I Did My Best

My child, you are so precious to me.

You were created because of a dream, one born out of the love your father and I shared. I carried you in my womb for nine months. I experienced physical sickness and pain. I worried about you so much, I ached inside. I prayed that God would protect you from all the hurt and disappointment and grief I experienced in my youth, all the while knowing deep down that pain would be a necessary teacher in your life. I watched you on the screen during every ultrasound, in awe, in humility, in shock. How could I be in charge of this little person, this precious, helpless, impressionable person? Flawed creature that I am, I knew I would make mistakes. And the very thought terrified me. Still, I determined to do my best. Because I love you, my child.

Little One, you are so fragile.

I watched your mother give birth, helpless to ease her pain, unable to shoulder even an ounce of that burden. But I held her hand and I cheered her on when she thought she had given all that she could. And, together, we welcomed you into this harsh, demanding, unforgiving world. We brought you home, rearranged our lives around you. We made a promise as we stood over your sleeping little form. We would do everything in our power to make you feel loved. We would create a safe haven for you, a home you would always want to come back to. We would give you every good thing that was in our power to give and teach you every good thing our parents taught us, maybe more. We were just children ourselves, still learning what it meant to be adults. But we wanted to do our best for you. Because we love you, Little One.

My child, be patient with me.

I know it seems like I say “no” more than I say “yes.” But it’s only because there is so much out there that can hurt you and I’m afraid. I trust God can keep you safe, but I also understand that He will allow certain things to come into your life in order to shape you. Certain things that I would do everything in my power to help you avoid. I see only what’s right in front of you while He sees it all. It’s so hard to guide you down this dark road with only the light from my very dim headlights to show us the way. It’s so hard for me to let go. Sometimes I think I’m doing well, while other times I’m so sure I’m an absolute failure as a mother. But I’m doing my best. Because I love you, my child.

Little One, listen to me.

There’s so much I want to teach you, so much I’ve learned that I’m sure will benefit you. Why do you scoff and turn away? Why do you insist on doing things by yourself? Don’t you trust me? I’m trying to help, to give you the knowledge I wish my father had given me, to ease your way through this life. I’ve looked forward to teaching you since the day you were born. Please, don’t rob me of this. I want you to become a good, smart, resourceful, person and this is the only way I know how. But I can’t help you if you don’t let me. Can’t you see I’m doing my best here? I love you, Little One.

My child, forgive me.

In my exhaustion and desperation, I’ve made poor choices. Our lives are not simple; sometimes our circumstances only serve to bring out the worst in us. And I’m sorry. I’m truly sorry. You deserve someone better as a mother but you got stuck with me. Please, don’t shut me out. Every moment we spend together is priceless. I promise I’m still trying my best. I love you, my child.

Little One, understand me.

I never knew fatherhood would be this hard. I struggle to discipline you. I struggle to find common ground. I struggle to express myself in a clear and healthy manner. Only now am I realizing that my father had the same issues I’m having now. He never taught me how to overcome this because he never figured it out himself. But maybe he was just trying his best too. No matter what happens, never doubt that I love you, Little One.

My child, you are amazing.

I know it’s only by the grace of God that you flourish. You have your vices, you have your flaws, but you are also talented and smart and brave. And I’m so proud of you. Soon you’ll be venturing out on your own but I’ll be here for you whenever you need me. It’s still hard for me to let go, I’ll admit. But I’ll do my best to give you the independence you’ve always wanted. Because I love you, my child.

Little One, you’ve come so far.

You became your own person right under my nose. Stand tall but stay humble. There’s much to be thankful to God for. We had some bumps along the way; sometimes I felt like bopping you upside the head, but I’m glad I did my best for you. I love you, Little One.

Mom, Dad, I used to think you were so exasperating.

There was a certain comfort in the circle of your arms but the allure of the outside world was so very strong. I couldn’t wait to break free. But the truth is? I didn’t know what you were going through. I couldn’t understand how you felt. I could only see my side of things and I lashed out at you when I felt wronged. I can’t say how sorry I am for every angry or hurtful thing I said to you. Because I have a kid now and I’m learning that I don’t know anything about this incredibly gratifying, yet equally impossible task that is parenthood. Looking back, I can see that you were only doing your best. Thanks for that.

I love you both.

A Much-Needed Update

I kind of disappeared from the internet and real life during the quarantine. For that I apologize. Here’s pretty much everything noteworthy that happened during the month of April:

I was given an office phone and asked to work from home. It was an interesting time. I got a taste of the stay-at-home mom life and it was pretty great, I’m not going to lie. There were times when I’d get frustrated or depressed about the fact that I couldn’t go anywhere. It’s officially summer in Phoenix which discouraged me from taking very many walks with Bennett. But, for the most part, I really enjoyed spending all that time with my son. I witnessed several firsts that I otherwise might’ve missed if I’d had to keep going into the office everyday.

He colored for the first time. It was a bunch of squiggles with an orange colored pencil but it was beautiful to me. He started pointing at things, as if inquiring after them. Then he’d sit there and listen to me explain what they were. He started handing me books and toys on a regular basis and waiting expectantly for me to do something with them. He started standing on his own. He’s still not confident enough to take any steps, but we’ll get there. He’s growing so fast and learning so much. It’s a treat to witness.


