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Posts from the ‘Brittany’ Category

Brittany: Meeting Kelly and Other Old Friends

One of the best things about Creative Construction is that it’s begun to feel like a family. I feel like I have friends all over the world. As it happened, Kelly’s house was the halfway point between home and our cruise that left from Miami, so we decided to get together while we were in the neighborhood.

We had a wonderful time. I can’t say enough nice things about our evening. Kelly and her husband prepared us a delicious meal, and Sam fell completely and instantly in love with Kelly’s girls (who are, indeed, magical). Within minutes he was running circles with them in their backyard like they were old friends. I felt the same way about Kelly. We weren’t making small talk in her kitchen–we talked like we’d known each other for years, even though we’d never actually met in person.

That is the beauty of a community like this one, where we are all on a similar journey.

Meeting Kelly was an odd juxtaposition after spending the week with my best friend, Nicole, who I hadn’t seen since 1994. She is Australian, and lived with us as an exchange student during the 1992-1993 school year when we were both sophomores in high school. We had an immediate connection, were the kind of soul-matish friends that only happen once in any lifetime, and after a year together had to return to lives on two continents worlds apart. When I was a senior in high school, she came back to the US for a visit, and that was the last time I saw her. Until the internet became widespread, we fell hopelessly out of touch. We missed each others’ college years, weddings, pregnancies, and only reunited in cyberspace after our children were born. It was as if no time at all had passed, though, and now we e-mail almost daily.

When I found out that she and her family were planning to spend two months in the US, I couldn’t wait to see her again, in real time. We reunited on a week-long cruise this past week, and might have fallen into an easy rhythm again (our husbands even got along well), had it not been for the fact that after 13 years, we now traveled with husbands, children, and parents. It was disappointing to see each other so little, and also sad to see the ways motherhood and wifehood could impact a strong female friendship. We were both running hither and yon, managing our families, trying to get from point A to point B in the sanest way possible. I was so exhausted from looking after my family’s collective needs that the week flew by with only a dull twinge of regret that she and I hadn’t yet been able to reconnect in any meaningful way. She and her family will be here at our house from the 10th through the 25th, but I am readjusting my expectations about her visit and the actual time we’ll get to spend together. This year has been the one where motherhood has forced me to readjust all my expectations, and I’m only now beginning to grieve over what I didn’t realize I’d already lost.

Then, I returned home and checked my e-mail. I had a message from Micaela, who I haven’t seen since 1996. She and I were exchange students together in Hungary, and had many adventures together as we tried to navigate life in that crazy country. I’ve missed her and tried to track her down many times. Michaela is the only other person that witnessed that pivotal year of my  life. Whenever I feel nostalgic for Hungary, it’s her I want to talk to. Several years ago, I went so far as to email her mother’s work address, asking her to help us get in touch, but got no response. I had no idea where she was or what she was doing, but hen, a few weeks ago, I found Micaela on Facebook and sent her a message. Finally, she responded.

She wrote a bit about our shared experiences and then added, Congratulations on having KIDS! I hear that changes everything…

I read that and felt a little like throwing up. After the week I’d just had, it seemed so painfully true. Everything has changed. Everything continues to change. And as motherhood molds and shapes me, I continue to change, as well. I hope my friendships will weather the changes, too.

Brittany: What I’m Attached To

After reading Kelly’s post from last week, it got me thinking about a similar topic that comes up in the lives of creative women — marketing ourselves. I’ve been to a couple of writer’s conferences now, and every one has stressed the importance of having a presence — taking advantage of any and all social networking opportunities, becoming active in the writing community at large, and creating an identity in cyberspace. Then in this month’s Writer’s Digest, six pages are devoted to Christina Katz’s article on building a “power platform.”  A strong platform, Katz says, includes an author’s Web presence, classes taught, media contacts, articles  published, public speaking services, and any other means available to make an author’s name known.

