A few years ago, I was a brand new mom hell bent on doing the best job I could to raise my children—which to me meant I would stay home and raise my children while my husband went to work. We never meant it as a statement on gender roles or my mental aptitude for success, no. He and I met young and he was in a stable industry which promised us a secure income (not bathing in hundred dollar bills, mind you). When I finished college we made a choice that instead of heading off to a nine to five job we would start a family and as soon as our children were in school we could readdress the issue of my job-seeking. At the time, I thought this was a fantastic idea and to this day I still agree with my initial decision. It made little sense for me (a trained Archeologist by day and a Telemetry Tech by night) to go after a job that would keep me traveling or force us to move and thus make him give up his secure job. After our first child was born, I decided that I wanted to do something for my child and I decided to write a children’s book in honor of their entrance into the world. Amazingly enough, though I knew virtually nothing about publishing, the book was picked up by a publishing house and my journey as an author began. During this time, I tried to promote my book (though these were the days before the Facebook and Twitter booms). I reached out to all the people I knew and pocket sold a fair amount of books. I loved that in some small way I could contribute financially to our growing family. Soon we had a two-year-old and another on the way. And just as soon as I found out I was pregnant with the second child I soon found out that we were having a miscarriage. I blamed myself. I blamed my life. I blamed the world. In hind sight I know that it was just one of those things which happens to many women—it was unstoppable. Against our doctor’s orders we went ahead and got pregnant again—and six months into the pregnancy I was told I would have to be on bed rest for the next four months. The time was maddening. While confined to a bed I considered writing more children’s books, but after having gone through the marketing and distribution of the first book I made a choice—writing children’s books just wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. I needed more of a mental challenge. I wanted to write full length fiction—and more than that I wanted to write romance—the genre that I had always wanted to write, but had previously been scared to admit to my friends and family. Before I could begin my first romance novel, my second child was born—only a few weeks early and relatively healthy. The days and nights flew by and soon my husband was back to work and taking care of our family’s financial needs. I found that I was by myself with two small children all day (he worked nights) while he slept and then was by myself when he went to work and the kids went to bed. I kept thinking about writing the romance novel of my dreams, but each time I thought “I’m not creative enough…” Each time I started to pick up the pen I made another excuse as to why I couldn’t do what I wanted. I began feeling the strains of being a new mom, of being lonely (I didn’t want to be a mom that watched the clock and waited for the exact minute my husband was supposed to be home), of not financially contributing to our family, and I still held wounds from losing our second baby. In an effort to follow my heart and to begin the healing process, I started writing short stories and pieces for parenting magazines—it was a comfortable move from children’s fiction to family-centered non-fiction. I loved writing the pieces and before long found I had a small cult following. I then won a writing contest in which I talked about the emotional rollercoaster which followed the loss of a pregnancy. That win pushed me. Someone…well not just someone, but many...loved what I wrote. That day I sat down and started writing my first novel. I had never written a full length novel. I’d never written creative fiction—not even in college. But I knew it was what I wanted. I wanted to create a work of fiction and contribute intellectually to the world. I wanted to show those who thought I was just a stay at home mom who was strapped to the kitchen stove—I could do more (during this time someone—not my husband—told me that they would never have married a woman like me as I had no earning potential). Nothing drives me more than being put down. I always cheer for the underdog. The first book I wrote took me a year to write. I sent it out with the blind hope that someone else would love what I had to write. The book failed.It failed big.One editor told me I should go back to college (oh, how I wish I was kidding). I cried in my husband’s arms and hated that I had given up a year to write the book. I hated the thought that I had spent time which I could have given to my children in order to follow my dream. I felt selfish and stupid. I pitied myself and cursed my dream. I fell back into the loneliness of being a stay at home mom with a husband who worked nights. And then one day my husband asked me what I wanted to do. As much as the wounds of failing hurt, I told him I still wanted to be a writer. I didn’t care if I ever made money, but I wanted to see my name on the cover of a book in print. Just as before, he promised his love and support. And in that moment I realized what a wonderful man I had married. Here he was accepting that I may never get published, that I may never contribute anything to the family, and yet he knew I was going to require many hours in which he would need to take the kids and keep the household in order so that I could write and focus on my dream. He promised that we would work together and he would support me in whatever I wanted to do—regardless of the outcome. Again I was barraged with insults from strangers