Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Keeping My Heart Full

Wednesday, November 28, 2012.
 All 'four' of my boys.

One week ago I sent her off.  My oldest child. My only girl.  Last year she moved out to Colorado with the family. Then she realized that, at her age, family is great, but friends are better. She missed those NY friends she'd left behind. If she was going to carve out her grown up life, she needed to do it in a place where she had a social life beyond watching Red Box movies with her little brothers on a Friday night.

Six weeks before she turned 21, she piled the bare necessities in her old Buick and set off across the country with her best friend, who had flown out from NY to join her. For three days they lived the script of a teen movie. Two crazy kids exploring the roads that led East. They stopped in Kansas and ran across a corn field. They rode the tiny elevator cars up to the top of the St. Louis Arch and took pictures of views that went on for miles. With a few White Castle burgers as body fuel, they hit the road again.

She's there now. She's unpacked and already started her new job out there. Our relationship now is a series of texts and an occasional Skype session. Just because she's settled doesn't mean I don't miss her any less.

Today, a week after I launched my first child out into the world, I welcomed another one into my home. He's not really 'new' around here. He's the boy my own sons love like a brother. He lived around the block from us in NY, his backyard catty-corner to ours. My boys were very familiar with the path that led from his house to ours, and I was very familiar with his bright smile hanging around my house.

He's skied with our gang, one year breaking his wrist on their first run of the season. He's plotted and planned with my sons, in great detail, how we will all survive the zombie apocalypse that is coming sooner than you know. He's blessed us with personal concerts, playing his electric violin in my living room as I sat back  and listened in awe.

Five minutes before I pulled out of our NY driveway, getting ready to drive my three boys across the country to their new home, we snapped pictures of Justin, with his three departing brothers. Then he skateboarded down our driveway and made his way home, as our car crept slowly behind him. It was just too painful to finally let him stay, as we were the ones to go.

And now finally all my boys are reunited. Justin has come to spend the week with us. The boys have mapped out every day of his visit, squeezing in as much as possible. There will be ski runs, for sure. But there will also be a lot of just exploring Colorado. Driving through our old mountain downtown, and circling our lake as the ice slowly freezes over. Showing him all of the trails and parks he's only seen in facebook pictures until this week. Driving him to our favorite places in Denver and in the process sharing a lot of laughs, making a million new memories.

Tonight, his first night back in our fold, we are headed to Little Bear. It's a very old biker bar in our tiny downtown. There is a small elevated stage where a local band will play tonight as my boys scarf down the pizza special. There's no doubt we'll all have a good laugh (again) at all of the random bras that hang above the stage, remnants of wilder nights from the past. It's our favorite place to go hang out when special people are in town. 

And Justin qualifies.

Having Justin here doesn't make me miss my girl any less. It's just a different kind of complete. My house is full today. Boys are everywhere. Jokes are being thrown around freely. Food is being sucked out of the back corners of my pantry. The whirlwind won't end until we drop him off at the airport next week.  I still miss my girl. But for a brief time I have my other boy back.

And it feels good.

Finding My Way Back

My wonderful family, the day before Thanksgiving 2012

So it's been a bit crazy the past few months.

I've neglected this blog. Although it's something I regret, I don't know if it was avoidable. Part of the purpose of this blog was to post the parenting columns I used to write for our NY newspaper. I loved the deadline that forced me to, as my writer's group in NY used to say, 'get my butt in the chair'. Every week I had to come up with just under a thousand words, talking about what was going on in our little world of parenting four growing kids. It forced me to journal and I love going back to read those entries. 

Then I suddenly stopped being so diligent. The newspaper job went away with the news we were leaving town. It's kind of impossible to write a local column when you no longer live in the state. 

Over the course of 2011 we moved across the country to Colorado. Yes, it took a full year. A year full of glitches and frustrations that I was not unhappy to see turn into a different year. I was much more fond of this present year. It's hard to believe we're about to move into 2013, which will officially be our second New Years celebration in Colorado.  

This new year brought many changes, life speed bumps that kept me from this blog. Some good. Some not so good. Health issues. Graduated kids and their changing life plans. New jobs to adapt to. Finally permanent housing to move into, with boxes to unpack, bedrooms to be personalized. Then there was the completion of the book.

This book that I've been writing for over eight years, about the journey to being an amputee mom. The life journey that led me to beg every doctor I could find to do me a favor and cut off that old mangled foot. Then finding one who had the trust that I wouldn't sue him. Then the amazing new life I got to discover with the help of a prosthetic foot that did so much more than my old flesh and bone foot ever could. 

That book. 

The one that sat in my files and got some attention every now and then. A tweak here. A bit of editing there. Changing chapters, re-writing like crazy. Sending the partial manuscript out to willing friends and adjusting things with their suggestions. Minor changes, major overhauls.

For eight years.

In January of 2012 another stone was laid in the path that led to finally finishing my book. I checked out a new book at the library, as I often do. This one was about a breast cancer survivor. I love a good memoir and this one inspired me, once again, to pull out my own manuscript.

I emailed the author, to tell her I loved her book. She emailed me back the same day. Through a series of communications she strongly encouraged me to get my book going. She'd self published her book, originally, and later it was picked up by a publisher. I was intrigued.

The more research I did on self publishing, the more I began to see a home for my manuscript. The publishing world is changing quickly. Self publishing is not the scarlet letter it used to be. If a book is quality, it will be paid attention to, self published or not. I dove into more research, even as I was still unpacking moving boxes
Then another stone fell in my lap. A friend I'd known well when we were children, showed up on facebook. In a few get-back-acquainted messages she mentioned she'd be interested in looking over my manuscript. She had a journalism degree and was open to giving me a few pointers. 

A few pointers turned into a six month long, practically full time adventure. She dove in with gusto and polished that manuscript until it finally felt just right. 

Our goal was to get it published by August 1st. We only missed our deadline by a month. Summer slipped away in the midst of fact checking, line editing and final reads. Then suddenly it was in my hands. This book I'd worked on for so many years. The picture that graced the cover was taken by my husband, a month before we published. My author photo was taken by my 11 year old on the morning that my editor friend insisted she needed one to add to the! 

Anyone who has written a book knows that the publication date is just the beginning. For the past two months I've been knee deep in marketing. I have sent out fliers to every friend who offered to post one. I've also sent out large batches to Orthopedic hospitals and rehab facilities. I want this book in the hands of anyone touched by amputation. It's the story of how losing a limb can be a good thing. It's a story of hope, and doing all you can to get the life you really want. 

I bought the domain name and built a book website, loading it with essays about elective amputation, links for amputee support, before and after pictures, and links to buy the book ( I've sent out news releases to many newspapers, magazines and talk shows. I've had a few good newspaper articles written, including a front page story in my childhood hometown paper. Two weeks ago I was in my hometown and had a very successful book signing. Yesterday I got an email telling me my book is now shelved in my local library, a fact that gave me great joy. Next week the TV station in Columbia Missouri will run a piece about my book and my amputation decision. Slowly, slowly the word is getting out there. 

But on the flip side of my life, my kids keep growing, things keep changing around here, and I feel a deep need to start documenting it again. If nothing else, for my own peace of mind ten years from now, when my house is eerily quiet and I wonder where all the chaos went. 

The book marketing will continue. But so will my job as being mom to these kids, wife to this man I share my life with. Two days ago we celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary. Tomorrow is my 46th birthday.

It's time to once again start documenting this life we've created, and write something that's not necessarily related to 'the book'.