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

amy and marnie 1  ??????????

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,


Image  Image  Image

Carri Carr DeMaggio Benefit and Memorial Fund

26 03 2014

Sadly another mom, wife, daughter and more is gone too soon. Carri Carr DeMaggio earned her angel wings March 16, 2014. We know in our hearts, that Amy Rauch Neilson welcomed her with open arms. Don and Theo have come to know the family but not as you would think. Not through BFC but through hockey. Theo and Carri’s son play on the same hockey team and Don over heard him say his mommy has cancer and so did Theo’s. The boys started a friendship as did Don with her husband Mike.

Please join us this Saturday for a benefit for Carri’s family. If you can’t make it, please consider donating via Paypal or the link below. Thank you.

The DeMaggio family lost their loving mother and wife to a hard fought battle with cancer on March 16th. Please join us on March 29th to support Carri’s 3 surviving children and loving husband, Mike. The DeMaggio family is strongly integrated in hockey and figure skating. Please join us on the ice to show your support as “Extended Family on Ice…..”

demaggio 1

DeMaggio Family Open Skate Benefit
Canton Arctic Edge
46615 Michigan Ave, Canton, MI 48188
March 29, 2014
2:00pm – 4:00pm

Everyone is invited!
Tell your friends, family, and neighbors!
$5 Admission (free skate rental)
Power Aid and snacks for participants
*50/50 Raffle
*Silent Auction (Sports tickets, such as Tiger Game Tickets 4/2 and 7/9, Detroit Red Wing Tickets 4/4, Signed U of M Hockey Stick by Coach Red Berenson, Signed Hockey Stick by Zetterburg, more signed memorabilia, golf stuff and so much more!)
Come show your support, have fun, and get some great exercise

demaggio 2

DeMaggio Benefit – Paypal Account

To know Carri was to love her. She was a beautiful woman with a strong and vivacious spirit. She loved life, her family, and her many friends. Carri was a fighter. She fought the grief of the loss of her mother at only six years of age, and she fought to completely free herself from an abusive first marriage.When she was diagnosed with cancer over seven years ago, Carri took the news in stride and prepared for a fight. Having lost her mother way too early, Carri was acutely aware of how cancer could ravage a family, and she vowed to not go silently. Surpassing all predictions made by doctors over the years, she fought until the end. Through the years, Carri’s love and strength were there for those she loved and she was an inspiration.Carri’s battle came to an end on March 16, 2014 while at home with her family. Carri is survived by her loving husband Michael, her beautiful children Cheyanne, Tyler, and Dominic, and her devoted parents Phillip and Janet.Carri worked very hard over the last seven years to make every day with her family count. When she felt well, she planned trips to New York, California, and the Narnia in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She made memories with her children and husband that will last a lifetime. As Michael told Jeni on her last trip to Michigan, “she trained me for this job”. And we all know that perhaps the best decision Carri ever made was to marry “St. Michael” who is a wonderful father to their children.Carri was only 37 years old when she was diagnosed and they (like so many young families) didn’t have a big life insurance policy in place. That is really what prompted us to start this fundraiser to help ease some of the financial worries for the family.Michael asked that Jeni and Jeff Deutsch administer this fund for the family as they take time to grieve this enourmous loss. Jeni is Carri’s cousin from California. As one of Carri’s closest relatives in age, Jeni and Carri became very close as children (more like sisters). This bond would last a lifetime. Jeni is so grateful to have had a few days with Carri in early March. The family wishes to thank everyone who visited Carri and offered support in so many ways. The family and friends of Carri Carr DeMaggio are uniting to support her family as they prepare to celebrate Carri’s life. – See more at:

Thank you for your prayers and support!
On behalf of Don, Theo, our Angel Amy and the DeMaggio Family

Merry Christmas from Heaven 12-25-2013

25 12 2013

HO, HO, HO… MERRY CHRISTMAS!  You know how much I love this time of year and although I can’t be with you in body, I am with you in spirit and love.  God had a bigger plan for me and while I miss you all so much, I want more than anything for you to be happy and carry on your family traditions as I know Don and Theo have.   Don is an AMYAZING dad and I told God thank you for helping me find such a wonderful man to raise our THEODORABLE!  I can’t believe how big my little Theo is getting.  He’s turning into a fantastic hockey player and can put Lego’s together following the directions that most grown men can’t do!  They sure are a handsome duo!  Enjoy your family and friends and give them all a special “Amy hug”!  I miss you all so much!  With lots of love from heaven above, Amy.  Keep on keepin on! xoxo  Merry Christmas!

don and theo        theo xmas 2013    theo skating



29 11 2013

Today is my birthday. Celebrate my life with you.  And remember the good times, not the bad. And Do not be sad; Look up towards the sun and catch every ray of light upon your cheek. For I am there with you.  Today is my birthday. Be happy for me . I lived short, but full.  I had the pleasure of love and the joy of my family. Do not be sad. Look up towards the stars and catch each twinkle in your heart. For I am there with you.

Today is another year that we remember our AMYAZING AMY and celebrate her special day sending love, hugs and wishes to her in Heaven.  Not a day goes by that someone, somewhere isn’t thinking of her and remembering all the joy and laughter she brought to each of us in her own loving and unique way.

Below is a picture of Amy sending off a lantern for her 43rd birthday.  It’s heart breaking to know that was her last birthday here with us and today, 11/29/13 we extend our love to her in Heaven.  Happy Birthday Amy!  You are missed more than you could ever imagine.

We love and miss you Amy!  Happy Birthday!

Amy sending off a pink lantern for her 43rd birthday! 11-29-11


17 10 2013

If Amy was here, she would be throwing the biggest surprise party ever for her wonderful husband Don for his 40th birthday today, 10/17/13!!  But if you know Amy, she’s celebrating for him big time with her friends and family above and sending down her love, huge hugs and her AMYAZING infectious smile!  There are no words to express how much Amy is still missed each and every day but so many of us carry a piece of her with us and there are so many signs that she continues to be a part of our daily lives.  So no tears today; we know Amy would want us to sing our hearts out to her husband Don and shine her light on his special day!





Love and hugs for a wonderful year ahead!!


Happy 40th Amy!


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