Archives for March 2014

Surprised by Motherhood: A book

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When Lisa-Jo asked what surprised us most about motherhood, I drew a blank. No, that’s not entirely true. I drew on memories the breadth and width of fourteen years, and the weight of them crammed into every nook and cranny of my mind. They smothered everything else like a blanket, rather than a blank. I couldn’t choose just one. The fact that anyone would consider me fit to bring another human being into this world to love, protect, and raise as a productive member of society is absolutely preposterous. It’s miraculous. It’s the wildest, most absurd, most wonderful experience I’ve ever known.

I tell my son–the one with the sensitive soul, the one whose anger I can match flame for flame, the one who holds a mirror to my obvious faults and the streak of crazy running through me–I tell him we are meant for one another. He is the son God ordained for me from the foundations of the earth. I am the parent chosen for him. I am meant to mold him into a man, he is meant to mold me into a mother. Together, we mold each other into the image of Christ.

Mothers and daughters and sons: We are equal opportunity artists, discovering the masterpiece within the stone, by way of chisel and hammer. We are rough waters pounding the pebbles of each others soul’s smooth. We are consuming fires that burn through the chaff until only treasure remains.

And some days we are so sick of each other that we beg the good Lord for a break from the seemingly never-ending cycle of give and take. Dear Lord, let there be an emotional break on the other side of this, as opposed to the emotional breakdown I will experience if this person doesn’t get out of my face. Amen.

Motherhood is one big, chaotic surprise. The depth of feeling and the weight of what we bear and the reflection in the mirror of their eyes and the tears and the laughter and the unbearable lightness and the imperfection and the shocking realization that someday, we will turn these little people out into the world, and they will shine. And, surprise!, so will we.

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Lisa-Jo is a super-hero, and she thinks you’re one too. Her new book Surprised by Motherhood is silently winging its way to my mailbox. Her story is one of loss and redemption, healing and hope. You want to read it. I know you do. It releases on April 1st, or as Lisa-Jo says, “April Fools Day, because, of course.”

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Join me Tuesday for the start of a short series of posts on writing, including my real-life experience with writing book proposals and pitching them. Guaranteed to make you feel better about your day, even if you spent it building forts for unicorns or folding laundry:)

Let’s talk about books

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I used to write about books here fairly often, but I moved away from writing about other people’s books as I tried to stretch my own creative muscles. Every year, I set a non-specific goal to increase the number of books I read. No set numbers, just a few more books than the year before. I keep a record of these on my goodreads page, with a rating and occasionally a short blurb with my highly subjective, non-intellectual thoughts. For example, this gem on Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother:

“Girlfriend is crazy. But don’t you know, I kind of wish I could pull off this kind of parenting, without all the yelling and belittling, of course. Her kids will obviously be my kids boss someday;)”

If you’re looking for such witticisms to show up in your inbox, then by all means, friend me on goodreads. Be sure to drop me a line over there and mention you found me through my blog. In order to pre-empt any shock and dismay over my book choices, please know that swear words, real life scenarios, sexuality, and difficult subject matter don’t bother me. I draw the line at thinly veiled pornography posing as erotic “literature”, but other than that, I have few guidelines, only personal preferences. My reading choices have a case of wanderlust, as my books tend to gather from all four corners of the bookstore. There’s a little something for everyone.

I want to know what you’re reading right now, so please share your last few books in the comments. I’ll get us started with my last three good reads:

1. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt. Oh, this book. This one will live inside me for a long time. My goodreads blurb, “I gutted my way through this one. I wanted to put it down numerous times for the sheer hopelessness I felt on behalf of the main character. But I didn’t, I kept reading because while this is fiction, I have no doubt that this is some child’s story. Alone, grieving, unwanted, abused, addicted. I can’t stop thinking about it. I felt uncomfortable reading it, and sometimes that’s the best you can ask for in a book.”

2. Spiritual Misfit by Michelle DeRusha. I received an advanced copy of this book; your copy is waiting at Amazon (pre-order now!). It lands on shelves April 15th, and I have a lot to say about it, so come back on the 15th. Let’s discuss.

3. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s a classic, and I’m woefully behind in my classics education. This is one in a series of books I assigned to myself, so as to appear somewhat intelligent about anything written outside of the dire canon of books assigned in my high school English classes. This book gave me lots of complicated feelings. Mostly about money and Leonardo DiCaprio and how certain areas of New Jersey resemble the Valley of Ashes.

What’s your last good read?

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A few friends asked me recently about the book proposal and pitching process. It’s not something I mention too often here, except to say that I’m writing/have written/will write another one in my never-ending quest for publication. Will you join me next week for a mini-series on writing? It might bore you, it might inspire you, it might move you to tears (of desperation, or maybe that’s just me). But, I want to get honest about writing and the pursuit of publishing. Everything you never wanted to know from someone who knows next to nothing. How’s that for a pitch? Come with your questions and your observations. See you next week!

Small

piano via kimberlyanncoyle.com

Life is so weird. One minute you’re running on the treadmill watching an old episode of Frasier, and the next you realize your sleeping daughter is due at piano lessons in exactly fifteen minutes. Your husband throws clothes on the sleepy headed kid, you set out an assortment of granola bars and grab a bizarre mixture of dinner leftovers to send in her lunch bag. Sans fork, because, of course.