 
 

Staying home also allowed me to rest. (For those of you who don’t know, I’m pregnant again. It’s a little ahead of schedule but we’re still excited and more than ready to meet our little girl!) My baby bump turned into a mountain seemingly overnight, sapping my strength and slowing me down considerably. Our baby girl is healthy and strong, though. There’s much to be thankful for.

Over the weekend, I celebrated a birthday and my very first Mother’s Day, which was an emotional time for me. Businesses are slowly starting to open up here but we didn’t want to brave the crowds of people so my husband and I had quiet celebrations at home. May is a big month for us as far as celebrations go. Bennett’s first birthday is on the 18th and our five year wedding anniversary is on the 29th! Hopefully by then it’ll be safer to venture out into the world.

Permission has been granted for some businesses to start opening again. Churches will be allowed to open later in the summer so the office is preparing. I’ll be returning to work part-time. It’s going to be an adjustment for both me and Bennett, but we’ll endure. Besides, all too soon it’ll be time to go on maternity leave!

The Andromeda’s Ghost is on NetGalley and, according to my publisher, it’s getting a good reception from librarians, retailers, journalists, trade reviewers, and book bloggers. I was told the book would be available for pre-order early in June and is all set to be published on July 16!

BHC Press is already preparing the publication schedule for 2021. I submitted the second book in The Andromeda Chronicles, The Andromeda’s Captain, so they could add it to the line up. It’s crazy to think that another one of my books could be coming out this time next year, but that’s totally a possibility!

In other news, deals have been made and the plan has been set in motion so that the books I publish through BHC Press will be translated into different languages! More news on that later.


My big project during the quarantine was finishing my edits for Death’s Curses and getting all the necessary documents ready to submit to BHC Press. It took a lot longer than I care to admit (escaping from distractions at home proved to be more difficult than I thought!) but at last it’s done. The query letter, book description, synopsis, and first six chapters have been submitted for their consideration. It can take 6-8 weeks for them to get to the documents, review everything, and make a decision what with the enormous amount of submissions they get every day. I’ll be moving onto other projects to keep busy while I wait to hear back from them but, for right now, I’m celebrating.


There’s still the possibility of another wave of the Coronavirus hitting us. Stay safe and brave, you guys.

A Good Mom

It’s a late night and an early morning.

It’s a sleepy smile, a drool-covered chin, a runny nose.

Time for play?

How about a walk?

Anything for you, baby.

It’s dinner time, bath time, and off to bed with you, mister.

Yes, you are tired. Don’t give me that look.

It’s having to sit perfectly still while baby screams on a monitor screen.

Quietly fuming. Or privately aching.

Sometimes both.

I’ve done everything I can think of.

Why is he still crying?

Does this mean I’m not a good mom?

It’s a house that’s always half dirty.

Laundry mostly done. Clean. Folded. Sitting in baskets all over the living room.

It’s meal planning. All day. Every day.

It’s checking the heater several times before bed, obsessing about baby’s comfort.

It’s cheers and tears after every milestone reached.

I’m so glad he’s growing up at a normal pace…

But why can’t he stay little forever?

“Thank God he can’t stay little forever!” I think moments later.

It’s worrying about his future.

It’s beating myself up after every little failure.

It’s praying, “Oh, God, please help me be a good mom.”

Over and over and over again.

It’s keep to the schedule at all costs. Until baby changes it.

He never sleeps in this late. Is he still alive?

Oh, sorry, baby. Didn’t mean to scare you. Shh. Go back to sleep.

No? Okay. I guess it’s breakfast time now…

It’s panicking when he gets sick.

It’s wiping food off my face. Food that’s not mine.

It’s rocking and crying softly. Overwhelmed by the depth of my love for this baby.

It’s coming this close to cursing at baby. Then actually cursing at baby.

Then feeling extremely guilty for cursing at baby.

It’s falling asleep on the couch with baby, waking every time he moves.

It’s melting whenever I make him giggle.

It’s raging war against the mosquito that dared to bite my baby.

I come home after a long day at work and there he is, crawling toward me at full speed.

Does this mean I’m a good mom?

“You are,” says his grandma.

“You are,” says his aunt.

“You are,” says his father.

On this long, winding road we call motherhood, I struggle to believe sometimes.

It’s looking at a positive pregnancy test.

Happy. Exhausted. Terrified.

Can I do this?

My heart is big enough for both of you, but is my spirit strong enough?

Can I still be a good mom if there’s two?

Only time will tell.

