A New Adventure

I’ve been wrestling with what to do now that Lil Mil is practically a grown up (22 months, people!  what is going on with time racing by?!?) and I’ve finished my novel.  I want to keep blogging (my recent hiatus has been like not working out for a few months… I thought about it less and less as time went on, but four months later, I feel slothy and slobby and out of shape – do I even know how to do this anymore?), but this site no longer feels like the right place to do it.  Embrace the Detour was, in its design, a time-limited project.  An “experiment in creativity and productivity,” I always said.  One that I’m so glad I took – I ended up with a novel I’m proud of and hundreds of blog posts commemorating my daughter’s first days of life.

But now it’s time for a new journey.  Or, at least, a new phase in the one I’m already on.  I want this site to remain the repository for all the posts I wrote and detour stories I collected, and I want people to click around and explore.  But from now on, my new posts will appear HERE.  If you’re on the ETD email distribution list, you’ll keep getting posts, originated from my new site.

I hope you’ll stay with me on this journey.  You’ll be hearing from me more often, but the posts will be shorter.  I’ll be keeping you updated on my writing projects (for now, Parallel, the not-yet-titled-Book-2 (not a sequel to Parallel) and TEACH, the TV pilot my writing partner and I sold to ABCF, but hopefully there will be more to tell you about soon!), and doing a lot of what I did here – musing about life and love and identity and motherhood and the juggling act of work/home/everything in between.  So it’ll be the same.  But different.

Check it out!  http://laurenmillerwrites.com

Thankful. Again. Always.

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Two years ago, on Thanksgiving Day 2009, I told my family about my latest endeavor. My soon-to-be blog. Embrace the Detour, I was calling it. “An experiment in creativity and productivity,” was how I described it to them. Excited (and very pregnant), I showed them the freshly minted site and read them highlights from my “Because” page:

During the first twelve weeks of my new baby’s life (the length of a standard maternity leave), I will endeavor to do the wholly unadvisable and likely impossible: I will attempt to write — and finish — a novel. I will try to write daily, both for the book and for this blog. I will likely regret making the previous statement.

They probably thought I was insane. They may have been right. I was about to have my first baby. Those were some pretty bold pronouncements for a new mom. Some pretty grand “I will”s.

I wasn’t certain I’d be able to do it. In fact, I was pretty scared I wouldn’t. But I wanted to. Oh, I wanted to. I wanted the finished product, but more than that I wanted to be a person who could set a goal and attain it.

Desire is a powerful motivator.

Four months after Lil Mil was born, those four “I will”s had become four “I did”s. And while there were moments when this challenge felt like a giant boulder strapped to my back, there were more moments when it felt like a blessing. A gift. It was order amidst chaos. It gave structure to what would’ve otherwise been a free-for-all of hormones and bodily fluid. It fueled, and thus kept alive, the vision that might’ve burned out (or been doused out by breast milk and baby barf).

Although I didn’t write the book as quickly as I’d planned (12 weeks turned into 100 days and the draft I initially produced wasn’t something I’d ever want my name on), but less than a year after launching Embrace the Detour, my novel was ready to go out to publishers. Because really, wasn’t that what I was truly hoping for? Not just a finished manuscript. A book deal.

I wasn’t sure how I’d get there, but I knew I needed the manuscript first, so I focused on that. And then, when the draft was in decent shape, I started querying agents. Slowly, one-by-one, so I could judge the feedback and tweak my query letter if necessary. I’d sent three queries when I got an email from an agent who’d been reading my blog. She wanted to read my manuscript.

Um, yes. Yes, please. Yes, yes, yes.

So, almost exactly a year ago today, I sent that agent, Kristyn Keene at ICM, my story. And exactly a month ago today, I sold that story to Sarah Landis at HarperTeen in a two-book deal.

I sold my book.

I sold my book.

I. Sold. My. Book!!!!

It’s been a month since it happened (I wanted to tell my parents in person before announcing it here) but it still feels surreal, like a dream. Which makes sense, I guess, because it IS a dream. The dream that has informed so many of my choices. The dream that has made me hopeful and happy and determined and unafraid.

Today I am thankful for that dream. Thankful most of all to God for giving it to me. Thankful to Lil Mil for being the reason that dream became action. Thankful to Husband for believing that action would bear fruit. Thankful to Kristyn for seeing the promise in my story, and for putting in the time to make it better, and for selling it to exactly the right publisher, and for being, sincerely, the loveliest individual I’ve ever worked with. Thankful to Sarah for saying yes (and for paying me to write another one!). And thankful to you guys, many of who have been on this journey from the beginning.

In some ways, it’s the end of the road. But, truly and wonderfully, it’s only the beginning.

Happy Thanksgiving, indeed.

What A Wonderful World

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Mom

Posted in: Family Matters

We go through our lives, being the people we are, acting the way we act, generally oblivious about the truest things about ourselves.  We know if we’re outgoing or intelligent or prone to spilling things.  But few of us know – really know – if we’re impatient or biting or inherently kind.  You know who does know all of these things about us?

Our mothers.

