Full Circle: beginnings, endings, beginnings again...

We all begin somewhere. Stories all begin somewhere. I began with my mom. She had me in January almost forty-nine years ago. It was not an easy birth. I was born too soon. They didn't know my mom had a chemical imbalance. She didn't do well, but we both survived somehow.

My parents were both artists, and even if they didn't stick together like glue, they provided the materials that inspired me to become the artist, the author, the illustrator, the creative woman I have become.

When I was little, I had decided that I wanted to be a children's book author and illustrator and kept that goal in mind despite many side trips down other roads. As an illustration student I still kept looking back to that sense of wonder that kept me alive and enchanted despite obstacles and difficulties.

My mom never lived to see my books get published. In fact she died six days after my twenty-fourth birthday in January almost twenty-five years ago. Ten days later the space shuttle Challenger exploded. Somehow that expressed my grief at the time- it was universal, galactic, unfathomable.

We didn't have much growing up, especially after my father left my mother for my brother's first grade teacher. My mother couldn't afford to pay our taxes or our heating bills. She didn't have health insurance, and she had been diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma, a cancer of the red blood cells. When she died, all that was left was the old, rundown farmhouse and barn we lived in, and she had sold it for less than the land was worth just before she died. We had to keep that sale going just to pay her medical bills.

What little was left was put into some stock for my younger brother and me to inherit when we turned twenty-five. Now I could have used that money to buy a car. A nice car for back then. But I didn't. I didn't touch it. Not for almost twenty-four years. I didn't know why. Partially it was because I wanted to prove I could build a life on my own and by myself. And I did.

This is the little studio that we restored. It used to be a work shed. It's over a hundred years old, and for the past fourteen years, this little building has been where I've created the art for the books I've written.

My mom always wanted a huge barn to paint in. She had a barn, but you could see through the floor boards to the old cement stalls below. The pot belly stove barely kept it warm in winter, and then one night a crazy kid in the neighborhood set it on fire and she lost four hundred of her paintings. It was the beginning of the end for her. I was the first one to see the flames from our kitchen window and had to tell her that the firemen were at our door.

But the other reason I think I didn't spend the inheritance is that I thought it was the last bit of "her" that I had left. If that money was gone, she would be gone. So I didn't touch it, and it grew. Just before the economy fell I was lucky to pull it out of the stock it had been sitting in all those years...

Now I'm skipping over a bunch of parts now, because they are not as relevant, but one day my beloved husband made me realize that if I used that money to build the studio I had always dreamed of, wouldn't my mother think that was better than it sitting in a bank account?

So. You know what? I used it all. I built that studio. It's almost done.

I can't wait to start writing, drawing, painting, dreaming, singing, dancing, creating... and the best part is that in the end, it came from my mother. It's her gift to me. Sometimes we have to take what seems like an ending and make it a beginning. It's true in writing, and in life, and you never know where it will lead you...

Have an amazing and inspirational 2011...
Here's to great beginnings, and middles and endings, too.
With Love,


  1. Nina -- you and that studio are filled with grace. Booth is right, this is the most fitting gift your mom could give to you, and you to your mom and her legacy as it lives on through you. Thank you for sharing the way you move through the world. Your stories always move and inspire me and countless others, and I can't wait to see what you create within that beautiful space.

  2. Wow, that was fantastic! I am sitting here in Brooklyn, New York. It is 1:58 AM and I have my most beloved soul-mate, SKY, 14 year old border collie/Aussie mix by my side. I left a wonderful and magical mountain town in California about half a year ago to go on a rather courageous adventure. It has been very difficult for both man and dog, both folks very recently gone - plunged into a very-much-not-green & unhappy place from which I am planning escape - but then I read this. Powerful and enlightening.
    Comforting and inspiring.

    I will never forget that New Year eve I spent hanging out with your mom, while you went to a party...that time I visited your home. I remember being in awe of YOU then; a formidably talented and sweet friend!

    Your writing gave me goosebumps.

  3. I'm certain your mother would be proud of your decision to spend the money on this amazing studio. thanks for the wonderful post. and, yes, i'm a bit teary.
    here's to a fruitful and creative 2011 --where writing and art happens in whatever space we find ourselves. . .

  4. Dearest Nina,
    I love this. You look like that first photo of your mom. She would be so proud of you. The studio is fantastic and a great physical manifestation of her spirit and love for you. She'd be proud and VERY pleased. Love ya and hope yo see you down Atlanta way in 2011. Continue to keep us posted. XO, Y. HAPPIEST of New Years baby!

  5. Nina, I am proud to know you and your mom IS proud. What a beautifully written brief of a very full life. Can't wait to see you soon!

  6. This is a wonderful, touching and inspiring story, Nina. Your mom would be so proud of you to see what you've become and how you've chosen to live your life. The studio is a perfect way to honor your mom AND your creativity and spirit. Thank you for sharing this very personal story from your life. You inspire me. Rock on in 2011!!!! Peg

  7. dear nina...i want to take this moment to welcome you into the larger part of our family. i have to ask my brother marc how we are truly related...that is his baby...our family tree. he is my big brother by two years and the same age as you are...and one of my true heros. the story of your life (so far young lady) touched me deeply ...your honesty and thoughtful memories and the true meaning of how your studio came to be is beautiful...as i feel you are...and your mom was. i look forward to seeing your work and reading your stories for already i know they come from your heart. i want to wish you a magical 2011 filled with health, creativity and new friends. sending hugs from phoenix, stacy and roger (the dear man i am blessed to share this life with and my husband of 27 years)


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