2019 Recap

A lot of people send a Christmas letter to their family members with a summary of their year or a quick update on what they’re currently doing. While I did send out an adorable Christmas picture card of my husband, my baby, and myself, there was no summary attached. So, without further ado, here is my 2019 summary:

  • In February, my mother-in-law flew my husband and I, along with two of her other sons, to Seattle to visit their grandmother. It was my first time flying while pregnant and it went surprisingly well.
  • In April, I signed a contract with a new publisher (BHC Press) for my first science fiction/fantasy novel, The Andromeda’s Ghost. I also self-published my first book, the sequel to my young adult romance novel, titled I Dare You to Stay With Me.
  • In May, I gave birth prematurely to my son, Bennett Mordecai Fox.
  • In September, we said goodbye to my husband’s cat of fifteen years, Cowboy. May he rest in peace.
  • In October, my husband and I flew to Hawaii for his brother’s wedding. It was our first time traveling with a baby. Tears were shed. Lessons were learned. It was a beautiful wedding and I’m glad we were there.
  • In November, I wrote and “produced” my first novelette, A Favor for a Princess, a prequel of sorts for The Andromeda’s Ghost. This book is still available for free, by the way!
  • In December, a good friend of mine who moved to Oregon and now works as the librarian for a high school over there, added I Dare you to Love Me and I Dare You to Stay With Me to her shelves.
  • (I have to include January in this recap because two super exciting things happened this month as well.) BHC Press submitted The Andromeda’s Ghost into Publishers Weekly, along with several other upcoming titles of theirs, in the hopes that they would be featured in PW’s Spring 2020 Announcements page. And The Andromeda’s Ghost was featured under the SF, Fantasy & Horror Listings! Woot woot! Also, the manuscript my sister and I had been working on together for a little over a year, a young adult urban fantasy titled Death’s Curses, was completed this week. It will be sent off to beta readers within the next few days. Once we get their feedback, we’ll be applying necessary changes and then submitting it to BHC Press to be considered for publication. 

It’s been a fun, exhausting, and productive year. And this year promises to be similar. Things I’m looking forward to so far in 2020:

  • In February, I Dare You to Love Me will be participating in a library marketing campaign by New Shelves Books, a book sales and marketing company. My book, along with several others, will be featured in a catalog that will be sent to libraries across the country who are looking to add new books to their inventory.
  • In May, my husband and I will be celebrating our five year wedding anniversary by going on an Alaskan cruise. We’ll be leaving our son for a whole week! Of course, he’ll be a year old by then and he’ll be well taken care of by his grandmas but…I still have mixed feelings.
  • In July, The Andromeda’s Ghost will be published!

In the meantime, there’s lots of work to be done! On my writing schedule, I have the last book in The Andromeda Chronicles to finish, the last book in The Dare Trilogy to start, and a whole mess of plot issues to fix in the first book of my faerie series, tentatively titled The Sentinel’s Test. Not to mention there’s a novelette series that has been on the back burner since Asta and the Barbarians was published. So, yes, lots to do! I can’t wait to get started!

The Best Cat in the World

This is Cowboy. As the title of this post might suggest, he’s the best cat in the world.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. Cats are evil, right? They hide under the bed when visitors come. They hiss and scratch if you get too close. They sit on your keyboard or book and refuse to move. They knock things off your dresser for no reason. They camp outside your bedroom window and sing at three in the morning or decide to make your front porch their litter box. They leave little paw prints on your car. They suffocate babies. Etc, etc, etc.

Most of the people I’ve met have had horrible experiences with cats. I can relate; I had some pretty crazy cats for pets when I was growing up. But Cowboy is unlike any other cat I’ve ever met. In fact, he isn’t really a cat; more like an old dog trapped in a cat’s body.

He does three things; sleep, eat, and poop. If his litter box is too full, he’ll sit outside the laundry room door (that’s where the littler box is kept) and meow until we change the litter. If his bowl is empty, he’ll do the same. If he wants milk, he’ll follow us into the kitchen and sit by the fridge to meow until we comply. Otherwise, he’ll wait until we sit down somewhere and cozy up next to us (or between us) to take a nap. He’ll fall asleep touching us somehow (with his chin on a shoulder, or his paw on a wrist, or a leg thrown over one of our legs). Like he’s claiming us as his.

When visitors come, he jumps down from the couch and wanders over to sniff their feet. If anyone sits on the couch, he climbs into their lap. He will sit there and let you pet him for as long as you want. He’ll purr and drool and look up at you like you’re his best friend. Even if it’s the first time you’ve met.

If there are any discarded shoes or clothes on the floor, he’ll sit or lay on them. If it belongs to my husband, Cowboy will rub his face all over it. He’ll ask to taste whatever crunchy, salty treat you’re snacking on by pawing at your hand and purring. (His favorites are Cheese Puffs, Wheat Thins, Doritos, and tortillas.)

He used to sleep in my husband’s bed before we got married. He still tries to sneak into our bed when I’m not looking. He’ll look up at me innocently when I catch him lying on my side of the bed. It’s hard to be mad at him, even if he does leave bright orange hair on the sheets.

He loves to sleep in the sun. He’d lay outside in the grass all day if we’d let him. Only problem is, he loves to eat the grass too. Then he’ll come inside and promptly throw up on the carpet. So he lays down by the sliding glass door and looks out into the sunlit backyard instead, waiting for his opportunity to sneak out. He’s big but he can move fast when he wants to. He’ll eat and throw up flowers too. When my husband gets me roses for my birthday or our anniversary, we have to put them somewhere up high where he can’t reach them. It’s kind of funny.

Cowboy’s one flaw? He doesn’t have the patience for small children. He has bitten each of our nephews at least once. He didn’t like our son when we first brought Bennett home from the hospital. He avoided the baby whenever he could and turned his back on Bennett if they were sharing close quarters. But, as you will see in the pictures below, Cowboy has grown accustomed to Bennett. Might even like the boy now.

