One mom's journey as a writer . . . and how life keeps throwing her curve balls. {You are here: X. Life happens. Then write.}

Climbing Stairs

It was a breezy Sunday morning as my husband and I took our son Jason to his favorite spot, the town square, slash wall fountain, slash goo on the bricks, slash paper napkins billowing all around, slash dogs off leashes, slash other tots totting around… to perform his favorite activity (besides grabbing goo and napkins and dogs and tots and water fountain puddles): climbing stairs–45 to be exact.

on the beach digging in sand now hes climbing stairs by himself!

For nearly two years our son has crawled up and down those gum-stained, red-clay colored stairs like a darting lizard on a steep rock.

After Jason learned to walk at 19 months, he was determined to climb those stairs, up right, like mommy and daddy (no more crawling for him, well, almost): every weekend he’d stand at the bottom of those stairs, position himself next to the wall and under the railing (that he was too short to grab), reach out his hand for me or dad to hold on to, look up, put one shoe in front of the other shoe, and climb and crawl.

This breezy Sunday Jason stood in the middle of those stairs with no wall for support, and no railing, put one foot on the first step and the other foot on the second step, while I watched from behind and my husband watched from ten steps above–guarding gum spots and ice cream stained napkins, and my son proceeded to walk up those stairs all by himself. I yelled out to my husband, Look! He’s doing it! He’s walking up the stairs by himself! My husband smiled back at me as we watched Jason walk up a dozen of those stairs for the first time.

When parents hear their child’s first words and see their child’s first steps, it is a precious moment. (Our son did not take his first steps clear across a room until he was 19 months old, or say his first words until he was 21 months old because he was born with Down syndrome.)

Now when my son attempts to walk up and down the steps at our home, the mom in me holds out her hand for support, but he bats it away as if to say (and some day he will!) No, mom, I can do it myself! And I grin and glow because I know that he can!

*****

That was several years ago. My son is eight. And yes, he now says, clear as the bluest blue sky, “No, mommy, I can do it!”

And I know that he can.

A Snuggle Sandwich: how we STRUGGLED to start our day

snuggles and sandwhiches

Mornings were tough. I got five or six hours of sleep, woke up tired, cranky, and in a bad mood. I was hungry, too. Plus, my son was REALLY, REALLY poopy when he rose. But did he want his smelly, stinky diaper removed? No! He avoided getting changed at all cost. Eventually we got it done (not before he fussed and protested and fought me).

Next, it was time to get dressed. But he wanted to play the chasing game. I don’t play the chasing game. So I ignored him… and he ignored me.

Eventually…
I left the room and walked downstairs with my newly purchased earbuds styled headphones, which I found here (if you’re looking for some cheap earbuds, they have the best reviews). After a few minutes listening to “Gorillaz” soundtracks, he started to get a little irritated by me not giving him attention. Ok sweetie. I put away my earbuds and walked to the stairs…

Then he played the crying game. That’s when I asked him from the bottom of the stairs, “Are you ready to get your clothes on?”

“Ya, ya, ya,” he sniffed.

By this time my stomach was growling so loud it could wake the neighbors.

And I needed caffeine!

Getting dressed became one more battle, like trying to put clothes on a swinging monkey in a tree… but we mustered through it.

That became the protocol. (I tried it every which way, believe me!) And the deal was this: no activities, no breakfast (what he wanted FIRST thing in the morning) until we changed the diaper and got his clothes on.

Eventually, he started getting up REALLY EARLY at 6 a.m. But I was not ready to start the day!

I learned to tell myself  This too will pass, this is impermanent. It was my new mantra I got from that spiritual guy who wears the sparkly red glasses on PBS, Depak Chopra.

At 6:30 I gave in and went into his room. Still too tired to start our orderly morning routine, I grabbed a pillow and a blanket and laid on the floor.

At first, he’d climb all over me like a seal on a rock, pulling at my hair and my blanket. But soon he got it! He was not ready to start his day, either (the diaper battle, the getting dressed chasing crying game) so we ended up snuggling for about twenty minutes.

