If they told us the truth about motherhood, none of us would ever do it

standard April 10, 2014 3 responses

This weekend, in one afternoon, almost in one solid sitting (at the beach, ocean lapping at my feet, not a bad place to be at all) I read all of Kelly Corrigan’s new book Glitter and Glue. I cracked it open despite being mid series in something completely unrelated partly because the wifi was down at the beach and I couldn’t download the next installment of the series (oh technology, how you so love to fail me…) and partly because I was about 90% sure my book club was meeting Monday evening and I knew that I wasn’t going to be doing much reading while at the Erma Bombeck Writer’s Workshop over the weekend.

Glitter and Glue

Anyway, that’s why I cracked the book open. It’s most definitely not why I kept reading. Kelly Corrigan has a way with words that just sucks you right in and she just happens to write about topics that are incredibly close to my heart.

To whit: most of Glitter and Glue focuses on a period of time when Kelly was in Australia nannying for a family who had recently lost the mother to cancer.

Now, let us be clear. I do not have cancer nor do I have any plans any time soon to leave my family. BUT on the morning of the Monday I thought our book club was meeting (We’re actually meeting in two Mondays. Silly me.) I’m having my first breast MRI. It’s purely preventative, ordered by a very conservative doctor who has placed me squarely in the “very high risk, needs some kind of exam every 6 months” category because of my family’s history with breast cancer.

That said, even when you know that an exam is going to be routine and preventative, it’s still scary. Reading about children who have just lost their mom to cancer somehow makes it that much more real.

Anyway, that is neither here nor there. I’m sure I’ll find another time to wax poetic about that aspect of the book, like say, when I’m waiting for the results of said exam, but right now I want to focus on a tiny piece Corrigan writes at the end, an observation about her own mother.

She says:

“Family life wore her down. The daily mash-up of tiny, stupid tasks, like roasting chickens and finding the other sneaker, crossed with monitoring rivalries and developing emotional circuitry and soothing when possible, all the while allowing some pockets of time to feel your own feelings and pursue your own pursuits — it’s a lot to maneuver. But what compressed her into an old woman, what made her bones heavy and her joints stiff, what used her up, wasn’t the labor. It was the bottomless worrying and wanting and hoping.”

Right? Heavy. I know. But SO TRUE.

My doctor is always asking me how I’m doing and my stock answer is “I’m good, tired, but what else is new, I’m a mom.” to which she rolls her eyes and moves on to the next question.

But it’s true!

Parenting is exhausting. Mothering is exhausting.

You constantly have to

– remember everyone’s schedules, everyone’s needs, everyone’s wants, everyone’s hopes.

– watch everyone’s reactions to everything. Not always so you can protect them, but so you’re ready to react when they come to you for advice, or comfort, or even a push.

– know where everything is. Even when you’re on the other side of the country.

– sleep with one ear open, just in case, so you can hear the coughing, hear the tumbling out of bed, hear the tossing or the turning.

– be willing to be interrupted, even if it means that one simple task is going to take a bazillion times longer than it should have, because even if you’re not willing to be interrupted, you still will be, so you might as well be OK with it.

– keep a running shopping list in your head. You always have to know what’s in the pantry and in the fridge just in case you happen to be near the grocery store with 10 minutes to “spare” and can dash in to grab some essentials.

– be ready to be a coach, mentor, mediator, scheduler, therapist, nurse, doctor, homework tutor, family communicator, stylist, cook, chauffeur, house keeper, personal shopper, and whatever other little task someone thinks they need you to fulfill right then and there.

It is undeniably exhausting.

And yet, I’ve always thought that it was so worth it because it’s one of those “for now” things, one of those things that would end, would eventually leave way for me to go back to being self centered and focused on me. But if Corrigan is right, it doesn’t end when they suddenly learn to remember where they put their shoes away (they do eventually learn that, right?) all the worrying, and the hoping, and the watching, it never ends. And if we’re honest, that’s the stuff that takes the most out of us, right?

I’ve heard so many people liken becoming a mother to suddenly having your heart jump out of your chest and start walking around outside of you. I don’t agree. Becoming a mother means having to make space for an entire other person (or two, or three, or four… or however many you end up having) in your head and in your heart. People with their needs and their fears and their hopes and wants and worries take up an insane amount of space.