 

He’s technically my husband’s cat, has been for fifteen years. But when we started dating, Cowboy and I had an almost instant connection. Even though my husband started snuggling with me more than his cat, Cowboy still loved me. Even though I kicked him out of our marriage bed, Cowboy was big enough to forgive me. Even when I put him on a diet, Cowboy refused to disown me. We’re so close, in fact, that we made a pact: he was going to live forever. Our kids were going to grow up loving him as much as I did. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. Cowboy took our pact very seriously. He lost weight, he held onto his zen-like attitude despite how many times our dog tried to annoy him, he kept sleeping a ton, and exercised by jumping up and down from the bathroom counter to eat his meals.

Then, about three weeks ago, we discovered Cowboy had a limp. We thought maybe he’d hurt himself jumping down from the bathroom counter so we put his food on the floor and made sure the dog didn’t go anywhere near it. But he didn’t get better. We took him to the vet, who summarized it was a sprain of some kind. He gave Cowboy a steroid shot to help with the swelling (that was fun…not), and gave us additional medication to force-feed him. Even after we ran out of that medication, Cowboy’s limp persisted. In fact, it got worse. A growth appeared seemingly overnight on his bad leg, the one he’d been babying this whole time. His appetite decreased. Drastically. It became harder and harder for him to climb into his litter box. Then he gave up trying to use the litter box altogether. Yesterday, when he hadn’t moved from his spot even to relieve himself, my husband and I looked at each other. And decided it was time to say goodbye.

I’m tearing up as I write this. I can’t believe it. I never thought I’d become so attached to a pet. He’s just a cat, right? Wrong. He’s been there since my husband and I started dating. He has been sitting next to us on the couch since we came back from our honeymoon. When we wake up in the morning, he greets us. He sits on the carpet and keeps me company while I’m getting ready for the day. When we come home from work, he’s there. When we go to sleep, he tries so hard to join us. When we go out of town, he stress-eats until we come back and then cries with joy when we walk through the door. He’s our furry roommate. He loves us and we love him. He tried so hard to live forever, just like I asked. But his body has given up on him. We can’t let him keep going like this.

The appointment has been set for this evening. Isn’t that horrible? I had to call the vet to ask if we could schedule a time to put our beloved Cowboy to sleep. Permanently. My husband says it hasn’t hit him yet, but when it does it’ll hit him hard. My heart is heavy. I’ve been mourning all week. I don’t want this to be the last time we see Cowboy. For the first time ever, I find myself hoping animals go to heaven. Whether it’s true or not, I want to believe he’ll end up there. I want to believe he’ll find the mansion that’s been made for us, jump up on the couch, settle into his favorite spot right up against the armrest, and wait for us. It might sound silly, but that’s how much I love this stinkin’ cat.

Maybe someday we’ll get another cat, but I’m pretty sure Cowboy has ruined cats for us forever. After all, what feline could compare to the best cat in the world?

Goodbye, old friend. Don’t tell the dog, but I love you more than any other pet I’ve had. Keep that heavenly couch warm for us. We’ll see you again soon.

A Nostalgic Post

Remember when I took a poetry class to challenge myself since I’m not so great at writing poems? Well, I was cleaning out my USB stick the other day and happened upon a folder with some old assignments. I felt both pride and embarrassment upon reading through them. Here are two of my favorites:

 


 

A Cat and His Dog 

(Inspired by my pets)

The dog thinks she’s the alpha of the house.

The dog is wrong.

She watches cars and people pass through the window,

Barking at anyone and anything.

Unless they come through the door.

Then they’re friends.

The dog thinks I enjoy playing with her.

The dog is wrong.

When Mom and Dad can’t toss the ball for her

She charges and snaps and barks at me.

The dog is often very sorry for this.

I make her cry and retreat every time.

The dog thinks she’s Mom and Dad’s favorite.

The dog is wrong.

She gets treats and belly rubs and sleeps at Dad’s feet.

I get to sleep on the couch.

Mom doesn’t let the dog sleep on the couch.

Enough said.

The dog thinks we’re friends.

The dog is wrong.

Sure, we share the water bowl sometimes.

When I sneak out through the dog door,

We eat grass together and watch the birds.

And when I’m full and the dog asks very nicely,

I let her finish my milk…

I suppose the dog isn’t always wrong.

 


 

My Salted Pine

(Inspired by my grandfather’s ranch)

Freshly tilled earth squishes between my toes

Releasing memories of water, fertilizer, vegetation

My grandfather works hard to nurture his fields

They reward him with good produce every season

Sunshine weaves through the leaves to meet the top of my head

Bringing memories of summer, play, blackberries

My cousins and I once ran through these fields

Raced up the chicken coop to pick the berries that grew there

The wind whispers across the land

Churning up memories of rain, clouds, thunder

I often sat before the front window of my grandparent’s house

Watching the weather wreak havoc across their land

My tree sways and gestures with its branches

Recounting memories of adventures, epiphanies, dreams

This was my place of solitude, the place I could escape to

The place I came to think

I reach up to press my hand against the creases in the bark

Close my eyes, take a deep breath

And remember being a child

 


 

Don’t worry. I’m not quitting my day job yet. It’s just fun to look back and reminisce. At least, it is for me. Hope you enjoyed them! 😉

Surprise!