Lately, I’ve also become much more aware of where my name is and what it’s attached to. I Google myself periodically (am I the only one who does this?), so I know that my name is attached to my master’s thesis, the three playwriting awards I’ve won, and blog posts about my novel-in-progress. But my name is not attached to any short stories or poetry, and this frustrates me. I’m frustrated because while these aren’t my favorite forms of writing, I feel quite confident that if I just put my mind to it, I could write both, and write them well. Then I could submit them to literary magazines and develop the “street cred” that eludes unpublished novelists and playwrights.

The South Carolina Writer’s Workshop is the main literary arts organization in South Carolina. They put on the yearly writer’s conference, sponsor the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Awards, and publish the Petigru Review, a literary anthology. I’ve joined the organization, attended conferences, and won two Carrie McCray awards. All that’s left is being published in the Petigru Review, at which point, in my own mind, I will have achieved state of South Carolina superstardom.

The deadline for submissions is April 30, and a week ago, when I got the last reminder e-mail, I thought to myself, “Oh, easy peezy. I can whip up a couple of submissions. How hard can it be?”

Oh Lord, please deliver me from my unfailing optimism…

I started re-working the Sam/Squirrel story for a nice nonfiction piece, but it’s still incomplete because 1) I’ve never written any kind of nonfiction before and it was stressing me out and 2) I got this truly compulsive desire to write a poem about a diphtheria epidemic that killed two of my great-great grandfather’s sisters on the same day (who also happened to be  the same approximate ages as Sam an John at the time).  A week later, I’m still working on it. It’s a horrible, stark, Spoon River-esque kind of poem and I have the worst of the three stanzas to go. I have done so much research on the topic that I’m almost too shell-shocked to continue. And it certainly hasn’t helped that John ran a high fever all last week and seemed seriously ill, or that Sam developed a nasty finger infection that required antibiotics. Writing about dying children while my own children were fighting illnesses of their own brought my little poem a bit too close to home.

But despite all my reasons for not wanting to write it, it is coming along, and that makes me feel good. It’s a beautiful poem, and something that I’d like to have my name attached to.

Brittany: The Perfect Day

squirrelfriend332309If you had asked me a month ago what made a perfect day, I would’ve described one that was out-of-the-ordinary, one in which rare pleasures were to be had. But that was before I actually identified this perfect day. I wrote about it on my personal blog when it happened. It was magical in its ordinariness. I was picking Sam up from preschool, heard the train in the distance, we hopped in the car and chased it down Main Street. Then to celebrate, we went to McDonald’s, for aptly named Happy Meals, and spent the afternoon in the park picnicking, where a friendly squirrel stopped by to investigate and beg for fries.

There is nothing special about trains, and fast food, and parks, and squirrels. If I made you a list and said, “This is what made me happy today,” it would all seem kind of banal. But it was the way the moment unfolded, fun onto fun onto fun, that made it so memorable, and feel so magical. It was as if the universe had aligned itself just for us.

sam32309And the fact that it happened even once was wonderful. It was the proverbial “perfect day.”  A Platonic perfect form. The kind of day you think about wistfully, because there will never be another one like it. Except there was. Today.

Last night was one of those hellish tragi-comedies of parenthood. Sam was sick and wanted to snuggle with Tom. Tom would cuddle him to sleep, leave, and Sam would wake up screaming for him. Over and over and over. The screaming woke up John, whose crying woke up Sam, whose screaming woke up John. No one got a wink of sleep until almost 3 a.m. Then John woke up for the day at 6:30, but Sam and Tom slept in, causing Sam to sleep through the whole first hour of preschool. I had to keep him home today and knew that if I was going to make it through the day on three hours of sleep with both my sanity, and children, intact we were going to have to get out of the house.

john32309I asked Sam if he wanted to go to one of those indoor inflatable playgrounds, but he said he’d rather go to the park and feed fries to the squirrels. So after John woke up from his nap, we headed out to McDonald’s, where in a rare burst of burgeoning 2-year-old language, Sam told me he wanted, “a hamburger with cheese and fries.” No ambiguity there.

