Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Forty-four pounds

Seven is the number of pounds I lost in my first trimester with my son, because I could not stomach anything but waffles, cereal, Pop Tarts, and toaster pastries. I had no idea that pregnancy could make a woman quite that sick for weeks at a time. I couldn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel as I curled up on the couch, wondering if this baby was healthy, because I felt like I had been run over by a construction-grade roller.

Nine pounds was the estimate for my son’s birth weight; the doctors thought he would be too big for my body.  Since I was of advanced maternal age, they mandated weekly sonograms.  That suited me just fine so I could keep my anxiety in check about whether or not the cord was wrapped around his neck, or if he was breech, and if his tiny heart was beating properly.

Eight pounds was his actual weight when he was born. Eight pounds on the dot, and twenty inches long. I held his head gently as he was finally placed in my arms, and he felt as light as a bean bag. Clumsily, I jostled him as I learned how to change his diaper, swaddle him, and nurse him. I would hold him for hours, my arms cramping. Eight pounds felt like twenty at the end of a long day of new motherhood. As the weeks went on, my arms became stronger and so did my confidence in motherhood.

Twelve is the number of pounds I was under my pre-pregnancy weight at the height of postpartum anxiety, when I was fighting jittery nerves and could not wrap my mind around when I would have time to feed myself. It didn’t occur to me that I shouldn’t have been able to fit into my jeans so quickly. Those 12 pounds represented all of the worry, and fear, and stress that had taken a toll on my body; at the same time, my son had reached the 12-pound mark.

Forty-four pounds is what my five-year-old son weighs today.

Forty-four pounds of boy. Forty-four pounds of love and intelligence and sweetness and curiosity in a compact ball of energy.

This morning, he holds up his arms for me to pick him up, and they look closer to me and longer than ever, as if I were looking down at him through a magnifying glass.  I bend my knees to hoist him with more effort.

I could have said no, you are a big boy now.

No, you have to walk.

No, I have too many other things to carry.

But I don’t say no. I juggle the other things in my hands and find a way to hold him too.  I breathe in his little-boy scent of sweat and soap and I hold him closely, because I know holding him closely will be a privilege I can enjoy for only a little bit longer. I’m not ready to grieve the end of his little-boy years to concede to the big-boy years, even knowing that I don’t want him to stop growing. It is in the growing that I grow as well. It is only in the opportunity to watch him develop that I can also learn how to be a better mother, with practice and time.

He wants more piggyback rides lately. And I say yes. Yes, always yes. As long as I can lift him I will do it. He feels heavier, even though I have earned this weight with time invested and frequent lifting of his small body for more than five years now. The arm muscles I have are not from my infrequent visits to the gym but from five years of holding a gradually heavier weight, every day.

And so I marvel in this time that is quickly passing me by and I try to memorize his face even as it is changing before my eyes. I touch the baby-soft skin on his arms and imprint the sensation in my brain before he no longer wants me to do that. I hold his hand every opportunity possible as I teach him how to cross the street safely. And I pick him up and carry him when he wants me to. He jumps into my arms from whatever perch he is standing and leaps with abandon, knowing that I will catch him without fail.

I allow him to tackle me and kiss my boo-boos and mess up my hair. I let him paint my skin and I don’t complain when he is pressed up against me on the couch on a hot afternoon, watching Paw Patrol.  I don’t mind that he leans on me or likes to have a hand on me while he eats his dinner. It won’t be long before he won’t.

The phrase that sticks in my head is “One day, you’ll put him down and won’t ever pick him up again”… because he will have outgrown it.  And me. 

So I bend my knees and pick him up.And I hold him close for as long as I can.



* * * 

Have you checked out my first published book? Several essays were written by dear friends of mine, and I'm savoring them.

The next one, Precipice, is coming out in October, with one of my essays on marriage.  

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Five minutes

I only had five minutes between the moment I left my house and a lunch meeting with a friend in town. I waffled, because I knew it wasn't much time, but I decided to use those minutes to call one of my best friends, a friend I have had for more than 20 years.