I know I’m late in posting something new on here but I have a really good excuse, I promise.

May 18. 4:00AM. I was suddenly wide awake. Then I felt and heard a distinct pop, kind of like the sound you hear when you pop a bubble in your chewing gum. My coworker had described this to me when she told me about the time her water broke so I carefully got out of bed and made my way to the bathroom. No sooner had my feet touched the tile than water began to rush down my legs.

“Hey, babe?” I squeaked, slapping on the lights.

My husband sat bolt upright in bed. “What? What’s wrong?”

“I think my water just broke.” (Which was, in hindsight, a ridiculous thing to say. Water was literally pouring out of me. There was no way this could be anything but my water breaking. But I was groggy and a little scared so I think I can let it go.)

My husband leapt into action, yanking on some clothes and gathering my overnight bag. I called the hospital to verify that we were supposed to go there right away and then proceeded to change out of my wet clothes. (A fruitless effort since the more I moved, the more water came but I’ll spare you the gory details.) We rushed to the hospital, giddy as school girls, and managed to get to labor and delivery without incident. I was so thankful we’d taken those birthing classes earlier because we knew exactly where to go and what to do. My husband filled out the paper work. I was wheeled into a room and given a gown. It was confirmed in a matter of minutes; my water had broken. Baby Bennett was coming three weeks ahead of schedule.

There were no contractions yet. The nurses wheeled me into a private birthing suite and then gave me something to kick start the contractions. It only took two to three hours before my body got the hint and continued the process on its own. I lasted five hours without the epidural. Silly me; I thought I might try toughing this thing out while watching HGTV. But when they told me I was only three centimeters dilated and the pain was already more intense than anything I’d ever felt before, I said screw it! “Give me drugs!” Having a giant needle shoved between two vertebrae in my back was nothing short of terrifying, especially because I couldn’t see when the needle went in. (That’s how I cope with needles; I have to watch them go in so that I can brace myself and breathe through the process.) My husband helped steady me. I was numb from the waist down within the hour.

For the next nine hours, I was able to rest and simply watch the contractions come and go on the monitor. Friends and family visited, talked, helped me forget I was in labor. Too many nurses to count came and went, updating me on my progress, moving me from one position to another. Finally, they declared me ready to push. It was…peaceful. My husband stood on one side of me, my nurse on the other. She coached me through it until it was time to call the doctor. It was just the four of us then, me pushing and breathing while they encouraged me. It only took twenty-three minutes. Then I heard that iconic wailing. A child was placed on my chest.

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I’d seen this moment before in movies and TV shows. Mothers had tried to describe it to me in the past. None of that did it justice. I’m having trouble describing it now. I remember feeling tired and relieved but also a bit overwhelmed. So much had happened in the last fourteen hours–in the last eight months actually! It was hard to believe it was all over. The thought hit me, “This is my son.” And that’s when the tears came.

My son.

MY SON.

Bennett Mordecai Fox. Five pounds fifteen ounces. Eighteen and three quarter inches long. He was a picture on a screen, a heartbeat on a monitor, a flutter or a kick in my stomach. And now he was a little person in my arms.

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My nurses and doctor marveled at how perfect he was. If he’d come any earlier, he would’ve had problems with his lungs or his immune system. But aside from having slightly lower blood sugar than normal, he was healthy. Still, they asked us to stay for forty-eight hours so they could run tests, be sure he was going to be all right. His blood sugar increased the more he ate. He passed all the other tests with flying colors. They gave us the OK and we brought him home Monday afternoon.

It’s been a whirlwind of activity ever since. Between figuring out this surprisingly complicated thing called breastfeeding (it DOESN’T come naturally? Whaaaaaat?), diapering, burping, and feeding this little human being at all hours of the day and night, my husband and I have hardly had a moment to ourselves. Okay, that’s not entirely true. We’ve gone out twice to celebrate our anniversary (he surprised me the day of, I surprised him over the weekend) and left Bennett with trusted loved ones. Plus both my parents and my husband’s mother have come to visit. They helped a ton.

Now we’re on our own. My husband went back to work almost two weeks ago. I’ve been surviving ever since, sleeping when I can, doing a little house work here and there, trying to build a new routine. I always knew being a mom would be difficult. Never imagined it would be this time-consuming. And I only have one child! But before I can get too overwhelmed, Bennett will do something adorable or just smile and suddenly things don’t seem so hard.

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This is my life right now. It’s busy. It’s exhausting. It’s difficult. It’s full of joy. It’s temporary. I know someday Bennett won’t need me as much. Someday I’ll have downtime again and get back into my writing. In the meantime, I’ll just try to enjoy the here and now.

 

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Worn

The alarm blares at six in the morning. She turns with difficulty and hits the snooze button, too tired to open her eyes more than a crack. Her baby is already moving, probing gently across her belly. Her body is already communicating, sending information to her brain like text messages. Full bladder; must empty. Empty stomach; must fill. Dry mouth; need water. Feet aching; need relief. Back sore; roll over.