Snuggling each morning became a new addition to our morning gig. Why didn’t I think of it sooner? I don’t know. Maybe being sleep deprived had something to do with it.

And on the weekends, when dad was home from work, we all made a snuggle sandwich, after a diaper change. And I must confess, I liked it and it put me in a better mood. So I grew thankful of every (stinky) minute of it.

Yet there were days I wished he was 13 instead of 3 (no more diapers and he could dress himself and make his own breakfast). But I know when he turns 13, I’ll pray he was 3 again, and we could start our day with a snuggle sandwich.

Face Your Writing Demons

I’m naming my writing demons as if they were pets.  (They are not pets, otherwise I’d call them My Writing Pets.

my doggy misty!
I mean, if you are going to live with them in your head, you might as well call them something (other than demons).

My first writing demon is called Procrastination (Ms. Crash for short).

My second one is called I Never Have Time to Write (oh, wait, that’s Ms. Crash, sorry Ms. Crash, you’ll always be number one!).

My third one: I Have to Finish (fill in the blank) First! Also called, I Have Too Many Unfinished Projects Going On! (Ms. Fini for short.)

The fourth writing demon is called Tomorrow (Tomorrow for short). Also called, I’ll Start Writing Tomorrow After I Fini a Project Today! (Ms. Fini, meet Tomorrow!)

Yes, you can introduce your writing demons to each other. Might as well since they all live together in your head. Maybe they’ll all hang out at a bar on a Friday night and give you some peace and quiet so you can, oh, I don’t know, WRITE!

The fifth one… (How many does she have? You are asking out loud, for which I reply, How many do you have?)

Back to the fifth demon (actually the fifth writing demon is a group of domestic demons): My Son Comes First, My Dirty Dishes Need Washing, Who’s Walking the Dog, Blogging, More Blogging, Eating, Sleeping, wait, those don’t count, do they? This fifth writing demon group is called Life (or Being a Mom). Ms. Mommy Life for short.

So those are my top five excuses, I mean writing demons.

I’ll think of a few more, after I do the dishes… and walk the dog!

My Brain is Mushy or This is a Midnight Rant {Real Life }

My mind is blanking out… too much Internet surfing and social media binging and distractions from the American Music Awards on cable TV. It’s made my brain matter mushy. How do I un-mush it? Grab a pen and paper and write whatever pours from my fingertips to the page.

But first I must turn off my computer, my smartphone, and my TV–is it still called a TV? Why not a smart

TV or does that sound too weird? Why is it OK to call a phone smart and not a TV? Maybe TV has gotten a bad rap: it’s too passive. Heck, you don’t even have to get up to change the channels any more. Remember those days? And if you know what rabbit ears are then you know what snow means and VHS and cassette tapes and stereo. Should I keep going? Sure, why not.

I think my brain is getting de-mushed… or is it. Let’s hope so. (OK, truth be known, it’s 10:45 p.m. and my bedtime pill is starting to kick in.)

I’m feeling kind of old. What’s up with that? Is it because I still don’t own a smart phone? (Lucky me, I get to save $75 every month. Now aren’t you jealous!)

Hey, Justin Bieber is rocking out to Stevie Wonder who’s performing a tribute to Dick Clark. What binds them together you ask (besides the American Music Awards)? Not TV or smart phones or rabbit ears.

It’s their love and dedication for the craft–of music.

That’s what binds us bloggers and writers together, our love and commitment to our word-smith craft… in spite of all the distractions (oh, look, a chicken).

I have no idea what I just wrote.

Goodnight.

Positive Thinking and ALL THAT {Real Life Wednesday}

positive affirmations life happens then write!

I’m all for positive thinking, I used to keep a notebook by my bed with positive affirmations I’d write down (after a while they all started repeating themselves). I can close my eyes and imagine that literary agent calling me on the phone, “Lisa, you’re a terrific writer! Sign on the dotted line!”

Or seeing, in my mind, my newly published book, in all its glory, sitting in a bookstore window, or linked on Amazon.com

Yes, I can imagine all that, and more!

But no amount of positive thinking and imagining (and hoping and dreaming) will make my novel, my manuscript, the best it can be, enough for an agent, let alone a publisher, want it. That takes hard work, day in and day out.

