Let it Snow – Hercules Couldn’t Keep Me from My Son’s Wedding

Let it Snow

Friday, January third, was my birthday. This year it was to be part of a bigger celebration. My husband Bob, our son Rob, his wife Emily and I were booked on an early morning flight from Chicago to Boston. We were going to attend the wedding rehearsal and dinner for our youngest son Brian and his fiancée Pam that evening. The following afternoon they were to be married at St. Joseph Catholic Church in Kingston, Massachusetts. Rob was Brian’s best man and Emily was one of Pam’s bridesmaids. We had the important task of transporting their wedding bands and my grandmother’s wedding pearls to adorn the bride. Over 20 family members and friends were flying to take part in the festivities. Yes, it was going to be a memorable birthday and a perfect weekend.

Earlier in the week Pam, concerned, texted me about a weather report of a snowstorm hitting Boston on Thursday and Friday. I assured her it was too early to tell. If the weather conditions can’t be accurately predicted for the next day, how can an advance forecast be trusted? I was having none of it. Besides we were flying out early enough that, worse-case scenario, we would get in late Friday night. No matter what, we would be at their wedding on Saturday.

When the snow did begin dumping in Boston on Thursday, I still felt certain we would get out the next day, even if our flight was delayed. Brian called around dinner time to tell us our Friday morning flight had been cancelled. Although we hadn’t been notified by the airlines, a friend of his, taking the same flight, had been. I immediately got on the phone and rebooked our tickets for nine o’clock Friday evening. Our flight cancellation was a little glitch in our plans, that’s all. Sure, we were going to miss the rehearsal and dinner, but what was really important was that we’d make it to the wedding.

Then our Friday evening flight was cancelled. I quickly got on the phone and after a 30 minute hold, learned there were no more flights to Boston out of Chicago. Beginning to panic, I asked if there were any fights available from Chicago to Providence. Lucky for us, there were seven seats left on a nine o’clock flight and we booked four of them. Whew!

Bob, Rob, Emily and I headed to the airport around five o’clock. We wanted to get there as early as we could. At this point, we weren’t taking any chances of missing our flight. When we were 20 minutes away, I got a text from our daughter, Bridget. She and her husband had managed to drive from Vermont to Boston and were at the rehearsal dinner. The message read  simply, “Your flight has been cancelled. I’m so sorry.” Why wasn’t the airline notifying us of this? Minutes later Bridget called to tell us that in spite of what was now being dubbed Winter Storm Hercules, there was a nine o’clock flight from Chicago to Manchester, New Hampshire, available. It was only a couple of hours from Boston.

We sped to the airport. The men dropped Emily and me off before they parked the car so we could try and get us onto the Manchester flight. Our spirits plummeted when we saw the length of the line formed to rebook flights. We would never get to the ticket agent in time to fly to Manchester. It hit me to try and call the airline on my cell phone. After dialing and getting through all the prompts, I was told my wait for an attendant would be 19 to 33 minutes. Oh no! It seemed like there was no way we were going to make it to the wedding. Miraculously, an agent answered the phone in less than a minute and booked us seats on the Manchester flight.

After parking, Bob and Rob raced in to find us standing in a short line waiting to be checked in. After we got our boarding passes, we went through security with 30 minutes to spare before our flight took off. It was smooth sailing from then on. After landing in New Hampshire, we drove to Massachusetts. We checked into our hotel and were curled up in our beds by three o’clock in the morning.

On my birthday I had asked for prayers on Facebook and Twitter to get us to our son’s wedding. That was the only present I wanted. Saturday morning I woke up to an East Coast winter wonderland, knowing I had gotten my wish. I was energized and ready to embrace the day. We were going to our youngest son’s wedding.

The ceremony was more beautiful than my mind could ever have imagined. In spite of 20 guests not being able to make it, the day still overflowed with joy. That evening at the reception, the bride and groom stood up to make an announcement. First they thanked everyone for the great lengths they had gone to to get there. Then Pam said that it was no secret she and Brian were having a baby. A cheer filled the room when we learned they had decided to surprise us all with an unveiling cake. For those who haven’t heard of this, it’s a cake that is either blue or pink on the inside. The gender of the baby is revealed when it’s cut into. When the bride had her last ultrasound, the technician wrote the sex of their baby on a piece of paper and sealed it in an envelope. Pam then mailed it to the baker so she and Brian would be surprised too. It was a such a lovely way to learn that in April we will be welcoming a baby boy, our first grandchild, into the world.

