friends with these girls today. Laura Feller Stacy and Monica Morgan Daly will always be special to me. And my heart still aches that Amy Feller Robertson left us tragically way too soon. You are missed my friend. And the loss of you continually reminds me to stay present.
It turns out that cleaning the attic wasn’t at all about getting rid of stuff. It was about finding stuff. The girl in this photo still exists. I have to put on reading glasses and look past the wrinkles and the age spots to see her, but she’s still in there. And this photo reminded me that as we get older, we have to make an effort to create a space in our lives for joy. No one is carving out a two-hour window for play practice every Tuesday and Thursday night so that we can have fun. (Although I do think a Bye Bye Birdie reunion must be planned!) But we have to choose everyday to stay present. Because that’s where the joy is. I learned that from James. He does not fill his brain with what was or what will be, only with what is. And it is in that place where joy is abundant. Que Sera.
Thank you Lake Catholic, John Paulett, Laura, Monica, Amy and James for reminding me at fifty-one that anything – especially joy – is still possible. Yes, I know it’s true, you can never go back, nor do I want too. But I do want to move forward in my life full of as much passion and desire and faith as I had back than.
LynnMarie’s Memoir will be released in March of 2016 on Post Hill Press. Please sign up for the mailing list if you would like info on how to order an advance copy or get a sneak preview of the book!
In case you missed it, here’s my interview with Bobby Schuller on Hour of Power that aired over Mother’s Day weekend.
I LOVED playing my accordion in church! Amazing to me to see how God puts all the pieces together!
Hey. I know how scared you are right now. I know that your heart is beating a million times a minute and you are holding back buckets of tears. I know that you wanted this moment to be so much more than it is and much more than this picture captures. I know that when you saw and held your son for the first time you wanted to feel love and joy, but instead you felt nothing. And I’m so sorry.
But you know what, it’s all going to be okay. I know you can’t see it now, because you’re covered in pain, but one day your going to love him. One day, after you dig deep into your own soul and learn about your self and your brokenness your going to discover that what you are longing to feel, the connection you so desperately desire, is called unconditional love. And the little boy wrapped up in the blanket came here to teach you all about it.
But he couldn’t do if he came here like all the other little boys. He would have to be different. God gave your son something extra. In order to save you, he’d come to this world with Down syndrome. (more…)
In October 2014 LynnMarie was invited to speak at the Ascend Woman’s Conference in Pasadena, California. You can watch her appearance here.
The lady in the aisle at Party City held up the Superman costume and in an intense southern drawl said, “Isn’t this the cutest thang? My little boy is going to love trick-or-treating in this! What is your child going to be?” She had no idea that she was about to get punched. She had no idea that standing next to her was a mom, a Northerner, an ego-centric artist, who was full of so much anger, bitterness and fear, that she was about to punch her square in the face.
That was a few years ago, and I didn’t hit her. In fact, I should find her now and thank her, because from that moment of frustration eventually came insight, healing… and a song.
My son James is eight-years-old and has a dual diagnosis of Down syndrome and Autism. I’m slowly getting better at accepting his disability. Slowly. It’s an on going daily process, where I try to remember to let go of my fears, live in the moment, and say my own version of the serenity prayer; Help – Ok – Uncle – Help. But sometimes Superman outfits and Halloween still make me sad. (more…)