No wonder it’s so hard for us to remember who we are, what we feel, what we want sometimes.

A little later in the chapter Corrigan says

“Raising people is not some lark. It’s serious work with serious repercussions. It’s air-traffic control. You can’t step out for a minute; you can barely pause to scratch your ankle.”

That relentless thing , while doing a job that’s so incredibly time and energy consuming, that’s what wears us moms down. Ironic seeing as being a mom also means you have to be the toughest, most resilient person around.

I never had a career in mind when I was little. I just wanted to be a mom. It was my thing. I started babysitting and sniffing newborn baby heads when I was barely 12. I love everything about being a mom. All the tough stuff, all the good stuff, all of it.

But if I have to be brutally honest, I never expected it would be this hard or this exhausting. I doubt anyone ever could.

The Next Big Thing: 8 Things You Wanted to Know About My Book But Didn’t Think to Ask

standard May 15, 2013 3 responses

A few weeks ago a relatively new reader, Pauline Wiles, author of the soon to be released Saving Saffron Sweeting,  asked me if she could tag me in the Next Big Thing “meme*” for writers. I don’t often go in for that sort of thing, but these days it doesn’t take much to convince me to talk about my book and I really liked the sound of the questions she was going to send my way. So here you have it! 8 things I bet you really wanted to know about my soon-to-be-published book!


What is the working title of your book?
Right now the book is called Aloha Can Mean Goodbye, but my publisher isn’t a huge fan of the name. She thinks it’s a bit too dark. While she waits for inspiration to strike, I’m secretly hoping she doesn’t come up with anything she likes better. The name has grown on me over the years!
What does the name say to you?

Where did the idea come from for the book?
I once heard that Jodi Picoult came up with her story ideas by asking herself “What if?” questions and riffing off of the possibilities she thought up. Ever since then I’ve played the same game.
After spending a lovely time at a friend’s wedding on the Big Island in Hawaii I started to wonder what would happen if a girl showed up there to get married and ran smack dab into her past upon arrival.
In my mind, the final scene, where the protagonist shows up to her wedding still undecided as to which man she’ll marry, played out. I couldn’t resist writing out the story that led up to that.
Ironically, as I wrote the story, that final scene rewrote itself and the story ended completely differently than I had originally anticipated.
  
What genre does your book fall under?
Some people are going to want to classify it as Chick-lit, but I believe the book falls squarely under Women’s Fiction. The issues the characters face are more challenging and profound than the issues generally dealt with in traditional Chick-lit.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
I think I’d pick Jennifer Lawrence to play the lead. She’s got just the right amount of “girl next door” attitude to pull it off. For her best friend – a sweet redhead who keeps getting the raw end of deals – I think I’d choose either Emma Stone or Amy Adams. As for the other best friend who is a tall blonde model type? I have no clue. Have any suggestions?

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
It’s a story about love and friendship and about recovering from the past so you can get on with your future.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
Just as I was starting to look into self-publishing options I lucked into a relationship with a local indie publisher, Sand Hill Review Press. I think indie publishing offers the best of both worlds – it’s a small publisher so I get a lot of say in how the book will turn out, but the editor has a lot of experience and has already guided me to turn the book into so much more than I could have done on my own. I’m thrilled with how things are turning out! I’m especially thrilled that I won’t be alone in deciding when the book is “ready,” what the cover art will look like, and all the other little details I was facing while looking into self-publishing. 

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft took just over a year. I still remember the high I felt when I typed the words “The End” at the end of the last chapter. Then I realized just how much more work still needed to be done and I came down off that writer’s high very, very quickly! It took me another 3 years to get the book finished and ready for publication.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
Everyone who has read it has loved it for different reasons. My sister loved the friendships, my friend loved the lover’s triangle, but everyone agrees that the characters really came to life for them and have stayed with them long after they were done reading the last words. I hope you’ll feel the same way!

Right then, this is the part where I should tag people, but I’m never a huge fan of that bit, so, if you’ve written, are writing, want to write a book consider yourself tagged! Come back and leave a comment with your blog post and I’ll link to it! 

*A meme is sort of a modern day equivalent of a chain letter. Someone writes something, usually answering a series of questions, and then “tags” other people at the end, asking them to answer the questions on their own blogs.