We like to pretend that we’re “real” around other people.  If you’re anything like me, “real” in this context means about half as horrible as you actually are.

When Husband sees me in the morning, I’ve usually been awake for at least an hour and consumed two oversized mugs of coffee.  I hear him wake up and am ready – with a smile! – when he appears.  I am friendly.  I ask how he slept.  I offer to pour his coffee.  I have the occasional crabby morning, but usually I’m in a much better mood than he is (I have two settings on my morning dial:  asleep and awake.  Husband has four:  asleep, lying-in-bed-but-no-longer-asleep, walking-around-but-not-yet-awake, and awake.  The first three are not his friendly place.)

When I’m at my parents house, Mom is always up before I am.  She’s in the kitchen, drinking black coffee and working a crossword puzzle, when I stomp down the back stairs.  (Yes, if left to my own devices, I would stomp around for a good twenty minutes every morning.  I’d do it in my own house if we didn’t have hardwood floors that rattle when I do it.  Or a husband who prefers not to be woken up every morning by what feels like an earthquake.  See how we behavior modify for others?).  When I arrive in the kitchen, I’m sullen and crabby.  How’d you sleep? she’ll ask.  Fine, I’ll mutter.  Then I’ll stomp around some more.

She’s the only person I’m like this with.  With Husband, college roommates, even Sister, I make the effort to be bright and sunny first thing in the morning.  Not with Mom.  Mom gets dark and stormy.  And stompy.

I’ve thought a lot about this over the years, wondering why I’m such a crab with my mom and so nice to everyone else.  It’s not just mornings, either.  If I forget something (which is often), or misplace something (even more often), or spill something on whatever white piece of clothing I’m wearing (every time), Mom gets the brunt of my annoyance, usually in the form of:  ”It’s FINE, Mom.  I’ll deal with it.”  And then she promptly comes up with whatever I’ve forgotten/finds whatever I’ve lost/removes whatever I’ve spilled with one swipe of her deft hand.

I’m doing what we do in blogland.  I’m using my particular experience to make a general statement about how we treat our moms.  But the generality breaks down when I add this key detail:  my mom is a Perfect Mom.  Yes, it’s Mothers Day, and yes, this is what daughters do on Mothers Day, they inflate their moms’ egos to make up for all the horrible things they did during their teenage years.  But in this case, it’s more than just Mothers’ Day puffery.  My mom is, quite literally, a Perfect Mom.  I venture to say that there are people with perfectly wonderful mothers who know mine and would agree with me (don’t worry, I won’t force you to do it publicly).

My mom isn’t the doesn’t-even-seem-like-a-mom-at-all mom.  And she’s not the hard-charging-career-woman-who-managed-to-juggle-it-all mom, or the Sally-Field-on-Brothers-And-Sisters/I-spend-my-days-making-roast-chicken-and-gardening-and-obsessing-over-my-children mom, either.  She’s a woman who’s smart and capable and talented and beautiful who spent a good chunk of her 30s and 40s being a mom.  Not just “staying home with the kids,” but really and truly, being a mom.  Cultivating my interests.  Encouraging my dreams.  Showing up (usually with a snack) at every swim meet and softball game and talent show.  Defending me when the gossip train came charging through.  Learning the lyrics to an Ace of Base song so we could sing it on the drive to school every morning.  When nobody wanted me in their Girl Scout troop (long story), Mom started a new one, which quickly became the coolest in town (yay Troop 1485!)  She made my eighth grade dance dress when I couldn’t find one I liked.  She edited my college application essays.  She helped me study for the Bar Exam (she was more prepared than I was, and she’s never taken a single law school class).  She planned my wedding without the help of a wedding planner.  She spent hours googling “breast engorgement” when my boobs were so big after Lil Mil was born that I quite literally thought they’d explode.

She was always there, no matter where “there” was.  And from a very young age, I knew – like I knew the sky was blue – that she was on my side.

Oh, she annoyed the crap out of me sometimes, and I her.  We’re different more than we’re the same.  But I have loved her fiercely since I was small, and I never wished for anyone other than her.  I trusted her and she never let me down.  Not once.

Meanwhile, I stomped around the house and left my bed unmade and rolled my eyes and forgot to say thank you most of the time.

Why?  Why does my Perfect Mom get the worst of me when she deserves the best?  Why does she have to deal with my impatience and sarcasm and early morning moodiness, while everyone else gets the more likable person I make a concerted effort to be?  Like I said, I’ve been asking myself this a lot lately.  And I think I’ve come up with the answer.  Or part of it, anyway.

I never tried to earn her love, because I always knew I had it.  No matter what.

March Forth. (Into 31. Into The Future.)

For the past few weeks, I’ve been reposting last year’s words.  Today, the choice was easy.

It’s 4:17 a.m.

I’m sitting on the coziest of couches in the coziest of rooms, drinking a steaming mug of coffee as I snuggle under a furry blanket.  Lil Mil is on the couch next to me, eyes aflutter, lost in baby dreamland.  Outside it’s a blanket of white.  Snow on the porch, snow on the trees, snow on the mountains I can just make out in the not-quite-dark.  I can’t see the sun, but I know it’s coming.