We went to the park. It was a bright, beautiful South Carolina day. Sun on our shoulders. 65 degrees. Our squirrel friend arrived and shared our lunch. We went to the playground. The boys chose to swing and play in the dirt, and we were packing up to leave when I heard the train horn in the distance. squirrelfriend2323091We threw our stuff in the car, tore down Main Street as fast as the 35 mph speed limit would allow, parked in a prime train-watching space by the railroad tracks, and waited for the train to go by. It was a longer-than-usual train, with two bright red engines, seven hopper cars, and five tanker cars. 2-year-old heaven, by anyone’s estimation. We followed it back down Main Street and then came home tired, dirty, happy, and a little amazed.

Perhaps with perfect days, as with all things, you have to identify what it is you want first, and then the universe provides. Again and again and again.

Brittany: A Half-Finished Life

The first time I ever saw Hungarian embroidery was the first time my new host mother took me on a tour of Pécs, the town where I would be living for the year. It hung in the window of the local souvenir shop, a cheery beacon in the newly post-communist landscape. It was the only thing cheery in town. In 1995, inflation was rampant, new construction had halted, the economy was in turmoil, the people downtrodden. It was everything you imagined in your worst Cold War nightmares. And I had just found my 18-year-old self in the epicenter of the once-communist block, without a single word of Hungarian, homesick, and slightly panic-stricken. I had just seen the house next door insulated with hay. Hay! And never mind the next-door neighbors who, when their house was condemned, moved their farm animals into the living room. I truly thought I was going to die in that godforsaken, backwards, barnyard-animal-in-house-dwelling world.

The embroidery stopped me in my tracks. “What is that?” I asked my host mother. “I want to learn how to do it.”

That weekend, my host father took me to the market, where I perused stalls of crisp white tablecloths covered in blue dye patterns. I chose one that didn’t look too complicated, as well as needles and embroidery thread, and headed home to my host mother and my first lesson.

The embroidery kept me sane during my first months in Hungary. When I was bored, I embroidered. When the family watched TV that I didn’t understand, I embroidered. I used it to wind down at the end of the day, to appear more social than I felt, as a way of connecting with a foreign culture. finembroidNo one objected at all to the exchange student who sat quietly embroidering all day. And the more I fell in love with embroidery, the more I fell in love with Hungary.

It took me the entire year, but I finally finished that first tablecloth the week before I came home.

I have struggled to finish another one ever since. This week, while doing some early spring cleaning, I ran across two more I had started, but never completed. They were wadded up in a ball in the furthest reaches of my closet. I had forgotten they were there or that they’d ever existed.

bv1The first I started as soon as I got home. I worked on it in my spare time all through college. It traveled back to Europe with me, then came all the way home to be abandoned when I started grad school and became too busy to work on it anymore.

The second I started several years ago, when we moved into this house and I decided I wanted to make a tablecloth for our table and the bright Hungarian colors wouldn’t fit in with the color scheme we’d chosen. Then I started work on my novel, the boys were born, and I didn’t have it in me to sew on a button, much less embroider a full-sized tablecloth. bv2

When I rediscovered the tablecloths, it was with deep regret that they were still unfinished. Even more than my writing, embroidery feels like pieces of my soul made of cloth. Along with strands of my hair and pin pricks of my blood, I have woven my hopes and dreams and aspirations into the fibers. Both unfinished tablecloths represent a different period of my life when I didn’t know what was next on the horizon. The first, during a bright, colorful, chaotic time. The second, when my new life as a mother was right around the corner.

Lately I have been beating myself up for not accomplishing more. Like the delicious newness of a freshly printed tablecloth, I itch to start over. I want to do something bigger, more elaborate, and prove to myself and everyone else that I’m not squandering time, that I’m challenging myself, and that I’m not taking my life or my creativity for granted. I’ve also been acting like a person with an expiration date.

Yesterday, watching the Elizabeth Gilbert video, I was struck by a comment she made. She was talking about how quite possibly her best work was behind her, but then she added that she was 40 years old, and probably had 40 more years of work in her. I thought to myself, “And I’m only 32. I might have 50 years. Why am I killing myself to do it all today? I can save some of this mojo for tomorrow. It’s not going anywhere.”

Right now, I need to find a creative outlet where my mind can drift. An activity that requires no concentration. That I can pick up and put down as the mood strikes. As a creative mother, my soul will always be split in half. One half will be with my art, one half will be with my boys. What better use of my fractured time than finishing the partially-embroidered tablecloths from my (not quite) half-finished life?