She didn’t pick up, so I left a voice mail; she called back a minute later. With only a couple of minutes to spare, I figured I could let her know that I was thinking about her and say hello. After the initial happy surprise to speak with each other, the tone in her words changed quickly, and I tuned in.

“I’m so glad you called me today,” she said. “I needed a friend. My mother recently found out that she has breast cancer and her lumpectomy is today.”

This was a shock to me as well, and I have spent plenty of quality time with her mother, whom I adore, over the years. We went on to discuss her mom’s prognosis and promised to text each other that day for updates. Her mom had the surgery and a shot of radiation, and her prognosis is good. 

[Side note: women, go schedule your mammogram! Yes, right now. I’ll wait.]

Those five minutes were well spent.  I wished I had an hour to talk to her and catch up, but I didn’t have an hour.  And in all reality, she probably didn’t, either. In most cases, a few minutes at a time are all you need to feed and nurture your friendship.

You know how it goes, right?

You move, or have a baby, or start a new job, or get married, and your time is squeezed into smaller and smaller segments and you find it difficult to keep up the level of friendship that you could before life marched forward.  Long conversations are replaced by quick cups of coffee and voice mail tag. Guilt sets in and before you know it, it has been three months since you last spoke to each other. 

Who called last? Is she upset with me for not calling her back?

My friend Andy and her best friend implemented something they call “the 5-minute rule”. If one is thinking of the other but only has five minutes to spare, she will call and say, “I only have five minutes to talk” and they talk as much as they can fit into that period of time. It’s part sanity check, part loving gesture, and part friendship maintenance. It's all about setting up the expectation up front.

Often, I feel as though I need to allot more time to a “meaningful” call. So I wait, and wait, and wait for the perfect moment.

The perfect moment is elusive between getting ready for school and making dinner and working and Little League practice. And that’s only on my end. A friend might have tae kwon do, swim, and occupational therapy for her three kids.  Or maybe she just has three kids and that pretty much takes all the available time slots, especially when they’re small. Or maybe she’s a busy executive. None of us have the time we had when we were teenagers, twirling the cord around our fingers as we chatted away. 

Five minutes. Try it.  The next time you’re thinking about a friend and you just want to hear her voice, call her right then and there. Or wait until you’re on your way to pick up the kids from school, even if it’s just down the street and you don’t have much time. You can speak a multitude of feelings in five minutes.

You’re saying: 

I care.
I’m thinking about you.
I want you to know that I’m glad you’re in my life.
I trust you and need your advice.
I need for you to hear me because I feel lost. 
I love you.

And honestly, not everyone is a phone talker. Some of my friends prefer email or text, and once I learn their preferred method of communication – their phone love language, so to speak – then I can keep in touch with them at their pace. If it’s a text, I can dash off a quick, “Hey, I’m here, and I miss you.” If it’s an email, I can sum up my week with a few paragraphs and start a volley.  My mother has a friend two states away she writes to every single day – not long missives, but short notes to keep the fires of their friendship going. 

It might mean more than you think it does. Five minutes is worth a lot.

Do you have five minutes? Go.


Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Favorites: September 12

I spent the week at an aviation conference representing Airport Improvement magazine, and it was nice to see all of my friends in the industry. I haven't seen many of them since the last event, before I left my full-time job, and they asked me how I was doing. Many remarked how relaxed and happy I looked. I FEEL happy, and I feel fulfilled, and I feel so very lucky to be able to work part time and still spend good quality time with my son. He just turned five, and it's a fun age.

Can I tell you how excited I am to be published in my first book?  It's called My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends. I keep looking at the byline with my name in print. The essays in this book are so beautiful, and I'm proud to be included. This review from Nina Badzin is an excellent summary of the book with highlights from many of the individual essays. 

Speaking of books, if you're a parent, chances are that you picked up What To Expect While You're Expecting at some point. I dog-eared mine, keeping references and looking back to it as my go-to resource when I was pregnant. Sometimes, it was like WebMD for pregnancy if I looked at the possibilities of what could go wrong and I would feel like I was mired in mud.