Not to mention the first and second and third drafts, the rewrites upon rewrites, the tinkering, with more on the way.

It’s like wishing your house was clean and waking up to see a shiny kitchen floor and no dirty dishes in the sink! Ha! That takes getting your hands dirty, and wet! No, if you want your house clean you have to do it yourself, scrub, scrub, scrub!

Unless, of course, you can afford a house cleaner.

Maybe I’ll think upon that, too!

So for all you aspiring writers out there, and aspiring house cleaners, pull up your sleeves and get to work!

Can You Write When You Are Uninspired?

I read an “inspiring” blog post about writing when you are feeling uninspired, by Cheryl Renee Herbsman, where she describes attending her writer’s group and after being given a writing prompt (for a free-writing exercise, boy do I remember those!), she felt disappointed in the prompt, so much so she sat there and did not feel like writing anything.

writing pad and tea

But she hung in there and eventually started writing… and to make a long (or short) story short, she ended up writing a nice piece she was proud of!

I have had similar experiences when I know I have to write a blog post or two: I sometimes sit and stare at my Laptop, uninspired. But if I can just hang in there a little longer, even if I just write a sentence or two, or jot down an idea, eventually, I can get the job done. Because, isn’t writing a job? No? but it often feels like one!Other times it helps to get inspired by reading another blogger’s post or posts (like Cheryl’s!). I try to do that with this writing blog, because sitting down to write can be one of the hardest jobs possible! And yet, when it flows from your fingertips onto the page or your computer screen, the feeling is wonderful! Is it not?So hang in there my fellow bloggers and writers! It’s normal to feel stuck! Just try persist a little bit longer, then longer still! (Maybe have a cup of coffee or a glass of wine while you’re waiting for that inspiration to come along!)

May Heaven Hold Another Angel

water lillies

As many of you know, I have a son with Down syndrome. And we are blessed to be a part of a wonderful group of families with children who have DS.

Sadly, oh so sadly, a little boy in our group with DS lost his battle with Leukemia. He had been in the hospital for many, many months. I read the family’s online journal updates, hoping and praying for his recovery. His name was Daniel.

What to do in a time like this? Cry. And write. And reach out to you fellow moms.

I am so lucky at this moment. My son (who can be quite a handful, oh boy!) is healthy and strong. And I know that can change in an instant.

Maybe some of you have had a tragedy, or are facing a difficult time.

I have had a few: My mom passing away when I was three-months pregnant.

But losing a child. I can’t imagine that.

It is late at night as I write this, I know I must turn in. I will hug my son a lot more tomorrow, maybe never let him go.

May Heaven hold another angel.

Facing and Embracing Special Women in Our Lives

Her mom prayed for dead insects and ambulance sirens: a mom with an artist’s soul tortured by a white-collar job under artificial light with ringing phones and closed windows in the summertime. She stood 5′ 2″ tall with blue eyes, silver hair, and a sharp tongue.

She found the lump in her breast twice. Gone went the right breast. Gone went the left breast two years later. After the surgeries she wore pocketed shirts and vests filled with traveling sketch pads and pencils, bird-watching guides, and a steady supply of pain killers she couldn’t stop taking.

The daughter felt helpless against the cancer. Now it was her turn to be the strong one: grocery shopping, hand washing plastic dishes that were avocado green, white, and sunburned brown, and placing clean butterfly sheets on her mom’s twin bed.

Her mom lived in a 13-strory high apartment located in the heart of the city (a city where the daughter was raised) in a homeless, drug addicted, multi-racial neighborhood with liquor stores and Indian and Vietnamese restaurants on every corner.

The daughter cancelled plans to go to college in another state, and opted for a local university. She had no siblings to share the burden of her mom’s illness, or the biting criticism that the daughter grew up with but refused to inherit.

Her mom beat breast cancer twice. The daughter and the mom prayed for no more cancer and their prayers were answered. For the next twenty-five years the mom hid her scars not in shame but in protest. They will not keep my spirits down she’d say with a slight Southern accent and one fist raised in the air.