Brittany: A New Focus

Once upon a time I made dolls. It started when I was little, maybe even before elementary school. My great-grandmother, a seamstress, often babysat me and her house was a treasure trove of fabric scraps, spare yarn, and mismatched buttons. One day I asked her if I could make a doll. She showed me how to make a pattern, supervised as I hand-sewed the body, and basically left to my disposal her arsenal of craft supplies.

I made dozens of dolls after that. Long before I was able to write, I used dollmaking as a kinetic activity to tap into my creativity. As I got older, writing supplanted dollmaking as creative hobby #1, but I still made dolls whenever I needed a jumpstart. I have made a number of different types of dolls over the years, but my favorites are made of cloth, with faces sculpted with the needle. I was working on my face-sculpting technique when life intervened. I graduated from college, found a job, had two boys who cared little for needlecraft and even less for dolls, and before I knew it, it had been years since I’d attempted a new project. I kept saying I wanted to make dolls again, but always put it off.  There were only so many hours in the day and if I was going to indulge in a hobby, writing always won out.

But lately, I haven’t had much interest in writing. The final push to finish my novel, combined with my months-long recovery from whooping cough and pneumonia have left me stripped and bare and uninspired. John is also becoming more curious and isn’t happy to sit idly by anymore while I type page after page. I’ve been through this before with Sam, but this time, instead of trying to fight it, I just put the writing aside. It’s no longer an all-consuming fire for me. I’m still writing, never fear, but only in a piddling manner, writing in fits and starts, and only when the mood strikes me.  My life is chaotic right now, and to force yet another to-do on myself would be counter-productive.

Which brings me to Saturday…

It was Valentine’s, and aside from the usual card exchange with Tom, was an ordinary day in every regard. We got up early to take Sam to his gym class, ran a few errands before lunchtime, came home, put the boys down for naps, Tom got to work finishing the last of the tile in the powder room and entryway, I went to my novelist’s critique group. It was a good time, we all laughed, I got excellent feedback, drove home. And yet I found myself totally overwhelmed with angst. There was no reason for it, but nonetheless, it was there — this undeniable feeling of anxiety and dread.

In the meantime, my brother-in-law got engaged, and posted the news on Facebook for all to see. I got online as soon as I got home, hoping I would be comforted by the familiarity of my laptop, and saw his change in status. I couldn’t be happier for them. But I also felt like it was about time he proposed to her.

An image popped into my head of Cupid, wearing oversized boxing gloves, hitting slowpoke boyfriends upside the head on Valentine’s Day. My fingers began itching to sew him. I went upstairs and found the perfect fabrics in my long-neglected stash of craft supplies. I got to work on him right away, and slowly the anxiety began to fade.

He was a quick project as far as dolls go. I finished him Sunday afternoon. Unlike a novel, where train of thought matters, I could pick him up and put him down as needed. Sam sat beside me while I sewed, entranced with his train videos, and I was able to escape a bit more deeply into my sewing than I ever could have with my writing. I’ve needed that — the ability to shut out the rest of the world like that — and having that time in my own head was just what I needed to shrug off the funk I was in.

Since then, I have felt a bit of my spirit revive. I am a little bit happier now that I have reclaimed a bit of my former self. My writing life is still on the horizon, but for now, my new focus is on the dolls.

[Editor’s note: Brittany’s cupid doll won this week’s creativity contest!]

Brittany: What Happened to My Muse?

I always have something in my mental queue. Some of the ideas are very promising. Some are wacky. Some might inspire others. Some inspire me. I had thought that my next writing project would be the sequel to my novel, all about Jillian (the ex-nympho) and her pregnancy from hell. But I’m just not feeling it. It’s winter, it’s cold, and quite frankly, I’m not in the mood to write humor. I want to begin something substantial, the kind of book you want to curl up with by a raging fire, and I have an idea for a good one. It would be a historical romance set in eastern Ohio during WWI, between an American soldier and a German-American girl. The typical “shouldn’t be together, but can’t help themselves” kind of love story. That’s part of the reason I’m reluctant to write the story. It’s been told before. It also requires a lot of research. And it would be the literary equivalent of a drama, when I’m more of a sitcom writer.