Mrs. and Mr. Brian Shanahan

It's a boy!

It’s a boy!

That night as we lay in bed, Bob and I wondered and worried about our flight back home the next day. The weather was clear and mild in Boston but now Chicago was in the middle of a snowstorm, to be followed by subarctic temperatures.  My husband was quite certain I should have booked an earlier flight. Would our late afternoon flight be cancelled? Me, I truthfully didn’t care. We had made it to Brian and Pam’s wedding.

 Comin’ in on a wing and a prayer. – Harold Adamson

The next morning we learned that all of those scheduled for the eight o’clock flight had gotten out successfully. After that, all the flights were cancelled – all accept ours. We have no idea why.

And so we took off and arrived in Chicago on time that evening. Our airplane landed on a snow-packed runway amidst a winter storm. As we descended, through the snow that blew past my window, I swear I saw an angel glowing on the wing of our plane.

Getting to Brian and Pam’s wedding was the best birthday gift I’ve ever received. How the events played out confirmed the power of prayer to me. It solidified my faith in a benevolent presence that oversees every aspect of our lives. In spite of newscasts and friends calling to tell us we’d probably not make it to Boston, we never gave up hope. If we had listened to them and thrown in the towel, we would not have gotten there. Things may look bleak on the surface, but you never know what’s working in your favor behind-the-scenes. The circumstances in our lives aren’t happening to us, they are happening for us. It’s not necessary for me to try and unravel the mystery of how or why we got to our son’s wedding. I am just happy knowing that for a few days, we lived inside a miracle.

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All text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com

The Magic of Creativity

Snuggle Bunny

“Listen to the music inside. Can’t you hear what it says to you?” – Van Morrison

As an artist, I try to honor the muse that guides me. Over time, I’ve gotten better at paying attention and following its lead. Years before I was a grandmother, an idea took residence in my heart. I could clearly see a blue-eyed, blond haired baby, around six months old, being hugged by his mama. Around them were written the words, “Snuggle bunny, you’re my honey.” I neatly folded and tucked this concept away to be brought to life when I had a grandchild.

I became a grandmother for the first time in the spring of 2014. Shortly after my son, Brian, and his wife, Pam, announced they were having a boy, I began my search for the perfect bunny outfit for him to wear in my “Snuggle Bunny” illustration. One thing was certain, I did not want my grandson wearing a costume in which he could be mistaken for a girl. After combing the internet, I came across a darling grey, hooded sweater with bunny ears. Perfect. I was all set to photograph my grandbaby wearing it when the time was right. Now all I had to do was be patient and let the rest of the pieces of the puzzle fall into place.

Cameron John Shanahan was welcomed into the world on April 8th. I was over the moon for him. I couldn’t wait for my grandson to be six months old so I could draw him as my “Snuggle Bunny.”

When Cam was around three months old, Pam sent me the most endearing selfie she had taken of them together. In it there was something so enchanting about the look of wonder on my grandchild’s face. They reminded me of sea creatures looking through a porthole. Because Pam is enamored with the ocean, I had envisioned painting a watercolor of her and Cam as mermaids, but not until he was a toddler. Seeing that selfie changed all of that. Bam, my creative juices were flowing now! I began working on a mermaid portrait based on that image. It would be the perfect Christmas present for their little family.

Pam and Cam selfie

Pam and Cam selfie

Meanwhile, on November 17th, our oldest son, Rob, and his wife, Emily, gave birth to our second grandchild, Logan James. My husband and I were overwhelmed with joy. I couldn’t wait to capture our newest grandchild’s essence in a painting. I was certain the perfect scenario to place him in would be revealed after I got to know him.