When my son was born, I gathered up all of the parenting books I could find - especially books on teaching babies how to sleep - and read them like crazy. In the midst of postpartum anxiety, the depth and breadth of conflicting advice started driving me crazy, and I lost my patience and donated them all to Goodwill.

I hadn't picked up a parenting book since.

And then I had a lucky break, because Dr. Deborah Gilboa sent me a copy of her new book. Deborah is a friend of mine, so I agreed to read it. I picked it up on a recent trip out of town and read it from cover to cover, thumbing back to sections I wanted to read again. It surprised me how much I enjoyed the book and also how useful I found it - and believe I will find it going forward. This one will stay in my library until my son is grown; each chapter covers various age ranges with simple solutions and suggestions to help navigate both the calm and rough waters of parenthood. I felt as though I could pick up the book and open it to any page and find comfort there. I felt as though she empowered me to be a better parent and be more confident in my decisions.

Deborah's book, Get the Behavior You Want... Without Being the Parent You Hate can be found at Amazon.

* * *
More excellent reading from around the web:

Tracy's approach to sleepovers makes a lot of sense to me... but her 11-year-old daughter doesn't necessarily agree. 

It doesn't hurt to smile - Katrina's essay on kindness tips from a beloved octogenarian is spot-on and a great reminder. I found myself smiling at strangers at the airport this week.

My son is growing so rapidly, this one hit me right in the heart:

Friendship, in its loveliest forms, from Bethany Meyer:

In case you missed it on my page, this post from Liz at Mom-101 on domestic violence is incredibly powerful.

Nicole's essay on divorce and feeding the souls of her children is heartbreakingly beautiful.

Sarah Reinhart always brings light to my life. I love her words and her images.

Lastly, if you are the parent of a child with autism or know a parent of a child with autism who is afraid to travel by air, this article is for you - I was honored to write on this topic for Airport Improvement magazine, and I love to see the airports doing great things for families.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend, wherever you are.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Rare Bird

I detest the news. In fact, the news has become so frightening to me, especially now that I have a son, that I often avoid it.  I know it’s not the responsible, civic thing to do, but sometimes, it’s the only way I stay sane.  No matter what you do, news will find you if you are online, but I prefer to keep from watching TV news or any kind of video news, most of the time.

However, I do read blogs and books. And one day, a blog post straddled my news feed from several sources, heavy with grief and pain and shock. It was the story of 12-year-old Jack Donaldson’s drowning in a flash flood in Virginia, in a detailed play-by-play that took my breath away. The meticulous detail captured by his mother Anna Whiston-Donaldson on her blog An Inch of Gray was so compelling and gripping that it was impossible to turn away. It ripped my heart into pieces.

I read her post about that terrible night several times, crying and rocking the first time, and then again, and again, sharing Anna’s horrible loss. 

I didn’t know her at all. I wouldn’t have recognized Anna on the street. All I knew was that she was a mother in pain; I started reading her blog on a regular basis, and commenting on her posts. It was the least I could do, I figured, to be witness to the words she was sharing about her feelings, her life, and her son.

Anna came to Austin for a conference, and I got to spend time with her at Glennon Melton’s book signing; we shared a table and dinner later that night with some mutual friends.  It has been my great honor to get to know Anna and call her a friend. She radiates beauty from the inside out.  And yet, we are still getting to know each other. Does she really need more friends? I wondered.  Should I bring up Jack? Should I ask her questions about him? How do I help her without being intrusive?  I was afraid of overwhelming her, and I wanted to do the right thing.

In her new book, Rare Bird, Anna wrote:

Blog readers question whether it is appropriate to mourn a child across the country, or even halfway around the world, whom they have never met.  Their confused husbands will ask them, ‘Why do you do this to yourself? Who don’t you just walk away from the computer if that blog always makes you cry?’ But they can’t.  They won’t. They know that writing helps me, so they miraculously commit to read whatever I write so I’ll have a reason to keep showing up.