Every new ping sounds louder and louder, until the hamster wakes up at the back of her mind. It gives itself a shake and begins to run on the wheel that turns on the lights and begins all the productivity. Like the grinding gears of an enormous machine, new thoughts move sluggishly through her mind at first. But they get faster, louder, more demanding. Thoughts about what needs to get done today both in the home and at work, what errands need to be run, who needs to be called, and are there any appointments today that she might’ve forgotten about? Oh, and did so-and-so ever email her back? She should probably check–

No, she thinks forcefully. Go back to sleep. 

Then a song joins the jumbled mess of thoughts. An song appropriate to her situation, but just as unwelcome as everything else.

“I’m tired
I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes to keep on breathing

I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left…”

Quiet, she begs, pressing her face into her pillow. Please–

The alarm goes off again. Has it been ten minutes already? With a growl of frustration, she gabs at the snooze button yet again. Falls back into the mattress, tries to wipe away the obnoxious thoughts assailing her mind like gnats. She pictures a dark room, a blank slate, a broken radio, a faulty machine, anything that will communicate to the hamster that it can stop all production up there. But the hamster just keeps running, puffing softly, dutifully performing. And the song continues.

“Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That You can mend a heart that’s frail and torn

I want to know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
‘Cause I’m worn…”

Her body chimes in again, sending a more demanding message to her brain. Bladder FULL; must empty immediately. Her baby gives a big shove and she finds herself doubling over, drawing herself in tightly to keep from wetting the bed. When the urge is less severe, the covers are kicked off. With curses and groans, she wrestles out of the comfort and warmth and safety of her beloved King, and waddles (yes, waddles–like an engorged penguin) to the bathroom as fast as she can.

The baby weighs heavily on her pelvis and lower back. Her feet feel swollen and tender; she winces with every step. Sitting brings little relief. The toilet is wedged in the corner between a wall and the shower. Even with both knees against a wall, her belly takes up too much space. She shifts and grunts and eventually settles. At least she’s able to empty her bladder in a dignified, adult-like manner. Leaning back, she sighs.

When did something so simple become so complicated?

She knows the answer, of course. She pokes the baby with a finger; he makes everything more complicated than it once was. He kicks back. A little smile, a speck of contentment, a moment of love. But once one physical ailment is relieved, the others swoop into the spotlight. Stomach empty; must fill. Mouth dry; need water. 

Yeah, yeah, yeah…

She lets the dog out of the kennel next, travels into the living room, opens the back door, watches the dog sprint into the grass. The cat leaps down from the couch, meowing in greeting. Both animals are fed. Then it’s her turn. Cereal and almond milk. She sits and reads a few verses from her well-worn Bible, tries to see beyond the familiar story and hear a different message.

What do You want me to learn today?

Breakfast is finished. She stays on the couch, staring into space. Trying not to follow the trains of thoughts still blazing through her head. Maybe she can go back to sleep for a few minutes now that her body has been appeased…But a quick glance at the clock kills that idea. Heave, ho, heave, ho! Up from the couch she finally goes. She walks back into the bedroom (ouch, ouch, go her feet). The pressure returns to her pelvis, low and deep. Baby gives another kick. She presses her hands into her lower back, suppressing a groan.

“I know I need
To lift my eyes up
But I’m too weak
Life just won’t let up
And I know that You can give me rest
So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends…”

She blindly selects an outfit for the day. Struggles into the jeans. Tugs on the blouse. Shoves her feet into shoes that had once fit her loosely but were now tight. Looks at herself in the mirror. A zombie stares back, eyes half-lidded, ringed with dark circles. With slow, painstaking movements, it tries to do something with her hair. She used to try. She used to care. Now, she just pulls it into a ponytail. The dog follows her every movement, carrying around its favorite toy, hoping to play. She manages to kick the toy a few times. The dog runs happily after it and brings it back to her, wagging its stump of a tail, almost smiling as it pants up at her.

Sweet puppy. How are you always happy?

She scratches it behind the ears before heading back to the kitchen. There she prepares her lunch. The same lunch she had yesterday. The same lunch she’ll have tomorrow. Does she have everything she needs for dinner tonight? A quick peek in the fridge and at her recipe book. Yes, all but two vital items. Of course. She’ll have to stop at the grocery store on the way home.

Prenatal vitamins are ingested. She experiences a wave of nausea as a result. Brushing her teeth thoroughly, she manages to erase the bitter taste from her tongue. Rinse. Spit. Look up. There’s the zombie again.

“…my prayers are wearing thin
I’m worn even before the day begins
I’m worn, I’ve lost my will to fight
I’m worn so heaven so come and flood my eyes…”

There will be more aches and pains as soon as she leaves the house, little things that make everything feel worse. Faulty AC. Slow traffic. Irresponsible drivers. Never-ending phone calls from people with sob stories, people who feel the need to explain everything in specific detail before presenting their request, people who will demand things from her. Tasks assigned by coworkers. Disgruntled walk-ins (or worse: overly cheerful walk-ins). Nice people who only want to help. Concerned people who ask how she is doing. People she can never be honest with. And the long stretches of silence in between them all. Silences filled with nothing except her overwhelming desire to lay down and sleep. To shut out the world, to quiet her screaming body and squirming baby, and try to return to some semblance of the person she’d once been. Who was that again?

