I just wrote WHAT?

photo_21Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “The reason that fiction is more interesting than any other form of literature, to those who really like to study people, is that in fiction the author can really tell the truth without humiliating himself.”

I’ve always loved writing fiction.  My mom has a hard time throwing things away, and for the last twenty years or so nearly every time I’ve seen her she’s graced me with a box filled with my past.  Report cards, pictures, stories…Oh, the stories.

As a child I had a very active imagination. I was always reading, mostly things I probably shouldn’t have been reading at such a young age, like Stephen King, Dean Koontz, and low-budget novels about vampires and serial killers and things that went bump in the night.  I was an avid writer as well, and, as I thumb through the words of my former self, my literary tastes are well represented.  There’s the fifth grade story about whiskey-drinking vampires, the sixth grade tale of the cat bitten by the mysterious bug that turns into a flesh-eating psycho beast, and the tenth grade creative writing assignment where I introduced the world to the Schwan Man serial killer that goes on a murderous rampage at a prom after-party.

Over time my literary tastes became a little more diverse, and, while I still enjoy my sci-fi stories and mysterious thrillers, I’ve come to appreciate classics and love stories and all of the other genres that previously made my eyes roll.

Yep, as a kid my (rolling) eyes were filled with stars, envisioning a future writing amazing stories. Someday I would pen tales like the ones that kept me up until the wee hours of the morning, using a flashlight to read so no one would know, telling myself that “After the next chapter, you’re going to bed” and then finishing that chapter and saying “Just one more” until, hours later, the book finished, exhausted eyes burning, I passed out thrilled and satisfied from the power of words.

Then adulthood happened and reading and writing became solely academic and almost unenjoyable.  I continued to write my stories here and there, but life got in the way.  Too much “real” work, too much time with friends and family…I just couldn’t make it work.  And though unfortunate happenstance made my first published work a memoir, the desire to write fiction has always been there. While I still struggle to find the time, that desire is burning stronger than ever.

If you’ve read my blog before you’ve heard me complain about finding balance, about how my two boys make it really, really hard to get anything done.  (As I type this they are currently rolling around in headlocks screaming like banshees.)  I can complain all I want about not having time to write.  Complaining doesn’t write books, and if I’m going to do it, I need to shut up and write.

I started my current project months ago, when I was hit by the sudden inspiration to tell the story of this make-believe person that had somehow crept into my head.  I wrote a few chapters, then the kids had spring break, family came to visit, etc.  But the last few weeks I’ve been a writing machine.  I’ve been focused and excited and eating and breathing and loving every word that comes out of my head. Today I sat down and read some of last week’s efforts, and I found myself blushing a bit.

The first thing to pop into my head: Did I really write that?

Then: Yikes.

Then:  That’s pretty damn awesome.

And finally:  Is anyone else going to think this is awesome?

But that’s why I love writing fiction.  Perhaps some of what I’m writing is my own truth, in a way.  Perhaps there’s a part of me in my characters; perhaps there are parts of my friends, my family, my enemies…

And that’s what makes it interesting. Right, Mrs. Roosevelt?

Happy Mother’s Day

IMG_6072I remember the first Mother’s Day after losing my daughter.  It was a strange day for me, filled with sadness and complex emotions.  After Avery was stillborn, I struggled with my new identity as a childless mother. Prior to being discharged from the hospital, my doctor had grabbed hold of me, looked me in the eye, and whispered, “You are a mother.”

In that moment, I believed her.  But after being shoved back into the real world, surrounded by a society that doesn’t fully understand stillbirth and people that couldn’t look me in the eye, I wasn’t so sure.  I knew I was a mother, but did anyone else? I had a nursery, a closet full of baby clothes, three strollers, a Baby Bjorn, toys, car seats, pacifiers…I had everything I was supposed to have.

But I didn’t have the one thing that truly makes you a parent. I didn’t have a baby.

But I did have a baby.

I had a baby that I nurtured and sang to for nearly nine months. In those fleeting moments, we had thousands of conversations about the past, present, and future.  I knew how her foot tickled my ribs, how her fingers brushed the inside of my belly when she did her daily acrobatics…  I knew every single time she had the hiccups.

Avery was the first person to ever hear my heartbeat from the inside. How could I not be a mother?

It took me longer than it should have, but that Mother’s Day I finally realized that other people didn’t determine my maternal status. It was up to me.

So on that Sunday in 2009, I celebrated my motherhood. I picked up my daughter’s urn and sang her a song.  I shook her ashes, listening to the soft swoosh-swoosh that always reminded me of her heartbeat. I sat with her for an hour, remembering that while her short life brought me incredible grief, it also awarded me immense happiness.

I was a mother.  I was Avery’s mother. And no one could take that away from me.

It’s been six short years since that first Mother’s Day without my daughter.  I’ve since been blessed with two healthy, rambunctious little boys that, with their macaroni necklaces and dandelion bouquets, have made Mother’s Day a whole lot brighter.

Yet as this Mother’s Day Weekend approaches, I can’t help but think of all of the other mothers out their struggling.  For some the wounds of stillbirth may still be very fresh; others may have been grasping at an identity for quite some time.  To all of you, please remember that even though your child may not walk this earth, you are still a mother.

And don’t ever let anyone tell you differently.



Adiós, April

ehappy_first_day-550x275I just wrote a check with the date May 1, 2009.  No, I didn’t travel back in time to pay a debt.  For a split second my brain actually thought it was still 2009.  When I was younger, I always messed the year up for the first week or so after New Year’s. It used to drive my students crazy.

“Mrs. Chandler,” the kids would all roll their eyes. “It’s not 2006 anymore.”

But I’d always catch up eventually.  I’m not sure if it’s because I’m creeping up on middle age or because I’m so damn busy these days, but I’m never really quite sure what day it is, let alone what year I’m living in.

Tonight, as we were doing the nightly ritual of crossing the day off of my oldest son’s calender, (this was after I got in my DeLorean with Michael J. Fox and traveled back to 2009 to write the check), I couldn’t believe that it was really the last day of April.  Where did the month go?  I say this because January, February, and March lasted forever. The weather was unseasonably cold and dreary for Texas, and my family took turns coughing up giant balls of phlegm. But April? It was gorgeous. The weather finally warmed up. We were healthy. The flowers bloomed, Holding Avery came out on eBook, I got to hold the actual paperback version of my book for the very first time, and my big boy Carter started T-ball. I also stayed true to my promise to write more and got quite a bit accomplished.  Probably not quite a bit by John Updike standards, but definitely quite a bit by full-time Mommy trying to find balance standards.

And then I blinked an eye and this beautiful month was gone.

But that’s okay.  Because I’m excited about May.  It’s going to be a busy month for me, but the weather will be warmer, the sky will be bluer, and I have a feeling it’s going to turn out even better than April. Plus there are five weekends in May this year.  How awesome is that?

Adiós, April 2009.

Whoops.  You know what I mean.