My mother is very good at this; she knows how to do the right thing. When she hears of someone who is injured or ill, she brings food to the family. When another family member is grieving, even if she doesn’t know them very well, she shows up to honor their loss. When someone needs help, she is there with a sympathetic ear and a freshly-baked loaf of bread.  I have learned from my mother how to be a helper.

And it is from Anna that I am learning, slowly, how to be a friend to a grieving mother.

Rare Bird is about the loss of Anna’s beautiful son Jack and finding her way back to life with her husband, Tim, and her daughter, Margaret. The details are so stunningly poignant and beautiful in their completeness; the stories of old and new are woven together to create a full picture of Jack’s life and death, and those he left behind.  I feared that I would cry all the way through; and there is no doubt there is sadness over the loss of Anna’s son. But as I learned more about Jack, there was peace and even hope. I found that I wanted to know all about him. I wanted to share this burden with Anna, and somehow, she manages to lift up her readers with the strength of one hundred mothers. Anyone feeling that they are in a hopeless or impossible situation could open this book and find something to cling to, a lighthouse in the middle of a horrendous storm.

When I finished Rare Bird, I held it in my hands and felt the energy soaring from the words into my heart. Often, I look into my son’s big brown eyes, and I am reminded of Jack, the boy I have never met but have grown to mourn and love.

Don’t be afraid to read Rare Bird. It will hurt, yes. But it will hurt and then heal you in the way of the best movies and the best books you have ever read. Ultimately, Anna’s faith and love carried my heart past the pain, too. The glimmers of hope that start to emerge and then really shine through Anna and her family’s journey is humbling, and you will understand why it’s worth reading the sad things.

In the words of my friend Devon Corneal:

“I read to understand anger. I read so I'll remember not to judge. I read for perspective and to be reminded that that even in the face of loss and pain and doubt and confusion, life does not stop. We don't get to stop because things get hard -- we are supposed to save our weaknesses for the quiet hours of the night. I read to recognize bravery and to confront the fears I try to ignore.

I read because these parents endure and, somehow, in the devastation, they find laughter. And hope. I read for those moments. I read because, no matter how unfair or tragic their challenges, these families are willing to share their joy and strength with anyone who has the courage not to turn away.”

I’m grateful I didn’t turn away.  Rare Bird is worth every bit of the pain to get to the transcendent love.

* * * 
The book will be available at Amazon here: 
Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love

Watch Anna and her family talk about the book:


Friday, August 29, 2014

Friday Favorites - August 29

I have been off the grid on my Friday Favorites series, writing some very interesting stories for Airport Improvement magazine in the last month about special programs to help kids with autism travel more comfortably and radiant heating with geothermal technology (say what?).  These stories stretch my knowledge and help me learn new things.

I'm ready for the weekend, but I'm not ready to say goodbye to summer - my son starts preschool again on Tuesday. Here in Texas, we're kind of lucky in that the pools stay open (on the weekends) well into September, and since it's still 100 degrees, that's a good thing.

In case you missed it, I was at the Huffington Post last week with a story about appreciating the times between the busy:  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/kristin-shaw/the-spaces-between_b_5698649.html

And here's some great writing to take you into the weekend:  

From Shannon at Deepest Worth, musings on giving her daughter a good foundation in self esteem:

From Brenna at Suburban Snapshots, a gorgeous and heart-wrenching tribute to her friend Sarah.

This idea has been stuck in my head for a week, and I'm thinking that I need to start doing this too.

Have you ever heard of Safe Families? This essay from a guest writer at Rage Against the Minivan opened my eyes to this families who are helping so many kids in times of crisis.

My sister means the world to me, and this post from Rachel at Hands Free Mama is a great reminder for parents of siblings. 

My son has one more year until kindergarten, and this post still made me cry like a baby, imagining my son all grown up.

Have you ever nearly lost your mind trying to help your child find a toy? This post from Arnebya of What Now and Why at Mamalode will seem very familiar to you.