When the daughter was pregnant with the first grandchild, it was the mom’s heart that gave out. On her mom’s final day, she lay peacefully in a hospice room on clean sheets, not the ones she died in. Her cold hands clasped colorful flowers and the sun peered through the tiny window of the room smelling of bleach cleaner. The daughter tried to close her mother’s eyes, blue and staring, but they stayed open. Her mother remained strong even in death. To this day I listen to music on my headphones and remember this day.

The cancer never took her mom’s life. Call it stubbornness, call it pride, or call it determination, these were qualities she was sure to pass on to the daughter; a daughter who now has a son with blue eyes, sandy-brown hair, and very sharp tongue.

*******
This memoir excerpt is part of a special round up with mom bloggers including Tara, Jenni, Deirdre, Dyan, Deb, and Debbie who have faced and embraced a friend, a mother, a grandmother, or an aunt with cancer.

Dyan is the stay-at-home mom of two sons and blogger of And Next Comes L. When she’s not holding down the fort or playing with her family, she can be found rotting little kids’ minds teaching piano part time out of her home. She loves to read, craft, cook, write, and play board games. In her post, I Miss Her, Dyan pays tribute to her beloved aunt (who was like a second mother to her) on the fifth anniversary of her aunt’s battle with Ovarian cancer and how that experience influenced her as a mom today.

Tara is the mom blogger of Feels Like Home where she writes articles about the things your Grandmother probably did, like canning, making jam, and sewing. She tells her readers that her life is not all sunshine and daisies. She says she has bad days, she gets crabby, and her family hits bumps in the road. Big ones. She writes about those, too. She wrote about her Grandma’s breast cancer in a heart-warming and humorous blog post called Grandma and Lefty.

Momma Jenni Fischer blogs at The Good Long Road where she tells her readers that the challenges of running 30-mile trails have been replaced by juggling the duties of being a SAHM with her boys while also being a WAHM with her husband as they operate their own production company with arts education division. Her blog post, What a Survivor Looks Like, celebrates her grandmother’s approach to her battle with breast cancer.

Deirdre is mom to Daniel, hence the name of her blog J Daniel 4s Mom where she enjoys chronicling her son’s adventures, the mom lessons she has learned, reviews and giveaways of new products, and a whole host of stories and other types of writing. She says here dad bought her a tape recorder to tell stories into when she was in elementary school. She’s still telling stories to this day. As part of a fellow mom blogger’s celebration of an anniversary of being cancer free, Deirdre and her son made a paper plate bowl woven with ribbons as a place to store cards while in the hospital, in memory of her cancer-surviving grandmother: you can read about it here Small Hands Creating Hope.

At the blog There’s Just One Mommy, Christina describes how writing has always been something she’s enjoyed including blogging about her kids and life as a SAHM bringing her love for writing and her love for my family together. In her post called Cancer Doesn’t Discriminate she tells her followers “I have seen co-workers fight cancer and live to see another birthday. I have had 2 aunts fight breast cancer and leave this world too early. It has touched my grandparents, friends’ families, and acquaintances.” In it she features a video clip where cancer-free years are like birthdays sponsored by the American Cancer Society.

Debbie is herself a cancer survivor and on her blog she has over 70 articles on the topic. In her most recent blog post, I Have a Dream: a Cancer Cure, she includes a story about one of her dearest friends and how they battled cancer together. Debbie is a mom, a grandma, an artist and an art teacher (including ten years working in a private preschool for young children with special needs), a musician, a speaker, and so much more you HAVE to visit her about me page! While most of her blog pertains to her creative work with children, teachers, librarians and parents — every now and then you will find her reflecting on how very fortunate she feels to have the opportunity to continue living her dream as she shares some of the aftermath of of her breast cancer experience in the hopes of advocating for others in the process.

Deb of the Bits of Positivity blog co hosted a blog hop for cancer awareness month called Are You Going Pink for Breast Cancer? Deb’s mom is a breast cancer survivor so this is a cause that’s dear to her heart. She is the Montessori and homeschooling mom of children who were competitive figure skaters and who are now adult figure-skating professionals. In her blog she writes a lot about gratitude and helping kids develop character as well as inspiration and motivation for life.