and family alike—why would I keep on doing this if I had failed? Why didn’t I just stick to children’s fiction? The best—That I didn’t care about my family because I was selfishly going after my own foolish desires (talk about pouring salt on a wound). I drove on. I joined professional organizations for romance authors. I joined critique groups. I spent our money on going to conferences so that I could take more classes and talk to authors. I gave my dream everything I had. I wrote another book. I submitted. I waited for the rejection letters/hate mail. Because this isn’t fiction I have to admit the letters started coming and I was faced with the possibility that once again I may have failed. But then I received an offer… and another…and another…and another…Fast-forward a couple of years to today. As I sit here and write this I am proud to say that my family is stronger than it has ever been. My husband still works nights, but in a funny turn of events I now look forward to his going so I can focus on writing. I have a book out in print and several more as e-books. I have made the bestsellers list on different occasions. I have signed a multiple book contract with Crimson Romance for The Nymph Series (the second book comes out May 6 entitled Montana Mustangs). I have met several amazing editors in person who I thought I would never meet. I have met several famous authors and been absolutely star-struck. I have won more awards for my writing. I have taken a job at a publishing house. I have started to teach classes to new authors. I’ve been featured in The Independent, the Missoulian, several other newspapers/magazines, and USA Today. I’m succeeding at following my dream. I have to admit that I have more dreams. I think once you take one step you must take another or you will only stand still. My biggest dream? One day I hope that I will make the USA Today and New York Times Bestsellers lists. Yet, if this dream is not fulfilled I’m okay. I have the knowledge that I have had the courage to stand up against neigh Sayers and the fortitude to survive heartbreak. And most of all I have the most amazing husband in the world and I know that if I wouldn’t have had him and his support I would have never had the strength to follow my dreams. So to him—Thank you, you are incredible.
Christmas time is coming like a child hopped up on candy canes. We have our Griswold family Christmas tree firmly planted in its plastic base and every type of ornament somewhat secured to its branches.I would be lying if I told you this is my favorite time of year. The Christmas season comes in a firm second behind Halloween. Halloween is simple. Buy candy. Make Costume. Exchange candy. Eat kid’s excess candy. Hate that I gained five ‘chocolate’ pounds.Christmas is an entirely different ball of taffy. First, it’s not just one day or one week. It’s at least a month of planning, decorating, buying, and talking down children from the ‘When is Santa coming?’ cliff. Second, the thought of wrapping hundreds of pint-sized gifts, baking enough cookies to feed at least three unfed armies (and let’s be honest, most of the cookies will end up as fat deposits around my bottom), and trying to keep my children’s hands off of the thousands of tiny glass ornaments that sit around our house; well it all makes me want to scream—not much, just enough that the neighbors can hear that I’m losing my mind. Do you think if I do they will come wrap presents for me?
I’m not the Grinch. Nope. Far from it. Okay, not far from it, but I swear there are things I love about this season. I love…Hmm…I got it! I really love Christmas Eve (which is the night our immediate crew unwraps presents and my side of the family comes over). I love watching my kids’ faces perk up when I tell them they finally get to unwrap their presents (which they’ve been begging to do for the last month). I love the laughter that my family shares as we sip well-spiked drinks and tell old stories. I love the feeling of being together and the love that we have for each other.I love Christmas day a little less, but almost with equal zest. This is the day we make the run a few hours north to the in-laws’ house. If it weren’t for the waking up at 4:00 a.m. to unload our stockings I would love it possibly a little more, but let’s face it—I’m not a morning person and travelling with chocolate-filled heathens makes me want to walk the two hundred miles instead of being cooped up in a car with them.This year, in lieu of becoming the Grinch, I’m rebeling. I’m not entering a department store to shop. I’m getting all my shopping done in a matter of days instead of weeks (I hope). I will buy only the things necessary to let my loved ones know that I care. I will not buy a single tie, all-in-one tool, or desk organizer (wait…if anyone has me on their list I could use one of those). I will buy no animal-shaped chocolates that aren’t intended for my kids. I will not eat my kids’ candy (or at least not more than three—no, make that four—pieces). I’m starting a new tradition. I’m thinking about calling it “Christmas of Less.” There will be no stress. No unnecessary buying. No ‘I want that’. I instead want us all to remember what the holidays mean to us. Is it about the stuff? Is it about the million twinkly lights (don’t ask my husband that question—see Griswold above)? Is it about the consumer-centric attitude that accompanies it? No. It’s about the simple things. Love of children. Love of Christmas. Love of family. It’s about the memories shared and memories made. It’s the moments we cherish.
So this holiday season I want us all to take it easy, cuddle up with a book, and enjoy the holidays.Merry Christmas (of Less)!
I'm proud to announce that this Saturday the Romance Under the Big Sky writers group will be coming together under one roof to participate in a book signing event!