19 05 2014

What counts is that we’re together in this, and we’re in this together! These were Amy’s words from her Race for the Cure post in 2011. How right she was! The tradition of Amy’s Walking Angels continues on Saturday, June 7, 2014 to walk in honor of our Amyazing Angel Amy!

Here is the link to register.  Team name is Amy’s Walking Angels – Mollie Finch.  Tuesday, May 20th is the last day to join our team  but you can register as an individual the day of the race and still walk with us.

Amy’s Walking Angels Fundraising Page
In Loving Memory of Amy Rauch Neilson
Please join us on Saturday June 7, 2014 for the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure as we walk in loving memory of our dear Amy. I know I speak on behalf of so many when I say how much she is missed each and everyday. She was an inspiration to us all and continues to be, so let’s join together and inspire others to help find a cure for breast cancer. Let’s help make a difference so no one else has to lose a wife, mother, sister, aunt, niece, cousin, daughter, or dear friend like we all did when we lost our Amy. Together let’s make our Amy proud as I know she will be there in spirit leading HER TEAM! If you are unable to walk please make a much appreciated donation for this amazing cause in Amy’s memory. I know together, AMY’S WALKING ANGELS will make a difference in the fight against breast cancer.

In Loving Memory of: Amy Tina Rauch Neilson Your Team Captain, Mollie Finch

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Paper Wish Lanterns

15 05 2014

Last Fall I finished an oil painting that will be exhibited for the first time at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center beginning Friday May 16th from 6-8pm.

Marnie lantern oil painting

The painting is entitled “Paper Wish Lanterns” and it was inspired by Aim’s Light the Night event – Sky Lights of Love. This event was organized as a fund raiser and spirit raiser for our dear friend.  It was a magical night…To see Aim, her family, and all her supporting friends at the park…helping to bring forth hope and light out of darkness.  To see everyone helping each other open, hold, ignite and release the fragile paper lanterns.  To see the individual glowing orbs slowly lift from the hands of those who loved Aim.  To watch them float soundless up into the heavens…It was inspiring.

I remember seeing how the beautiful soft glow reflected and echoed on the faces of all who participated.   We created a trail of lights that started from the ground and traversed the night in a sweeping motion up to the heavens.  Each lantern carried the precious cargo of loving wishes for our friend (and even others that we wished to celebrate, remember and pay tribute to).

It was as though we were placing or casting stars into the sky.  As the lanterns rose and moved off, they began to intermingle and eventually become indistinguishable from the stars.All the magic, hope, love, and solemn beauty of that evening inspired me to compose and create my painting.

It is done using an old master technique called Venetian painting.  This is a very time intensive process in which you paint the entire painting several times over in different layers…building from contour drawing to monochrome to local color to final luminous color.  It took me 5 months to complete working full time in the studio.  It measures 6 feet by 4 feet.

I invite everyone to come out to the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center to enjoy this piece in person.  It is just one piece in the larger Michigan Fine Arts Exhibition.  Works from many artists in Michigan and neighboring states will be on display.  The opening reception is Friday, May 16th from 6-8pm and is free and open to the public.  The exhibit will continue to run until July 11th.

Thank you for allowing me to share this piece which is very important and meaningful to me with all of you.


Don and me, testing one of the sky lanterns for the Dec. 3 Sky Lights of Love Benefit. Photo by Kristi Rugh Kahl.

Don and Amy, testing one of the sky lanterns for the Dec. 3 Sky Lights of Love Benefit. Photo by Kristi Rugh Kahl.

Dec 2011 095  Amy sending off her special pink birthday lantern

Theo and me, sending off the lantern in memory of my Mom and Dad, the grandparents he never knew. Photo by Don Neilson.

Theo and Amy, sending off the lantern in memory of her Mom and Dad, the grandparents he never knew. Photo by Don Neilson.

A Mother’s Day Letter to Theodorable!

11 05 2014

Dear Theodorable,

You know, the first time I heard your mom call you Theodorable, it stuck with me too.  Your dad noticed that was how I greeted you when you piled out of his car to visit us and enjoy the 4-H fair last summer.  It just fits and I will probably call you that for many years to come…sorry about that.

I am thinking of you today on Mother’s Day because your mom was one of my very best friends.  When I think about what makes a mother special and why we should celebrate Mother’s Day, I immediately think of your mom.  I know you miss her Aim-azing presence in your life terribly (it would be impossible not to), but I want you to remember on this day the beautiful gift you were given in terms of a mother.  You are a very fortunate boy, Theo, to have had a mom as great as your mom was.  Not everyone is that fortunate in life.

I first met your mom in middle school.  We were in band together throughout high school and had lots of good times together.  One of my earliest memories of your mom was when I went over to her house after school one day.  We were supposed to do something fun…maybe hike in the woods nearby or something.  But instead, your mom (who I think had procrastinated in doing her chores) had to rake the leaves in her parents’ yard.  I remember teasing her that she had purposely waited to do her chores until I showed up just so I could be enlisted to help.  Well, we got to work and before long snow started falling.  It snowed hard and harder until all the leaves (and there were a lot of them) were buried in white!  You couldn’t see the leaves at all, but there we were out there raking them anyway.  We were laughing so hard as people passed by in their cars, craning their necks, and looking at us like we were idiots.  You could almost audibly hear their incredulity – you shovel snow, not rake it!  I can honestly say that I never had more fun raking snow than I had with your mom that day…although I admit I have never had to rake snow since.