So I go back and forth. Jillian and the pregnancy? WWI and love? Back and forth, all day long. I’ve been consumed with it lately, because come February 1st, I’ve got to get started on something. This not writing thing is getting miserable. I’m nervous and irritable, drinking pots of coffee, web surfing. Here, my email, my blog, Facebook, here again. All day long. I’m like an addict going through withdrawal. Don’t know what else to do. Don’t want to do anything else.

There are so many things I should be doing, but aren’t right now, and they’re crowding out the time I have for things I want to do. I’m not even sure how I’ll fit writing in.

I joined Weight Watchers last week, for the fifth or sixth time (I’ve lost count), and part of my weight loss success depends on me going to the gym. It would make sense to go in the mornings when Sam is in preschool, but that conflicts with my only writing window, too. Monday mornings are still free, but Tuesdays are completely taken up by my Weight Watchers meeting. On Wednesdays, I can either go to the gym or take John to a children’s program at the library. Thursdays and Fridays are still free, but I struggle between writing and going to the gym on those days as well. And there’s always something to clean at home. I can’t forget to add that into the mix. I feel chronically overbooked. And I’m so preoccupied with domestic minutia that I don’t have a spare brain cell to devote to making a decision.

I’d like to know where my writing muse ran off to, since she typically provides me with some guidance at times like these. But even if she could get into my head (which is doubtful, as it’s standing room only at the moment), she’d have to body check her way past my ever-increasing contingent of other muses. The paragon-of-Mommyhood Muse. The clean house Muse. The home-cooked-meal-every-night Muse. And the hit-the-gym-instead-of-sitting-on-your-butt Muse. All of whom are currently Jello wrestling for face time with me.

Meanwhile, the one muse I’d like to entertain is nowhere to be found.

I could easily write the Jillian book. I know the story backwards and forwards. In my head, I have a beginning, middle, and end. I know all the main characters, and most of the auxiliary characters, too. I could write this book on auto-pilot, because coming off of Home Improvement I know exactly what tone and momentum I need. I’ve already outlined the book, too. So why don’t I want to write it?

Because I want a challenge.

And isn’t that stupid? I have enough challenges right now. I don’t need another one. But I keep piling them on. I don’t feel successful as a wife, mother, or woman unless I can leap tall buildings in a single bound. And if I can leap one tall building, there’d better be another one  on the horizon so I can keep proving myself over and over and over again.

And that’s why I want to write something completely different. To prove to myself more than anyone that I’m not a one-trick pony.

What will my next novel be? I don’t know. But I’ll keep you posted.

In the meantime, I’d like to know how you decide on your next project. What inspires you and what keeps you going?

Brittany: I Like the Me that Doesn’t Write

I like the me that doesn’t write, that isn’t annoyed with toddler tears and poopy diapers. Whose mornings are filled with muffins and snuggles instead of character development on page 275. I like evenings of leisurely splashy toddler bathtime and seven or eight stories before bed. I don’t miss the nights where I wish the boys would sleep already so I could perfect the dialogue in chapter 4.

I am enjoying *not* writing. But I feel a compulsion to do it anyway.

I’ll admit, I struggle with balance. I’m the kind of writer who putters a little here and a little there for months, followed by a gigantic burst of writing over the course of a day or two, where I forget where I am, forget to eat, forget I’m on planet Earth and have two small children in need of dinner. And after three years of feverish writing, it’s nice to be in my own head again  without the characters I created crowding me out, interrupting playtime and Thomas videos with their insistence on some plot resolution.

Monday, while pumping gas, I heard a train whistle off in the distance and knew it was headed our way. Sam wants nothing more in life than to look at trains, and in downtown Simpsonville, it is possible to drive alongside the track, along a side road, a few feet from the train itself. Because I wasn’t writing, and had the whole day in front of me, I wasn’t in a rush to get home, feed Sam lunch, and put him down for his nap. Instead of heading home, I drove down Main Street, pulled up at an intersection, watched the train go by, and then followed the train all the way down the side road until it ended. Sam was totally blissed out, and I knew the way you just know these things, that this was a moment where I was filling Sam’s emotional well.