God, help me.

Blinking away tears, she tries to smile. She has to smile. Otherwise, her face betrays her true feelings. Frustration. Exhaustion. Selfishness. Apathy. Chronic pain. Things no one and nothing can alleviate. She is done being pregnant but a small part of her is afraid of what comes after. It’ll be worse, won’t it? It’ll be harder. If she can’t deal with this now…

Just let me get through today. Please. I need Your strength.

This is her mantra as she puts the dog out, snatches her short grocery list, picks up her purse and lunch and heavy water bottle, and waddles out to the car. She drives away, already anticipating her return. Will her husband have to work late again? Or will he be waiting for her when she gets home, ready to give hugs and kisses and much-needed foot massages? Baby rolls over in her belly. She winces and places a hand over him as she drives.

Careful, son.

She almost wishes he wouldn’t move, but she knows the moment he does stop moving, she’ll go into a panic. She’ll assume something is wrong. She’ll jab a finger at him until he jabs back, just to be sure she hasn’t lost him like she lost the first one. So she bears his kicks in silence. Tries to be thankful for the discomfort. Tries to find the wonder and the love again. Reminds herself that a miracle is going on inside her body. Still, the thought that rings louder in her mind is:

Six more weeks.

 


 

*Song lyrics from Worn by Tenth Avenue North*

My Life

“…This is your life, are you who you want to be?
This is your life, is it everything you’ve dreamed
That it would be when the world was younger,
And you had everything to lose?”
-This is Your Life by Switchfoot

When I was fourteen/fifteen, I listened to this song with hope that one day my life would be everything that I ever dreamed it would be. Because, I don’t know if you remember, but being a teenager isn’t as fun as they make it seem on TV. Your choices are pretty limited. You go to school, go to church, do your chores, do your homework, mind your manners, hang out with your friends, maybe get your driver’s permit, learn a life lesson or two. Sure, you have less responsibility and less to worry about, but that to me always meant being stuck in the same old routine.

I longed for the day when I’d be older because I couldn’t do any of the things I actually wanted to do until then. I figured if I finally finished school, published a book, got married, and started my own family, then I would have “arrived.” I would’ve been done with the farming and gaining XP part of this video game, and be leveled up enough to get to the good stuff. Do you know what has happened the older I’ve gotten? Nothing. I still feel exactly the same, like I’m waiting for the “good” part of my life to start.

Don’t get me wrong; I have A LOT to be thankful for. I have a good-paying job with incredible health insurance. I have a car that works (most of the time). I’m living in a rental house that’s in a good neighborhood. I have a husband that I don’t deserve. We have loving and supporting families, a nurturing church, great friends, and pets that are practically angels (when compared to the animals in all of those shaming memes). I’ve published three books and will be self-publishing a fourth in the next month or two (fingers crossed). I have a bouncing baby boy on the way.

According to the logic of Teenage Me, this should mean that I have “arrived,” right? My days of striving and waiting and working are over. I have everything that I’ve ever wanted, but nothing is at all like I thought it would be. I’ve always known that I’m something of a romantic, that I see life through rose-colored glasses. The truth is I don’t see life at all.

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I thought this meme only pertained to the fantasy worlds I wrote about. I was wrong. This is just how I view everything. Unrealistically. Positively. Naively. I set myself up for disappointment because I’ll always be waiting for my circumstances to align with my view of how things “ought to be” after all my years of “farming.” When in reality, life is hard and is always going to be. People tried to tell me this when I was younger. Sometimes I believed them. Most of the time I didn’t. Now, I think, I’m finally starting to see.

Because–shocker!–the things I’ve been looking forward to? They have their down sides too. For example:

  • I’m done with school (for now); that’s great. But trying to make writing my full time career or trying to get an internship at a publishing company is a drag. There’s always a better writer, a better candidate.
  • I’m published. Again, great! I’m super proud of the fact that I have books out there for people to enjoy! But book promotion and marketing are soul-crushing. There are so many articles and blog posts and YouTube videos chock full of information that has, so far, not helped me very much.
  • I’m married. Woohoo! But…actually, I have no complaints there. Being married to Devo Fox is pretty amazing. Sure, sometimes we confuse and frustrate each other, but we never go to bed angry. He’s still the first person I want to see when I wake up in the morning, the person I can’t wait to get home to. Moving right along…
  • I’m pregnant. Guess what. Feeling nauseous and exhausted all the time sucks. There are things I used to do with ease, things that I can’t do anymore because I literally don’t have the energy. I keep hearing that it’ll get better with time but it hasn’t. I’m thinking I’ll keep feeling sick and tired right up until I pop this kid out.

There is no giant scale where all my hours of farming go in and, after I’ve reached a certain point, I’ll have “earned” an easy-breezy end to my life. I’m always going to have to work for what I want. I’m never going to “arrive,” not until the second coming. If I get a little extra money to travel or purchase something big that I need, it’ll be a blessed miracle. If I ever look around and feel any measure of peace or contentment, I need to cherish that because those moments are so fleeting.

But nobody wants to hear about that, do they? Complainers and downers get nothing but eye-rolls and cricket noises. Plus, I don’t want to stay in this depressingly realistic place either. I want to continue seeing the bright side of things, to continue believing that my circumstances will get easier with time. Because if they don’t, then I might actually give up. What kind of life would that be?

