The Story Behind the Story
Little Squirrel’s story is my story. For as long as I can remember, my mama always kept a garden. It was full of the most wonderful things, from the vegetables and herbs she used to feed her family to the flowers she adorned the kitchen table with. I wanted to be just like her and have a garden of my own. 
Maybe that's why, when my mama got diagnosed with cancer in early spring 2006, I started to build a flower garden. I spent every spare moment tending and caring for it which helped me keep my mind off mama’s sickness. It became a peaceful place that I could escape to. As a shy thirteen-year-old, I sometimes even used it as a hideout when strangers came to visit. As time went by, my garden grew more beautiful and it brought me much happiness and joy. I remember thinking that I couldn’t wait for my mama to get well enough to see it. How surprised and proud she would be. 
            But my mama never got well enough to see it. 
On July 17th, 2008 she passed away. Losing my mother has been the most traumatizing and life-changing event in my life. It's been years now, but sometimes the pain and grief from the loss is still fresh and strong. Time does heal, but I will always miss her for the rest of my life.
In the making of this picture book, there were many times when I didn’t know how I truly felt about the loss of my mom. Is it okay to be happy again? Am I a bad daughter for not thinking of her everyday? I spent a lot of time talking to God and asking about the hurt and pain hidden in my heart, digging it out and working through it with Him. Then finding the truth and eventually using it as part of this story. 
With the passing of time and the creation of this book, my heart has come to know that I am incredibly blessed to have had such an amazing person for my mom. And even though there is sadness in my heart, it is also bursting full of the love she left there. I’ve learned how to find happiness again. I’ve learned I’m strong enough to love the way she loved. 
The Book Project: 

The Here I’m Happy book project was quite the journey from start to finish. There were times I would try to rush to finish it and other times I had to set it down for a while because my heart wasn’t ready. It took over three years to complete. It went through three major storyline changes, and took over five-hundred hours of sketching, illustrating, editing, critiquing, crying, writing and rewriting. 
My hope and dream with the releasing of this book is that it will lend comfort and hope to those who have experienced similar events in their life. And even perhaps, that it may help to heal broken, grieving hearts.
This book project is my first project that God has been a part of every step. I’ve been so undone by His goodness, provision, guidance and perfect timing. We even have an inside joke, to where sometimes I fondly call Him my “Project Manager.” 
I also could not have completed this book without the encouragement and support from my family, friends, and even acquaintances. Or without all the edits and tips gleaned from their thoughtful comments and suggestions during the many draft reviews of this book. I can’t say thank you enough to all of you who helped with this project, and in turn, helped heal my heart.

The Author and Illustrator,
Elizabeth Rose Hoffman

P. S. If ya want to find me, I’ll probably be in my garden smelling the flowers or in my studio working on my next picture book. 

50% of the sales profit from this book is used to purchase Here I’m Happy books to give away. 
The other 50% is used in funding art retreats in Kentucky, which are designed for individuals who have suffered through grief and trauma.

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