Then yesterday, after my chiropractor appointment, I decided to take John to the library for Mother Goose on the Loose. It’s a program from children up to age two with music and books, rhymes and rhythm. I took Sam for almost two years, every week, unfailingly. He was not a huge fan of the crowd of people and nervously clung to me for almost every session. He did not like to participate. And he didn’t interact with the other children much. But he loved to come home and do the activities one-on-one with me, so I would go to learn the activities and somehow Sam endured it. During Mother Goose time, the leader, Donna, takes out  a drum and sings, “My name is Donna. What’s your name?” On “Donna,” she hits the drum twice, one for each syllable. The point of the activity is to create phonemic awareness, but most kids just like to take their turn with the drum. Not Sam. In two years–two years of gentle encouragement and mommy assistance–he hit the drum exactly once. The last day we ever went to Mother Goose on the Loose. The day he spent most of the time crawling under the chairs and trying to run outside the room and activate the automatic library doors. At drum time, he joined the group briefly, long enough to smack out his one-syllable name.

John, as much a I try not to make comparisons, is a completely different child temperament-wise. He is a social butterfly and loves to watch the world, the more stimuli the better. And since most of my free time of late was spent writing, and my one-on-one time was usually reserved for his needier older brother, I felt a little mommy guilt that I wasn’t doing anything yet just for him.

You can probably see where I’m about to go with this story. John loved Mother Goose on the Loose. He was attentive and happy and played with the other children, was deliriously happy, and hit the drum–on the first try. Again, I felt an enormous sense of pleasure at being able to tap into what my child needed and give it to him.

Now to diverge for a moment…I have taken the Myers-Briggs personality test quite possibly a hundred times, through all stages of my life, from high school on. No matter when I’ve taken it, I’ve been an I/E NTJ. You know how you hear something about yourself and shrug and say, “If you say so…” That’s where I was at.

Lately, I’ve been having a mini-crisis of self. For more of the gory details, you can read my personal blog. But the amazing thing about it is that as soon as I said I was looking for more joy in my life, a better sense of self, and more satisfaction with my life, the universe has literally flooded me with it.

I was on Facebook last night after the kids were in bed, and spur of the moment decided to take the Myers-Briggs again. Now I am an ISFJ. Somewhere down the line, my personality changed. That, or I’ve become more honest with myself over time. The ISFJ  is described as The Nurturer:  quiet, kind, and conscientious. Can be depended on to follow through. Usually puts the needs of others above their own needs. Stable and practical, they value security and traditions. Well-developed sense of space and function. Rich inner world of observations about people. Extremely perceptive of other’s feelings.

That sounds about right.

So in other words, focusing on my book has prevented me from nurturing anything but my laptop. Since I haven’t been writing, I’ve been happier this week than I’ve been in a long time. I’m no longer focused on myself and my projects. Instead, I’m opening up new worlds for my boys. Truly that’s where I’m happiest.

I loved the movie Finding Neverland and the way the filmmakers showed Barrie stepping into and out of his imagination and using his real-life experiences within his creative writing. It was a realization that writers/artists do hop back and forth between worlds. And just like Barrie, I think my adventures with my boys will inspire my writing, too. Isn’t it a wonderful thing when one world sustains the other?

Brittany: A Christmas Miracle

I don’t know how I get anything accomplished.

Part of that is, of course, being mom to a two-year-old and a six-month-old. It’s hard enough to balance motherhood with novel writing. You expect the constant interruptions, the neediness, the asynchronous nap times. But then, sometimes, things happen that you don’t expect.

For me, it all began in October and the SC Writer’s Workshop Writer’s Conference. I had a finished manuscript (or so I thought) and was intent on getting it published. The conference was a tremendous success. Three agents expressed interest in my novel, I won 2nd place in the Carrie McCray Memorial Literary Award for playwriting, and I received valuable feedback on the shortcomings of my novel. I came home feeling empowered, motivated, and ready to plunge into a final re-write.