On arriving at piano lessons, you in truly sweaty sweats, she tells you she needs $25 for the book fair at school in 30 minutes. You check your email before taking off for the ATM, because who carries that kind of cash around these days, and you discover an email from a mother asking if your piano-playing genius knows why her daughter has a big chunk of hair missing from the top of her head.

Sigh. More Frasier, less crazy please.

With money in hand, you pick up your girl and interrogate her on the way to school. Naturally, she knows nothing of Hair-gate, which you already knew, but had to ask. You drop off your child and go home, checking your email once again. Lots of stuff and nonsense, then an email from a friend launching something new. An email from another friend (whose life you envy beyond all reason) encouraging you to grab this crazy bull ride of a life by the horns and just do what you’re made to do. And a few more from friends with books prepared to launch. You want to scream and cry and shout epitaphs at the sky because your life is a series of misadventures and you just sent off a 1000 word article for absolutely no pay. You miss your old ex-pat life. You want Europe and you feel trapped in this never-ending Narnian winter in the suburbs of New Jersey. You hate everything and everyone. Where’s that missing lunch fork when you need it? You want to stab yourself in the eye.

You recognize you might be having what most parents call a temper tantrum. Then you see the email from a friend whose father is dying. Your anger deflates, and without all the wind of your perceived injustices, you feel small. Your friend will lose a parent soon. Your sister will have her baby, and your writer friends will birth books. Other friends will live out their dreams right before your teary, red-rimmed eyes. And you, you will realize your heart was small all along.

Five Minute Friday: Joy

Hello, Friends. Welcome back for another Friday spent with Lisa-Jo and the Five-minute crowd. Today, we’re taking five minutes to write on the prompt Joy. Do you have five minutes to write, read, or both? Why don’t you join us?


1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.
3. And then absolutely, no ifs, ands or buts about it, you need to visit the person who linked up before you & encourage them in their comments. Seriously. That is, like, the rule. And the fun. And the heart of this community…

Today’s Prompt: Joy

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Joy:

Turning on the Classical station in the car in an effort to educate yourself and to eradicate the sound of Miley Cyrus in your ears, and finding Vivaldi’s “Spring” is playing at precisely the exact moment that spring arrives at 12:57pm March 20th. You feel the sunshine on your face and hear Vivaldi’s notes and you think, yes, spring has come.

Joy:

Ten minutes later you and your husband agree on the tile work for the building project. You agree. Let’s just sit and enjoy this for a moment because after 21 years of “opposites attract”, you have reached this point in your marriage. You agree. On tile. In ten minutes. Praise be to God.

Joy:

The dog licks your face and your son asks, why does he lick your face and not mine. You reply, because I taste sweet, like a cookie. Your son practically falls off the sofa in a fit of laughter because this is the dumbest thing he’s ever heard you say. Like a cookie? Well, yes. You do wear vanilla perfume. You imagine this stupid story making the rounds among his friends, until you realize he probably never mentions you. But, you made him laugh and then he let you fix his hair before leaving.

Joy:

Your daughter didn’t fight with you about her outfit this morning. Probably because you told her yes to the crazy, mish-mash of styles and patterns. Going ten rounds at 7am over leggings vs socks has previously caused you to lose the will to live. After three kids, it’s time to let go of the notion that they care–about their appearance or your will to live.  Their hair is brushed and occasionally so are their teeth. Call it a win and move on.

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If you care to read a bit about daily spiritual practices from a lovely group of writers (and me!), head on over to Circles of Faith for their monthly column “In your words”.

For my own version of “In your words”, give me a one-liner on your latest glimpse of joy in the comments. Have a great weekend, friends!

Dream delivery

big sky via kimberlyanncoyle.com

Geese invaded our lawn recently, leaving nasty, squidgy reminders of their presence all over the grass. I tried to set the dog on them, but being that he’s a miniature poodle and he prefers to snuffle around beneath the pine trees, they gave a half-hearted avian shrug and continued destroying our yard. I tried honking the car horn, and even resorted to chasing them while making ridiculous shooing noises. They gave me languid looks and eventually flew off, only to return a little bit later. These birds make me look like an idiot.

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I told my husband and a few days later, a box labeled  “Lifelike stalking Predator COYOTE” showed up at the front door. It “unfolds to life-size!” We’re counting on the fact that our geese must be exceedingly stupid if a fold-out COYOTE will scare them away, when an adult-sized person waving their arms in a windmill motion screaming “GIT!!” will not.

I went outside to take a photo of said coyote because, instagram, and I saw a tractor-trailer pull up across the street. It said, “Call Ferguson. We deliver your dreams.” I wanted to dial them up with the list I keep squirreled away in my Someday pocket. First, I want them to remove the geese. Then, perhaps they could work on peace in my home, calorie-less brownies, children who obey, the ants invading the upstairs bathroom, my piano playing skills, spring weather, my inability to cook a decent steak, and consistent work for a frustrating writing career. If they could add more hours into my day too, that would be greatly appreciated.

I came back inside, and I stared out the window at the truck for a moment. I wanted to make a wish on its greasy hubcap. But, I know the only one who can deliver any of these things is the Almighty, with a little help from me, and if we’re lucky, a fold-out coyote.