There’s a not-so-subtle theme in The Andromeda Trilogy (cool name pending). It’s something along the lines of “do the best you can with what you have and try to find happiness no matter where you are in life.” It makes me sound wise but, as you can see, I’m still trying to figure out how to put that into practice. How to be content without getting complacent. How to see things as they are without giving in to depression and discouragement. How to explain to my kids the difference between living in the moment and being reckless. Because I can’t wait for the day my unrealistic expectations come true. Not anymore. This is my life. It’s happening right now. There is good and there is bad. There are things I can do and things I can’t. What am I going to do with this knowledge, this new outlook? Time will only tell.

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2019 Goals

I don’t do New Years resolutions because I never keep them, but here are several things I’d like to get done in 2019:

  • Self-publish I Dare You to Stay With Me. Inkitt has made some changes to their publishing policies that I didn’t agree with so they’re giving me my rights back for the sequel to I Dare You to Love Me. I’m just waiting on that reversion of rights contract to be emailed to me so I can sign it and get this self-publishing process going! I’ll give you all updates as things change.
  • Finish writing The Andromeda Trilogy. (And come up with a cooler name for this sci-fi fantasy series…I’m open to suggestions!) The first book took me over a year to write, the second one took me all of six months to write, but I’m only about a third of the way through the last one even though it’s been five months since I started it. Grant it, I haven’t been writing as often as I used to because of work, holidays, and other family stuff. But still! The words are coming slowly, much to my frustration. I’d like to have at least the first draft completed before my baby is born in June. That way I’ll only have minor edits and revisions to make before it’s ready to be shown to the world.
  • Get The Andromeda’s Ghost published. I’ve participated in Pitch Madness and will be involved in SFFpit, (a similar Twitter pitch party for science fiction and fantasy manuscripts only) later in the month. I blame my terrible pitch-writing skills for the small number of requests I’ve gotten. This book is special! I know it! I’ll keep trying until this series finds a home. It’s been on ice for far too long.
  • Finish writing Death’s Curses. This is technically my first and only attempt at a YA romance story with some magic realism. I want to be sure it’s good enough to compete with my other work. I’m starting to realize that Esmer (one of the main characters) sounds a lot like Jael (from The Andromeda’s Ghost). Which is a big NO-NO! Each character I create is supposed to be unique. I’ll have to work on highlighting the differences between them because, although they share a similar sense of humor and both have tragic pasts, they have different goals, temperaments, and coping mechanisms. And they’re both great! It might help to finish The Andromeda Trilogy, make Jael and Taren’s arc solid and complete, before I attempt to wrap up Esmer and Charlie’s story…
  • Read more! I’ve gotten into a terrible habit of binge watching old TV shows instead of reading. I have a TBR list but I haven’t been motivated to check those books out at a library. I’ve just been waiting for Marissa Meyer and Brandon Sanderson to come out with the last books in their series, which is going to take forever of course. It’s not cool. I used to consume a book a week and I miss it! I just have to grit my teeth, pick a book, and dive on in. And ignore my wariness when it comes to new authors. Is there a possibility of disappointment or a bad fit? Sure. But that’s why we go to the library first and only buy the books we like. I have to take advantage of my time now, before I have a baby to take care of 24/7.
  • Promote more. After exploring numerous free book promotion options and seeing little to no results last year, I got really discouraged. I knew giving up wasn’t the answer but I couldn’t bring myself to keep trying things I knew wouldn’t help. So I told myself I was “taking a break” and would get back to book promotion later. Well, as you can probably imagine, “later” never came. Here I am, at the start of 2019, and my book sale numbers are only getting worse. It’s time to invest more than just time and energy into my books. If I’m truly serious about my writing career, I have to put my money where my mouth is. I’ve looked into some book promoting services that actually require me to pay something. (Thanks, Tirgearr Publishing, for providing a list of some sites that you’ve found to be the most helpful! It’s a great place to start.) My husband is on board with it. I just have to budget it in to our monthly expenses and try a few of these new avenues.
  • Get ready to be a mommy. I volunteered at my church’s nursery for almost three years before I got engaged. I was a nanny for several months. I’ve baby sat before. I have nephews. I know how to keep an infant or a toddler alive and entertained for up to four hours. But I’ve never had to take care of a newborn by myself. I don’t know everything there is to know about them. I have to do my research. Find a birthing class or a Lamaze class. Maybe both. And yet I’ve been dragging my feet on that. I want to blame my husband, whose attitude concerning the unknown has always been, “We’ll cross that bridge when we get there,” but that’s cheating. I’ve always been the planner. It isn’t like me to put off preparing for something. They say a new mom can do all the research they want and still come up empty when they have their first kid because there’s just too much that can’t be accounted for. That’s more than likely the reason why I haven’t gotten started: there’s too much information to absorb. It’s overwhelming. But it’s still a good idea to be as informed as possible before baby comes…Again, I just have to grit my teeth and get started somewhere.

Laying it all out like that, it sounds like a lot! 2019 is going to be another busy year. Who knew? To those of you who do goals or resolutions: best of luck! To those of you who don’t, rock on!