And then I got the rug pulled out from under me.

Sam scaled the bathroom counter and played with a bottle of Tylenol. I couldn’t be sure he’d ingested any, and it would only take four and a half to cause major liver damage, so Tom and I took both boys to the emergency room where we sat for four hours. A blood test revealed that Sam was fine. His acetaminophen level was zero. But it was there, at the hospital, that I’m pretty sure I contracted the whooping cough that stopped all work on my book in its tracks. And then the whooping cough became pneumonia. I missed Halloween and was still sick at Thanksgiving.

In the meantime, Sam, my two-year-old, developed his first ear infection. A double ear infection. So in between coughing, vomiting, night sweats, and fever, I took turns staying up nights with him, nursing him back to health, for four weeks when the first round of antibiotics didn’t work.

We all felt good for a week, although I still wasn’t 100 percent. During that time, my follow-up x-rays came back from the radiologist. Something didn’t look quite right. One CT scan later, the doctor discovered that my pneumonia was gone. What he hadn’t expected to find was my slightly enlarged thymus. I’m looking at another CT scan in March, and if it is still enlarged, it might have to be removed through sternum splitting surgery.

Then, the first week of December, Sam developed a sinus infection. Shortly thereafter, John got it too. Yellow pus oozing from the eyes, copious green snot, difficulty breathing, two little boys not sleeping. Then Tom got sick. It started out as a cold, but then he developed a sore throat that no medicine would touch. He also had a sinus infection and a throat full of abscesses. I caught a cold. Then began having sinus pressure and rainbow colored sneezes. I fled to the doctor, terrified of another bacterial infection. He prescribed antibiotics for my head cold, as a preventative measure. I’m in a new category of risk now, susceptible to every infection that comes down the pike.

Then yesterday, with antibiotics in our system, I thought we were all on the mend–until Sam had an Exorcist-esque attack of he stomach flu in his carseat on the way home from preschool. I have spent the last 24 hours literally elbow deep in noxious bodily fluids.

Through it all, I’ve been writing. I finagled Sam into five-day preschool. I told Tom to prepare himself, I was finishing the book this year and if nothing else got done, tough. I ran away from home and pounded out draft after draft at the local Panera. My mantra became “little drops of water fill the bucket.”

And today, all those little splashes of words did indeed fill the bucket. The introduction is entirely new. The writing is tight. The story is ready.  And has been sent in its entirety to Agent #1. The book is out there now, in the world, and hopefully, will get published someday.

I’m going to take a writing break for the next few weeks. Thoroughly douse my house in Lysol and clean up the messes I’ve neglected.

Then I’m going back to work on something new.

Brittany: The Artiste at Work

I am finished with my novel.

I wrote down the words, but it hardly seems real. Probably because my critique group hasn’t had the chance to sink its teeth into my novel yet. Some revisions will still need to be made. But beyond that, I also feel a deep sense of melancholy about its completion. It, and Sam, were both conceived in November 2005. I have centered my life around them. They were my soul reason for being these last two, now almost three, years.

But now Sam is two, and going to preschool. The book is finished. John is here. Could I have a better reminder that time marches on?

I feel like, as a writer, I have been a neglectful mother. While I am holed away with my laptop searching for comma splices, my boys are growing bigger every day. I really should go live in the world I’m writing about, and bring them with me. Sometimes I feel such enormous guilt. Have I done what I set out to do? Do my boys love language, and reading, and art? Are they creative and open to possibilities? Do they see the world as magical and everyday objects as things to explore? I often wonder…

Yesterday, I got a yes.

I was nursing John. Just one side. Just for a minute. I knew I shouldn’t leave Sam to play unattended, but the baby did need to eat. I figured, what can he get into in just a couple of minutes?


I hear the word coming from the bathroom. I go to investigate. And this is what I found:

Sam had channeled Jackson Pollock and taken a half-full bottle of liquid soap and created a fabulous art display all over the bathroom vinyl. Then, he brought out his cars and furthered his artistic endeavors all over himself, the bathtub, and the bath mat. It was marvelous. It was horrifying. Like there are really enough hours in the day to clean up a mess of that magnitude?