Kim at The Educator’s Spin On is a mom of a 2-year-old, a 5-year-old, and a 19-year-old and she is experiencing all stages of childhood at once at her house. Across the years she’s learned many tips and tricks of parenting and teaching and she loves to share them with you and your little ones on her group blog. She also co hosted the blog hop for cancer awareness month with fellow kid bloggers and she included a list of sites with information for talking to kids about breast cancer; as well as an assortment of picture books for children about cancer; and kid- friendly crafts to teach and show support to loved ones.

Thank you for visiting our special round up! We’d love to hear from you so be sure to leave a comment when visiting our blogs, and follow us along on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Has It Been Ten Years Already?

It was our ten-year anniversary for me and my hubby! Thanks for your applause! Really, thank you. Oh, you are too kind. You can stop clapping now.

No, we did not going to Hawaii. Yeah, no, we did not take a cruise. Um, nope, no party-at-our-house.

If you guessed a hot tub and dinner out (sans our monkey boy JJ, who is eight years old) you are correct!

My monkey-boy JJ and his new kitten, Bad-Ass, I mean Neo

My monkey-boy JJ and his new kitten, Bad-Ass, I mean Neo

But what if I told you that we do the exact same thing for our date-nights, birthdays, and just because it’s been a while… Would you be surprised?

What do married couples do on their tenth-year anniversary? My best friend in Ohio went on a cruise! Another family friend threw a big party….

But that was before the recession (and the resulting popularity of a stay-cation).

Our country was at war. We had a big election, probably the biggest in my life time.

Sadly, in our support group, we lost a lovely little boy with Down syndrome, named Daniel, to Cancer.

I could go on.

My son monkey-boy JJ and handsome hubby at a family group camp

My son monkey-boy JJ and handsome hubby at a family group camp

We are not disappointed at our hot-tub-dinner plans, far from it, we were somewhat relieved! (OK, very relieved.) We got a night out, just the two of us, some hot tub action (I’m talking bubbles), and a candle-light dinner at a great, family owned Italian restaurant.

We are not rich. We are not famous. (OK, I’ll be a famous writer some day).

We are happy. We are blessed.

It’s called real life.

And there’s always our fifteenth anniversary to look forward to!

*****

T’Was the Night Before Mother’s Day

T’was the night before Mother’s Day, when all through the house not a creature was stirring, not even a–oh, wait there is a child stirring, she wants water, again! (She spilled the first cup…)

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care in hopes that someone would fold them and put them away where they belong, they’ve been hanging there a week!

The children were nestled all snug in their beds, (except the child who just spilled her second cup of water!) while visions of sugar-free plums danced in their heads.

And Papa in his cap, and I in my ‘kerchief, had just settled our brains for a long winter’s… (What rhymes with ‘kerchief?)

When out on the roof there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter. (And tripped over a toy truck left on the floor–must I always put the toys away?)

Away to the window I flew like a flash, tore open the shutter, and threw up the sash. This sash is dirty! That reminds me, I have to do the laundry in the morning.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow gave the lustre of midday to objects below, when, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer.

What? A miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer? Am I seeing things–again? I MUST BE SLEEP DEPRIVED! I have GOT to get some rest!

“Happy Mother’s Day to all, and to all a good night!”

by Lisa Nolan

Angel Wings

I sit at my computer deleting e-mails I won’t have time to read today, including one from my Down syndrome support group with the subject heading “New Testing for DS.”

***

As a mother of a child with Down syndrome, I get asked the “Did you get tested?” question frequently, for which I reply, “No, I didn’t.” And sometimes I get asked, “What would you have done if the test was positive for Down syndrome?” and I respond, “I honestly don’t know.” And if someone were to ask me what I thought of this new, early-detection test for Down syndrome, I’d say, “I have to think about it.”

I try to imagine what other tests scientists will come up with for already anxious moms in waiting, and I try to add a little humor to the idea: Announcing the Terrible Two Test! Scientists have discovered a way to inform pregnant women if their unborn child will become terrible at the age of two, giving them advance warning if they test positive, or great relief if they test negative… I laugh at the thought.