As adults, your mom and I loved to go places together with our two little boys (you and Nate) and have fun and adventure…waterparks, bowling, it didn’t matter…we just loved each other’s company.  We were both creative souls.  I was an artist and your mom a writer.  And because we both lost both our parents to cancer too early, we understood each other’s sadness, fears and desire to live every day to its fullest…to pack each day with love and laughter…to dream big and appreciate the blessings in our lives.

When I describe what your mom was like to other friends, I picture her blonde hair hastily pulled back in a clip with little pieces darting out here and there.  I think of her brightly colored toenail polish and her glittery eyeliner.  I think of her with camera in hand.  She wanted to record every little moment of life (big or small…mundane or special), because she was aware of the preciousness and sometimes fragile nature of it…yet your mom was anything but fragile when it came to living…she grabbed life by the horns and actively pursued each and every day on the calendar to be “a happy square” (as she called them).  Your mom was like a tornado of fun, energy, and life.

I remember how much your mom loved (and I mean LOVED) you.  She had the hardest time sending you to school.  She didn’t want to leave you…ever.  I don’t know that you know this, but you were the biggest comfort to your mom – like a giant teddy bear. J

Wherever you mom was, it was a party.  Even when she was going through treatments, she and I would be giggling like mad together in the medical center’s changing room.  If she threw a celebration or get-together at your house, she wouldn’t invite 5 people…she would invite 40 and welcome another 20 if they showed up.  She never worried about people tracking dirt onto her carpet (like I would) she just relished the fact that her friends and family were there that day to be together.  She was always thinking, planning, loving, writing, and doing her best as a mom and wife for you and your dad.

Your mom would be very, very proud of you Theo, and your dad too.  I know that she would wish more than anything to be with you on this day sharing another tea party.  And maybe that is why I am writing you today…perhaps I am helping your mom to do what she can’t (or at least to do directly)…to tell you that you are loved and that she is so very proud of you.  I am not the best writer, but I can hear her voice speaking to my heart.  I know exactly what your mom would hope for you –   She would hope for you to grow up to be honest, kind, to celebrate (everything!), to make friends (and take effort to keep them), to take care of yourself (to eat healthy and exercise), to be curious, to study hard, to find your passion and pursue it, to take care of your daddy (and give him double hugs), to make a positive difference in the lives of others, and to be open to God’s presence.  Your mom put you on the right path Theo.  If ever you are in doubt in your life…just think about what your mom would want for you.

You are your mom’s legacy.  I think of the strong link she forged that connects her life to yours – one in a great beautiful shiny chain.  Be ever thankful that God gave you the best mommy…you couldn’t have been loved more and I am certain that her love continues, stronger than ever, in heaven.

Though your mom would have wanted nothing more than to be an active part of your life as you continue to grow and eventually lead your own purposeful life (perhaps with your own family), she was able to share, love and guide you through some of the most critical and formative years of your life.  She helped unfold the type of person you will be for a lifetime.  She was a beautiful gift for you and your dad…and you and your dad were in turn the most treasured gift in her life.

So today is a day to celebrate your mom and the tremendous person she was.  She will never ever be forgotten or replaced in any of our hearts.  She continues to be a beautiful presence that shapes the way we look at the world, how we treat each other and how we find faith, hope and love in each and every day.  I will always love your mom, Theodorable, and I send big hugs to you and your dad as well (on behalf of your mom).

With love, “Auntie” Marnie

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Time only makes me miss you more!

6 05 2014

To Amy with love from your husband Don


They say things get better with time. I really don’t believe that. I spend my days thinking you weren’t done. You had so much more to do here. Teaching Theo all the great things in the world, your books that you had done in your mind but had not yet put them on paper and the plans we had for our future. Time only makes me miss you that much more. That’s what time does. 730 days without you. It’s not fair. You visit all your loved ones as a cardinal. I look but I don’t see you. I see you in my dreams all the time and you are carrying on as if you never left and I can’t believe you are back. I never get to ask what now, what do I do now! I’m in survival mode.  This isn’t living because being with you was living. I’m in the fast lane for sure. I can’t feel anymore. There is no emotion but sadness. I try to be happy but you made me happy, you gave me purpose.

Theo has been talking a lot about you the last month or so.  He loves asking me about how you would do some things. And usually when he is asking that question he is doing or saying something exactly how you would of. All I can do at that point is smile and tell him how much I love him and how much you loved him. I hope you come to him in his dreams as well and give him guidance. He is doing very well in school and hockey.  You would be a proud mom as I am a proud dad.

I’m not ready to let you go. I can’t, I won’t. I miss you every day.

I will always love you,


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