The nice people at ThinkFun sent me a Robot Turtles board game for me to evaluate, and my verdict is that it's pretty awesome. The idea is to teach preschoolers coding at a very simple and basic level, and the way it's set up is creative and engaging. My son likes the concept of telling me how to move his turtle and overcome the obstacles in the turtle's path. I just bought another copy of the game for one of his best buddies who has an app-programmer dad, and I know they're going to love playing it together.

Robot Turtles is the most-funded board game in Kickstarter history, far surpassing its $25,000 goal with $630,000 in pledges. The concept comes from former Google programmer Dan Shapiro, who wanted to share his love for coding with his two daughters. Although many computer-based platforms for preschools are already on the market, Shapiro wanted to take the learning process offline with a traditional board game.


Last, but not least, I am excited to now have a live author page at Amazon! First up is the book My Other Ex: Women's True Stories of Losing and Leaving Friends, which will be available next month.


Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Brave: a father's love

Sixteen years ago, a little boy was born. Austin was happy and healthy, with a shock of soft red hair, and grew up like any other little boy in the Midwest. 

At the time, Austin was related to Brian by marriage; Austin was the son of Brian’s brother in law, his wife’s brother. Brian was a doting uncle with no children of his own, spending time with Austin and watching him grow up.

When Austin was two, his life changed, and along with that, the lives of everyone around him. Especially the life of his uncle Brian.

“Austin was more than my nephew,” Brian says. “He was the first baby that I had ever gotten close to, that I had ever loved so deeply. Austin was teaching me how much I wanted to be a father, to raise and help guide and mold my future children. We were very close.”

This next part is hard to read. Bear with me to get to the better part.

One terrible day, two-year-old Austin was shaken for thirty seconds with uncontrolled rage by his biological mother’s then-boyfriend. He was literally shaken to death; when the paramedics arrived, they performed CPR and revived him, and Austin was taken to the nearest hospital. After more than two weeks in a coma, Austin awoke and spent another five months in the hospital with significant brain damage. Ultimately, the right side of his brain was dead.

For more than two weeks, Austin was in a medically-induced coma while he fought for his life. His brain swelled beyond capacity, increasing the inner-cranial pressure within his head.  The brain swelling threatened to cut off his brain stem from communicating with his vital organs. The neurosurgeon placed a pressure monitor within his head to both relieve and monitor the pressure within his head. Thankfully, the pressure relief and monitor set-up worked.

While Austin was recovering, Brian and his wife Vickie started taking foster parenting classes, because they knew that Austin would not be returned to his biological parents.

In April of 2001, Austin came to live with Brian and Vickie. They determined that Brian would resign from his job and stay home with Austin full time.  He was now an instant father, the stay-at-home parent of a nearly three-year-old child with a significant brain injury.

“There wasn’t much ‘staying at home’, as every day was filled with various therapy appointments, doctors’ appointments, case managers, prosecutors, and then some,” says Brian.

For two and a half years, Brian stayed home with Austin. After that, Brian became a fireman, taking a schedule that would work around Austin’s schedule. Soon after that, Austin's adoption was finalized.

Before that terrible day, 14 years ago, Austin was typical by most accounts. He was able to walk evenly, talk as well as any two-year-old, and use both hands equally.  He was happy and inquisitive, explored things eagerly, and enjoyed watching cartoons. He was just beginning to show interest in potty training.

Now, Austin has no use of his left hand and arm. He has a peripheral blind spot in his left eye. He wears braces on both of his legs to help him walk. He drags his left foot when he walks. He is 16 going on 6; a junior in high school, going on kindergarten. He has undergone thousands of hours of speech, occupational, and physical therapies to try and overcome his new disability, and relearn much of what he had already learned in the first two years of his life.  He had to relearn to walk, talk, eat and play.

Along his journey, enduring pain and frustration, anger and sadness, and even depression and anxiety, Austin has never let it keep him down, says Brian. He has an amazing sense of humor, and almost always has a smile and a laugh for everyone. He doesn’t know a stranger, and is often said to have “made someone’s day” with his smile, hugs, and love for people and life.