It so happens I had a terrible two-year old, and I know the term is a cliché, but honestly, is there any other way to describe your own toddler? Tantrum thrower (wait, that’s a cliché, too); I’m the boss of you now; pick up garbage off the playground eater; cup of spinach tosser; swatter of mommy’s hand when she is trying to cross a busy street; and pull my diaper off pisser of carpets.

Before my son turned two I promised myself I would NEVER call him a terrible two-year-old, and instead call him a terrific two-year-old. Well, he was a terrific two-year-old who acted terrible….

One night when my terrific-terrible tot was getting his diaper changed and fussing up a storm that warranted ear plugs for the neighbors, my husband peeked his head in the doorway and with the humor that I married him for, said, “Do I hear the sound of angel wings flapping?” I laughed in an instant and my son stopped wailing and started giggling along with me: my husband managed to turn an unpleasant moment into a family gem that still makes us smile today.

But what does this have to do with testing for Down syndrome? Nothing except the ability to discover light camouflaged in darkness, like the 4 a.m. call I got from the hospice nurse who phoned to say my mother just took her last breath when I was two-and-a-half months pregnant with her first grandchild. In the five weeks that she was in hospice, I could not and did not get tested, and later that year I gave birth to an eight pound, twelve ounce strawberry blonde headed baby after 36 hours of labor and an emergency C-section.

The sorrowful loss of my mother during my window of time for a Down syndrome test guaranteed me a blissful yet bittersweet pregnancy and the birth of my special son because I did not face any soul tormenting decision.

***

So now the computer is off for the day. I am out the door to pick up my son from daycare, a short distance away. As I enter the hallway to his classroom, I hear the familiar fussing and wailing noises coming from my toddler, and I smile as I whisper to myself, Do I hear the sound of angel wings flapping?

Go Cheap or Go Locavore? Plus My Favorite Farm Memoirs!

I love reading memoirs about rural and urban family farming and eating locally-grown food since moving to a small town (which used to be the chicken capital of the world), population 70,000. We are surrounded by three-bedroom, two-bath, ranch-style homes and working-class families where Afros, peace signs, and tie dye were never in, unlike my neighborhood growing up in San Francisco in the 1970s. The outskirts of our town are filled with country side, small family farms, and cottage industries that make home-grown honey, olive oil, cheese, and bread. My kitchen is full, thankfully, of almost all local-grown produce and grass fed, free range meat and poultry. Did I mention I have not been sick in two and half years?

It took me a while to discover them all. I was too busy shopping at chain stores for our food, proud to find the best deals and save that all-elusive dollar.

My how a little something called the Great Recession can change your outlook on life. OK, that’s getting a little too deep. So let me sum it up by saying we now ‘shop’ at several local farms. The term is locavore: eating what grows within 100 miles of where you live. (We want to spend our elusive dollars wisely and help our local economy and maybe save the planet!)

One of my favorite books that addresses eating locally, creating urban farms, and becoming sustainable is Food and the City. I stumbled upon it in my local library food and the city book favoritein the new book section. After reading it, I actually felt inspired and hopeful, instead of my usually “we’re all going to hell in a handbasket”. This book illustrates the way forward for towns and cities and their inhabitants: creating a ‘post-industrial urban edible landscape’ where people grow their own food in backyards, rooftops, community gardens, city-owned lands, CSA farms, and empty factories left to rot because it cost too much to tear them down.The author takes you all over the world with descriptive language that makes you feel like you are standing right along side her: places like London, Detroit, Chicago, Los Angeles, Paris, Vancouver, Cuba, to name a few.She even goes a step further in reminding the reader how growing local food creates a sense of community, let alone how much healthier it is to eat home-grown.

The book begins with a history lesson on how our food became “industrialized” and the toll it is taking on our planet, and our bodies. (I may never shop in a super market again!) I can’t thank the author enough for writing such an informative, inspiring, and empowering book. My life (and my family) will never be the same again… And I mean that in the BEST WAY possible!