While walking the dogs this spring, Natalie asked about a neighbor's shrub that boasted clusters of brilliant lavender-colored flowers.
"That's a rhododendron," I told her. "We had two humongous rhododendrons in our yard when I was growing up." We went on to talk about the fabulous tiger lilies in the next neighbor's yard and the hot pink crepe myrtle in another's.
Last week, during another walk, Natalie pointed to the rhododendron, which by now had losts its blooms and said, "Look! The sangria shrub!"
So, it's been a while. Where the heck have I been?
I took a break from blogging after I discovered in June that a woman in Onondaga, Michigan, had taken photos of Natalie from my blog, cropped off the copyright and watermark, and passed them off as photos of her imaginary daughter, "Sophia Rose."
And old friend of the woman contacted me, sharing pages and pages of correspondence. The woman had constructed a whole fantasy life, with Natalie as a big part of it.
"This is my Sophia Rose," the woman wrote, sharing this photo of Natalie. "She is literally a spitting image of Charlie. Its kind of crazy. Also don't mind the missing tooth, we had to have it pulled it came in crooked and was causing her a lot of pain." When the friend commented, "Your daughter is very beautiful. Her eyes are just gorgeous," the woman responded, "They're Charlie's eyes and with them she can get almost anything she wants. I honestly don't know what I would do if Charlie was obsessed with video games, we don't even own one. He is so focused on Sophia Rose and always has been. Before she was born he told me that he always wanted to be that dad that whenever they walked into a store would buy something for their child. And he has however our daughter being who she is chooses to pick out a book instead which I am not against. Last night she informed us that her and I would need pearls when we attend the concert and Charlie would need to buy a pocket watch because apparently all theatre dads must own a pocket watch. She makes me smile. Right now the dream that is in her heart is to grow up and become a Rockette its a type of dancer on Broadway. She dreams big."
The woman later shared another photo of Natalie, saying, "She wanted to show you how much snow we have. She's actually not as tall as she appears but she has lost a lot of her baby features. Her cheeks are not as plump and her chine is more defined. And she would like me to tell you that she likes looking all grown up because apparently she's not a baby anymore." I've left the spelling and grammar errors in tact there: The woman also claimed that "later this fall my first novel is set to be published and if it does well on the NYT bestseller list the publishing company will sign me and I will be able to pursue a professional career as an author. The title of my book is called Resurrection, its twisted, tragic and disturbing but its exactly the way I want to enter the writing world. I am pretty lucky that they are taking my book as is with title and all. Most of the time they try to change so many things but I was very adamant that it had to be exactly as I had written it. I'm positive that it is the only way that it'll succeed."
I Googled the hell out of the woman, grew horrified, protective, ashamed, vindictive, and angry. I password-protected my blog and sent a letter to the woman, letting her know that she'd been found out and demanded that she stop using my photos and, most important, my daughter.
The woman works for a daycare and has a Sitter City profile. Heads up, Michigan parents.
Over these last few weeks, I've decided to not let this woman take from me my favorite pastime: writing about my children and preserving the stories in books. So, I'm back.