Austin spends the vast majority of his school time in a functional skills setting, learning daily living skills most of us take for granted.  He still can’t read or write at all. He has behavior problems that impede his learning. He takes a number of medications for seizure prevention, and ADHD. He also endures a number of other medical issues related to his brain injury; hospitalization for elevated ammonia levels and a bi-lateral hamstring lengthening surgery are just the most recent in a series of medical issues he has dealt with and will continue to deal with for life.

He has no use of his left hand, and very limited use of his left arm and shoulder; essentially, the bigger the muscle, the more use he has in that area. Essentially, he has no fine motor skills for his left hand.  He has endured a lot of therapy to attempt to regain use of his left hand, but his prognosis is weak.

Austin makes me so proud to be his dad, Brian says.  In spite of his significant brain injury, and all it brings to the table, Austin is very polite, caring, and engaged with his life. He tries hard to open and hold doors, he always says please, thank you and excuse me. He has a passion for life, and a sense of humor. He never lets his troubles keep him down, and always has a smile on his face.

Austin has three potential surgeries in the next 6-18 months. He has developed a case of hammertoe that can only be fixed through surgery, and is causing him some discomfort while walking. His left leg, the side most affected by his brain injury, is heavily rotated inward and causing him to have a very unstable gait. The correction for that is to cut his femur and rotate the lower leg to the proper position, yet another very major orthopedic procedure. The doctor has told Brian that this is something that can be done later in the future, but doesn’t want to prolong something that makes him uncomfortable and unstable on his feet. And third is his contracted left wrist and hand; they attempted to correct this a few years ago, unsuccessfully. This time they will fuse the joint in position permanently.

Brian puts on a brave face for Austin while his son goes through surgery and recovery, but he hurts for him.  Brian's Facebook posts are alternately grateful and hopeful, even in the face of so many challenges. Overall, if you followed his personal page, you would see a father who loves his son more than anything in the world.

Last year, Brian was invited to share Austin's story in Terre Haute, Indiana to a group of 200+ professionals from all over central Indiana. This was a training conference on the Period of Purple Crying as developed by the National Center on Shaken Baby Syndrome (SBS), and Brian was presented with the "Child Award" presented by the Children's Bureau of Indianapolis in recognition of his efforts to advocate for child abuse prevention all across Indiana. He speaks regularly on the topic and is an advocate for children everywhere.

Austin doesn’t know what happened to him, or why he is different from other kids. He also doesn’t question it. He lives his life as he knows it, happily sharing his spirit with family, friends and strangers alike. Even as he struggles to walk these days, he refuses to use his wheelchair, it removes his independence.  Austin is the reason I do the things I do.  I wouldn’t be a firefighter without having gone through this experience with him. I wouldn’t be an advocate for child abuse prevention. I wouldn’t be an advocate for people with disabilities and their families either.  

Here's the part that chokes me up:

And most importantly, I wouldn’t be Austin’s dad, the most awesome role I could ever ask for.

*  *  *

When I met Brian, we were just a couple of kids in high school. He ran on the cross-country team with some of my friends, and he was a nice, quiet boy. I'm so proud to see what he has become. 

For more information on Brian and Austin:

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Six lines

On May 25, 1961, President John F. Kennedy announced before a special joint session of Congress the dramatic and ambitious goal of sending an American safely to the Moon before the end of the decade.
At the time, the Russians were winning the space race. The U.S. needed a goal; something to aim for, both figuratively and literally. JFK set the goal nine years out to give the space program life… to tell the world that this is what we are going to do.

In 1969, Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong was the first astronaut in the world to set foot on the lunar surface.

You can’t reach a goal unless you set one.

This year, in January, I approached my group of writer friends with a proposal: let’s set our goals together, publicly within our group. I needed a target.

My list was short: only 6 lines.

