Inspired by our dear friend, Cathy, and her entertaining “Top Ten” (especially love the Big Wheel), I’ve been considering my own best moments in life. It’s been a good exercise, to help remind me where I’ve been and how far I’ve come. I didn’t include obvious things like the day Scott proposed (which was pretty cool), our wedding, the birth of my kids, or the day we brought home our first dog. Buying our house isn’t here, either, though this place has continually boosted my spirit. Specifically, I tried to pinpoint moments of pure joy, when my heart felt as full as it could be. Beginning with one of my earliest memories, and progressing mostly chronologically from there, I humbly give you my Top 10…
1. Singing, “Jeremiah was a bullfrog,” in my grandparents’ rec room. I was very young, maybe six or nine, and all the family had finished dinner and gathered to watch the show. I clutched the microphone that attached to my mom’s cassette recorder, the shades were drawn, and Grandpa spotlighted me with a flashlight. Beyond the obvious, I couldn’t have had any idea what the words in “Joy to the World” meant. I’ve found they fit me pretty well today.
2. Winning a bike in the egg drop contest in fifth grade rocked, but there was a better moment a few years later: The day in 1978 when the winner of Grand Mound Middle School’s Presidential race was announced on the school’s PA system. We were sitting in homeroom (I think). In my opinion, the other candidates were smarter and/or more popular, and a girl had never before been elected as school president. I couldn’t believe I won.
3. Driving my first car – alone – to my first job. What a rush! Got a speeding ticket on the maiden voyage. When the officer first approached the driver’s side window, I apologized and told him it was a habit. My mom got a lot of miles out of that story. Knowing it always amused her long ago made up for the embarrassment.
4. Standing in the ruins of the Temple of Apollo in Pompeii, Italy, beneath the watchful eye of Mount Vesuvius. Beyond saying it was surreal, I shouldn’t have to further explain this one.
5. Sitting on a wrought-iron park bench in Jackson Square, at the heart of the French Quarter, with a Pat O’Brien’s Hurricane in my hand, on my birthday. I’d left my daughter and her friend in the pizza place and took a short stroll around the square. Since the first breath I drew there in 1993, on a day trip with my parents and grandfather, New Orleans has been a special place for me. Might sound cheesy, but the energy there restores my soul. It was a couple years after Katrina. The streets around the square, normally full of sidewalk vendors and starving musicians, were painfully empty. A few days later, I mistakenly drove through a particularly devastating stretch of I-10 and sobbed for almost an hour. But, on my birthday, and despite the quiet streets, I felt hope for New Orleans. The Crescent City will never be the same, but her light shines on.
6. Watching my son graduate from boot camp. Fort Sill, Lawton, Oklahoma. Scott and I drove there from West Palm Beach. We’d had so much trouble with him for so many years. The event was a milestone for all of us. I wanted Chris to see proud smiles, not tears, so I kept the emotions in check. After the ceremony, on our drive back to the hotel, I had to pull over and cry.
7. Christmas morning, when Casey was about three or four. She got an Easy Bake Oven. After dinner, she baked a cake and insisted everyone – all 10 of us – share in her bounty. On large paper plates, she commenced to distribute the tiniest slivers of frosted chocolate cake to each one of us. We laughed for days. Actually, I suppose we’re still laughing.
8. Typing “The End.” Can’t say the feeling was better with either the first book or the second. Following a crude, mostly biographical (and totally lame) attempt at writing a book, IMMORTAL BONDS became my first, real, fully fictional, 90,000-word novel. My family and I sacrificed a great deal on that year-and-a-half learning curve. Somewhere in the middle, I actually had to set the manuscript aside for six months to help rebuild the townhouse after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne tore off the roof. Wish I could say CKR was easier. Though it was written in a flurried three months, editing took a grueling, life-changing four years. Holding it in paperback for the first time seemed like a miracle.
9. Sharing a shisha with a Palestinian gentleman in a courtyard café flanked by the Pantheon in Rome. It was summer 2010. The courtyard, known as the Piazza della Rotunda, was filled with tourists from all over the world. The Fontana del Pantheon, a massive marble fountain topped by a steep, Egyptian obelisk, adorns the center of the piazza. Steps to the fountain create a large seating area for visitors. Street performers entertained us with music and hilarious pantomime. I wish I’d taken more pictures. Also wish I’d taken more than one draw of that sweet peach tobacco, but the two hours spent in conversation with him – parenting, drugs, religion, government, terrorism, the meaning of life – were priceless, truly beyond measure. Seated only steps away from a two-thousand-year-old temple dedicated to ALL Gods, the scene could not have been more inspiring.
10. EVERY moment with the Kid Rock family. Seriously. Our first Chillin’ the Most Cruise in 2011, CTM2, departed from New Orleans. As we motored along the Mississippi River on our way to the Gulf of Mexico, the sail away concert featured an amazing sunset over the Louisiana landscape. I literally hit happiness overload. Shortly after that, a few Facebook friends and I started a little group called the Kid Rock Life Line. We’ve raised thousands of dollars and orchestrated the distribution of countless care packages, cards, and prayers for Kid Rock fans dealing with tragic life events and the aftermath of natural disaster. Meeting the Life Line Admins, in person, for the first time was an emotional high. Meeting the single mom who lost her house and belongings to Hurricane Irene, the loss that sparked the group’s creation, was more exciting than the Kid Rock concert that had drawn us all to the Orlando Calling festival. Then, there was our second cruise, CTM3, in 2012. We traveled with six good friends from here in the West Palm area. Though we’d been relatively anonymous the first time around, Scott and I felt like we shared Redneck Paradise with hundreds of our closest friends. And New Year’s Eve! Just two weeks ago, we opened our home to a van full of strangers from Detroit. Well, five strangers and two Life Line Admins. Plus another Admin from St. Louis, who flew in the following day. All were bound for Kid Rock’s New Year’s Eve concerts at the Seminole Hard Rock on the 30th and 31st. Two crazy nights at the “campground” and two, back-to-back concerts in Hollywood later – which we spent with an additional 50 or so more members of our Kid Rock family – we all discovered we’d not only made dear new friends, we’d added another moment to our Top 10. I can’t wait for March and CTM4!
Should you ever get the opportunity to really, truthfully, look back on the moments in your life that brought you joy, I highly recommend it. We move so fast today and spend too much time struggling to get from one thing to the next. It’s easy to forget how blessed we’ve been – how blessed we ARE. Every day can’t be filled with magic, but some rare moments are bursting with it. I hope you find more than ten. I also hope, during your voyage of discovery, you realize the best moments are yet to come.