The Girl at the Pizza Parlor

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If I told you where one of my favorite pizza places is you would probably laugh. Or maybe you simply wouldn’t believe me. Either way, it wouldn’t matter, because I know how good it is. Any guesses? Are you dying to know? Ok, I won’t leave you hanging any longer.

Nestled in the basement of the hospital my dad works at downtown is a place called Sonny’s pizza. It’s a small, unassuming place with a simple sign hung above the door. If you didn’t know it was there, you could probably spend a lot of time in the hospital and miss it entirely. And yet, come meal time, it’s bustling with activity. Since I was a girl, having a slice at Sonny’s was a special treat, so along with really great pizza (and the best chocolate chip cookies around), this pizza joint holds some pretty heavy nostalgia for me.

After I had Lane, she and I would visit my dad at work and grab some Sonny’s while we were at it. Our pediatrician’s office was across the street from the hospital for years. Every time we were able, my dad would meet us at the doctor’s office to help me out with whichever kid’s appointment, and then he would treat us to pizza afterwords. It helped ease my kids’ minds about having to see the doctor, and it became a fun tradition for all of us.

As soon as we walked in the door every time, there was one particular lady who would smile at us really warm and big, and say hello. She worked the cash register and was a good friend of my dad’s. She knew who we were whether he was with us or not. She always asked how we were doing and what was going on. She consistently complimented us and was always so nice to talk to. I looked forward to seeing her every time. There was something so warm and genuine about her. You knew she really cared about you and what you had to say to her. Her name was Liz.

I found out yesterday that she had an aneurism and passed away. I didn’t know her very well, but I cried when I read the text from my dad. It’s one of the few times I’ve cried over someone I hardly knew. As I was telling my husband, I stopped to think about it. Liz had a way of making you feel at home. Even though we only had a small number of interactions with each other, each and every one was meaningful. She had such an impact on me because she meant to. Whether she realized it or not, her words were always kind and uplifting. She listened well and always had a good response. I can honestly say, she made that basement in that hospital a brighter place to be.

I thought to myself yesterday as tears rolled down my cheeks, “I want to be more like that. I want to be more kind and intentional, and less wrapped up in my own stuff. I want to make a big impact with even just a few meaningful interactions.” I’ve been thinking about it since. Next time I visit Sonny’s, and stand in line to pay for my food, it will feel a little more empty. It won’t be quite as bright, but I know I’ll remember her with a smile on my face. Here’s to you, Liz. May we all be a little bit more like you.

Create February 2019

Do you guys know my sister, Shannon? She’s an amazing, kind hearted, loving, funny, talented woman. She’s also an artist. There’s a whole line of paintings that she’s done called Cat and Mouse. The picture above is one of them. They are a couple of sweet, unlikely friends that bring a glimmer of hope and light to the world. While I love all of her art, these two characters hold a special place in my heart. I think she would tell you the same thing.

Do you know my sister, Danielle? She is an equally amazing, kind hearted, loving, funny, and talented woman. Funny enough, she happens to be a budding artist as well. But beyond that, she’s also a talented writer. Now me, I have this blog, I love to write…can anybody maybe see where I’m going with this? Go ahead. Make a guess. And then peak down to the next paragraph to see if you’re right.

My sisters and I have often talked about creating children’s books together. I think I’ve always had it deep down that I could (and that I wanted to) write a children’s book. It feels like something that has always distantly called to me. Danni has been writing her own books since she was young. And Shannon just creates the sweetest little pictures. It only makes sense that we would team up, and try to make something happen. We have specifically talked long and hard about creating a Cat and Mouse series. While we’ve both taken a couple of shots at writing to these precious pictures, we haven’t quite “landed on” anything yet. Danni did write a really sweet, rhyming prose for them. But for me, it’s always been one of “those things” on my to do list that I really want to do, but may never actually get around to doing.

Enter my #create2019 goal. I knew that I had to put it on my list. And put it on soon. I decided that February would be the month. I was all excited, and rearing to go. Then I sat down and tried to write. Nothing came, so I put it off. I talked with Shannon about what she wanted her characters to be like, what kinds of stories she wanted, what kind of layout she had been dreaming of. In her typical Shannon style, she was super laid back about and said something like, “Just write what comes to your heart.” Ok, so it may not have been that exactly. But I think you get the gist.

The thing is, these two characters are extra super special extraordinary. Shannon’s normal job is as an ASL interpreter (which is pretty bad a** if you ask me). This being the case, she sees a lot of really hard, unfair things. She has seen so many ways in which life can be unfair. When she has the worst of days, she comes home and she paints Cat and Mouse. She paints a little light, and a little hope into the world. There’s a lot of heart and depth behind these guys. It’s more than just a drawing. So think about that. And then think about trying to write a children’s book that honors those things about them. Think about trying to write a story that uses these special friends to help soothe the soul. Yikes! That’s a lot of pressure. And I froze. I just got stuck and could not put to words the meaning that they hold.

I wrote a little something, and didn’t know how I felt about it. My sisters said it was cute and asked why I wasn’t sure about it. I said I didn’t know. Then last night, Shannon texts me and says, ” I think I know what’s missing from your stories. I think it’s missing you. Your heart, and what you’ve seen and been through.” She essentially told me to stop over thinking it. Stop looking at it as a children’s book, stop worrying about it being perfect, and just write! She told me to try every different format, to go here and there and everywhere and just find what works. So I did.

You know what? It worked. I typed up a few different ideas before I decided to try something totally new. I opened up my notes and started to type away. This may sound a little bragg-y. That’s not how I mean it. I love what I came up with. It’s simple, and deep, but not overstated. It gives me chills and makes me teary eyed when I read it. I sent it Shannon’s way and she said, “It’s perfect!”

I wish I could share with you now, but I can’t. It will have to wait. Maybe, just maybe one day you’ll see what I wrote. I hope that’s the case. But for now, it’s for me. And for Shannon and Danni. And a select few others. Either way, I finally feel accomplished with my February goal. I honestly thought that for a moment there, I would have to check it off as a “tried but failed.” So thanks, Shanni, for giving me the push I needed.

As far as the other Cat and Mouse prints, along with a slew of other Shannon Sweeney Originals, you can look at, or purchase them here.

I’m so excited for my March goals! And I’m excited about what the future may hold for Cat and Mouse. Now, does anybody know how to publish a children’s book?