1)  Win a VOTY in 2014.
2)  Be chosen for a spot in the HerStories friendship anthology
3)  Choose a direction for a novel and get at least half done before the end of this year.
4)  Get a children's book published
5)  Go to the gym 2x a week and fit into my clothes better
6)  Be published on Brain, Child
7)  Submit an essay to Precipic

Each goal looked like a small mountain; in fact, the very first goal was one I saw as a major stretch.  Last year, when I sat in the audience at BlogHer and listened to Adrienne Jones, Ann Imig, and Kelly Wickham as they made me laugh and cry, I knew that I wanted to be up there, too. I didn’t think for a second it would happen a year later.

When I got the message that one of my essays had been chosen as a BlogHer Voice of the Year, I picked up my son and twirled him around. Out of 2,500 essays, they picked mine as an honoree. And what was even more amazing to me was that it had been chosen to be one of twelve to be read on stage at the annual conference.  I had purchased a ticket with hope in my heart, but I wasn’t at all sure I could swing the trip without a good excuse. It was a thrilling moment, and my friends online were incredibly supportive and shared my celebration from the moment it was announced.

Last year was the first time that I had attended BlogHer, and I loved it. When I walked into the hotel lobby, the first person I spotted was Lizz Porter of Am I a Funny Girl?  I walked right up to her and gave her a bear hug.  She’s a hugger, see, so she didn’t mind. That one hug set the tone for two days of connection with people I never knew I needed. But I do.

This year, I walked in feeling confident and excited. Maybe a little too excited, because my nerves were on high alert on Friday before my on-stage reading. I dropped several things in the room while getting ready, because my hands were shaking. During the day, I know I was more distracted than usual, and I’m sure I missed out on meeting some wonderful people because I was stuck in my own head. Luckily, my friends rallied around me and walked me through it all.

Support system:
Top row: Kristin, Angela, and Greta
Middle row: Jennie, Arnebya, and Tonya
Bottom: Elaine, Jennifer, Katie, Leigh Ann, and Poppy
Photo by Elaine Alguire

Backstage during the Voice of the Year presentation, I got to meet some amazing women that I have admired from afar, and it is a privilege to now call them friends. Their stories were riveting and beautifully crafted. Their photos were haunting and gorgeous. And when I took the stage to read mine, I started out fast and then remembered how I had practiced it, and eased into a rhythm. I worked hard to keep my own tears in check.

The women themselves lined up to hug each speaker after her time on stage, and the support and love was tremendous. Women, catty? Not there. Not anywhere that I saw. In fact, maybe it’s the company I keep, but I met scores of talented and beautiful and sweet women (and one man, Neil Kramer, who has the most amazing Instagram account).

The exhilaration of reaching this goal feels so good, and last week, when Scary Mommy published my essay on her site, more than 30,000 people shared it.  Perhaps it struck a nerve.

This is what my goals list looks like now:
1)  Win a VOTY in 2014 – Check!
2)  Be chosen for a spot in the HerStories friendship anthology – Check!
3)  Choose a direction for my novel and get at least half done before the end of this year – in progress
4)  Get a children's book published – Scheduled for fall 2014
5)  Go to the gym 2x a week and fit into my clothes better – well...
6)  Be published on Brain, Child – Check!
7)  Submit to Precipice – Check! And chosen for a spot in the book to be published this fall

It’s time to create some new goals.

* * * * *
Jamie and Casey - new friends.
Amazing women.

Please don't miss reading all of the VOTY posts here.
So much amazing work all in one list.

At the risk of sounding like an Oscar acceptance speech, I want to say thank you to some special people: 

Thank you to Leigh Ann for leaving a session early to give me a hug before I left for rehearsal. And my other two roommates, Angela and Greta, who brought gifts and smiles and hugs.

Casey, for the voice of experience and encouragement.

To my tribe, for supporting me before, during, and after the event.

Kate, Sarah, and Stephanie, who gave me their precious time to rehearse via FaceTime. 

Jamie and Jill and Kim, who went out of their way to find and meet me.

All of the other VOTY winners, plus Elisa and Alexandra and Rita.

All of you, who cheered me on.  Thank you. 


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