Humming in the background, was my quest to get the perfect picture of Cameron in the rabbit sweater. He was already past the age I had envisioned for the baby in my bunny illustration. One day in December, I asked his mom to bring the bunny sweater over with Cameron, so I could photograph him in it. I had decided to move forward without having her in the illustration, as she had already been included in the mermaid portrait with her little guy. At one point, I thought that maybe Logan was the baby I’d seen in my mind’s eye, but quickly dismissed the thought. No, I had bought the sweater for Cam before he was even born. I felt bound to my original plan.

After Cameron arrived, I began trying to make him smile for the camera, but he would have none of it. He sat stone-faced as I tried to make him laugh. I gave up. Letting go of my inflexibility opened the door for Logan to come through. I came to the realization that he was the baby I had envisioned all along. With his blue eyes, blond hair and chubbiness, he was the snuggle bunny I had visualized!

Cameron

Cameron being very unsmiley indeed.

I immediately began making plans to photograph Logan with his mom when he was six months old. I pictured the background of the painting being a wash of yellow— sunny like Logan and Emily. I would ask his mother to wear blue to match Logan’s eyes. Relaxing my grip allowed for the realization that the sweater had to go too. Instead, I found the softest, plushest, bunny-eared bath blanket to wrap Logan’s chubbiness in. I began to “see” him with a carrot rattle in his hand. I googled “carrot rattles” and to my surprise, I easily found one. Finally getting the concept on paper was a full-circle moment for me. The image was a gift that had been given to me to pass on to my son and his family. As I type this, “Snuggle Bunny” is getting matted and framed. It will be wrapped and placed under our tree to be opened by Rob and Emily on Christmas morning. Shhhhhh.

The two photos I taped together to base my art on.

The two photos I taped together to base my portrait on.

“I am not in control of my muse. My muse does all the work.” – Ray Bradbury

I continue to be in awe of the creative process. Bringing forth art works best when I don’t try to force it, but get quiet and listen. The muse always makes its wishes known. Step by step, following its directions never disappoints. Creating a masterpiece from thin air is a simple process. It’s all in the allowing.

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Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com

Grandchildren: A Shift in Focus

Joy on EarthMy first grandchild, Cameron John Shanahan, was born on April 8, 2014. I was looking forward to his arrival from the moment my son, Brian, and his wife, Pam, told me they were expecting. In fact, I jumped up and down and whooped like I had won the lottery. Now he is finally here, and I am a grandma. His birth has brought out unencumbered tenderness in me. Gone is the overwhelming sense of responsibility I felt with the birth of each of my children. It’s not my job to make sure he moves through the world safely. I can relax because Cam is in the most excellent of hands, knowing that leaves me free to just love him.

Brian, Pam and Cam on Easter Sunday 2014

Brian, Pam and Cam on Easter Sunday 2014

Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children. ~Alex Haley

I had two marvelous grandmothers. Grandma Fahrner and Grandma Ragen were a stable presence in my life. They were interested in me and loved me for who I was. They were like the fairy godmother in Sleeping Beauty who used her magic to tone down the curse a wicked fairy had put on the little princess. My grandmas didn’t have the power to break the spell of being raised by maladjusted parents, but they could soften the blow. And soften the blow they did. Without them, I don’t know how I would have survived my upbringing. With the dad and mom Cam is blessed with, he doesn’t need me to be his port in the storm. What I will give him is my time. I will answer his questions and look into his eyes when he talks to me. I will nurture his creativity and read to him. I will share with him what the world was like when I grew up and connect him to his ancestors. I will believe in his dreams. He will know I love him by the way my eyes light up when he enters the room.

My Grandma Fahrner, my brother Steve, me, and my Grandma Ragen on Mother's Day, 1958

My Grandma Fahrner, my brother Steve, me, and my Grandma Ragen on Mother’s Day, 1958

In Arianna Huffington’s wonderful book Thrive she writes of how Americans stress and obsess over the trivial things in their lives. She believes most people will only shift their focus to what is truly important when a crisis hits. A death or serious illness usually does it. I have decided I don’t need a catastrophe to let go of the inessential and pay attention to what really matters. I have a grandson.

My Grandson, Cameron John

My Grandson, Cameron John

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Text and images © Sue Shanahan. All rights reserved. www.sueshanahan.com