I had to step back and look at it through his two-year-old eyes. What a thing of beauty is a bottle of soap? How easily it moves. How pretty it shines. You’ve got to hand it to the kid. He doesn’t lack for creativity.

And then I had an ephiphany. Maybe all that time I was fretting about being neglectful, it wasn’t really neglect at all. I was giving him space, and room to just be. What if I was actually a good role model, plugging away on my computer, creating my world of words, and leaving him to his exploration? Would Jackson Pollock have gotten anywhere if he wasn’t given time to experiment? Would I? Would anyone? Who knows, Sam may become an artist one day too, and for that I would gladly sacrifice a bath mat.

Brittany: Luxuries and Miracles

It’s 4:44 a.m. and I’ve been up for an hour. Writing. I’m probably going to end up sleepwalking through the rest of the day, but right now I am so blissed out I can hardly stand myself. The last few weeks have been so amazingly productive for me. It’s as if someone flipped my switch back on. Which is really unusual, since 1) I’m never productive in the summer, and 2) I have a toddler and an infant in the house. And yet lately, I’ve been able to sink so deeply into my writing that I forget where I am or what time it is. As a result, I finished my novel. It’s some kind of miracle. What a wonderful luxury to be able to tune out the world and retreat completely into my “writing head.” It happens so rarely anymore that I’m able to appreciate and savor every second of it. And to think I used to take it for granted.

We’ve never really talked about our husbands and the role they play in our creative process, but I think it’s important to mention, even though I find it difficult to describe what role that is. It’s easy to take them for granted too. My husband is an engineer, with zero interest in or appreciation for the type of writing I do. He’s at a complete loss when I ask him about a certain character’s tone and he doesn’t have a clue how one goes about querying an agent. On the one hand, I feel utterly and devastatingly alone in my writing. It is my thing. He doesn’t get it.

But on the other hand, he loved me enough to marry me, so he obviously has a deep appreciation for my writer’s view of the world, my turn of phrase, and the way I communicate with him. He puts up with my clutter and the mountains of paper that I generate. Leaves me in peace when I’m hard at work. Reminds me to eat when I loose track of time. Watches the boys. Supports me financially so that I can stay home and play novelist. Listens to my concerns and tells me everything will work out. Understands the importance of laptops and writing spaces, and if he doesn’t, he humors me anyway. Truly wants me to succeed.

All of these things make my writing life possible, and are little luxuries and miracles too.

Brittany: My Latest Project

John August arrived yesterday at quarter to 2. I posted pictures on my personal blog.

Brittany: Complications

The fates are conspiring against me. I am just not meant to be writing right now.

First it was the tactical assault by toddler on my computer. So then I get my laptop, all prepared to write up a storm, and I’m diagnosed with polyhydramnios. That’s a long name for a simple problem. My body is making too much amniotic fluid–on the order of about 2 liters when normal amounts are around half a liter. I’ve been to so many doctor’s appointments in the last couple of weeks that I’m fairly certain doctors hear ka-ching when I walk through the door. These appointments have determined that the excess fluid isn’t caused by any health issues on my part or the baby’s. So long as I stay pregnant, there is no risk to either of us. However, the weight on my uterus could result in my going into labor at any moment. And when I do go into labor, the moment my water breaks, I will have to be heavily monitored because I am at higher than normal risk now of placental abruption and umbilical cord prolapse.

Meanwhile, my OBGYN says “try to stick to bedrest as much as possible.” With a 20 month old? Yeah, right.

I don’t think my OBGYN meant to be ironic, but “as much as possible” has been my mantra ever since getting pregnant with my first son. I try to write “as much as possible,” and spend time with my son “as much as possible,” be available as a wife “as much as possible,” go to the gym “as much as possible,” clean the house “as much as possible,” take time for myself “as much as possible,” see my friends “as much as possible.”  

There’s not a lot of “much” going on around here and a whole lot less “possible”.

During the snippets of the day when I do get to rest, I wonder about this. Obviously, I’m missing something–something other mothers have overcome. How do you make the most of “as much as possible”?


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