Morning is on its way.

But for now, I’m enjoying the not-yet-morning.  Those few moments when the day ahead holds every ounce of promise, when it feels like there may actually be enough hours to get it all done.  There is so much to do.  Too much.  But here, in the not-yet-morning, there is no hurry, because the day has not yet begun.  There is still time.

These moments, they end so quickly.  So suddenly.   At some point in the very near future, Lil Mil will wake up. She’ll be hungry, and I’ll feed her.  And while I’m kissing her tiny toes and nuzzling her sweaty little neck, my screen will go dark and my coffee will get cold.   Husband will emerge from the bedroom, and before long, the sun will be up and the day will have begun.  The clock will start ticking.  And before I know it, the day will be gone.

This day.  My birthday.

March fourth.

A date.

A sentence.

March forth.

A motto.  My motto.

It hasn’t always been.  Sure, if you’d asked me, I would’ve claimed it.  At 18, 21, 25.  But it didn’t fit.  Not really.

March \märch\ (v.): to move in a direct purposeful manner; to make steady progress.

Forth \ˈfȯrth\ (adv.): onward in time, place, or order.

I think it does now.

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The day I found out I was pregnant, I bought a blank notebook and wrote a letter to Lil Mil.  It was the first of 253 letters, one for each day of my pregnancy.  I wrote the last one exactly 36 weeks later, on her birthday.  I mention this because I am proud of this.  I am proud of this because I did what I set out to do.  I didn’t miss a day.  Not a single one.

If you’d asked me on Day #1 whether I’d really do it – whether I’d really write a letter every single day of my pregnancy – I would have said yes.  Absolutely.  Bobbed my head enthusiastically.  I would have done this despite the fact that, given my history with such do-this-every-day commitments (and there have been many), the odds that I’d actually stick to this one were slim.  And by slim, I mean none.

I’m not exactly sure where I got this daily-letter-to-baby idea, but I embraced it with gusto. I immediately went out and bought a new leather moleskine (despite the fact that I had no less than five empty journals in my closet). I searched and searched for just the right pen. I drafted my first letter, in which I promised the poppyseed-sized embryo inside me that I would write to him/her every day until he/she was born.

This is what I do when I latch on to an idea I like.  I run with it.   No hesitation, full-speed ahead.   No matter what the context – a night out, a workout plan, the much-needed reorganization of my bedroom closet – I always start big, with flourish and gusto, full of ideas and grand plans.  And enthusiasm!  So much enthusiasm!

Which, in the past, would typically last for roughly the first third of the activity.

Sudden fervor followed by an equally sudden loss of interest.  That was my m.o.  I’d love an idea, then I wouldn’t anymore.  I’d craft a plan, then abandon it.   Race forward, then abruptly change course.  Always on to the next thing, the next idea, the next grand plan.

But then, something changed.  One sunny May morning, I found out that I was no longer alone in my body.   There was a tiny little person inside me, a poppyseed-sized person who deserved more than just my good intentions. A person who, even at poppyseed stage, deserved to have a mom who sticks to her promises.

I wanted to be that mom. I wanted to be that woman, not just for her, but for me.

That desire, more than anything else, was the impetus for this blog.  I’ve talked a lot about the why behind this project – why a book, why now.  I didn’t want to lose my identity in motherhood.  I didn’t want to lose momentum with my writing career.  I didn’t want this detour to take me off track.  I wanted to prove that the journey through Life With A Newborn can be a creative and productive one.

But none of those reasons explain how I got from the why to the what.  Why a daily (okay, not quite daily) blog?  Why the detailed game plan, the rules, the weekly list of tasks?  Why the need for an audience?

Because I wanted to succeed.  I wanted to make the first 12 weeks 100 days of my daughter’s life the best 12 weeks 100 days of mine.  And I was afraid that I would fail.

Not by falling short of my goal, but by abandoning it.  By giving up.  By giving in to the unceasing demands of Life With A Newborn.  By convincing myself that it was too much, too soon.  By letting my fear that I can’t actually do this (a fear I work very hard not to acknowledge) keep me from trying.

In other words, I was afraid that I’d do what I do:  make a grand plan (I’ll finish my novel in the first 12 weeks of my baby’s life!), complete with sweeping promises (I’ll write daily!), and not follow through.

A reasonable concern, considering my history of well-laid but abruptly abandoned plans.

So I launched this blog.  It’s harder to quit with people watching.

But I know now that I shouldn’t have been worried.  Because that poppyseed-sized person who became a seven-pound fifteen-ounce little girl had already changed the game.  She had made this project about something else.  Something more.  And she made me into someone else.  Someone more.

Someone who sees things through.  Who sticks to her promises.  Who finishes what she starts, no matter how long it takes or bumpy the road gets.  No matter where this detour leads.

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It’s 6:28 a.m.  The sky is lighter now.   Lil Mil is awake, snuggled up on a furry blanket, just watching her mama work.  The day has begun.  This day.  My birthday.

March fourth.

March forth.

And so I will.

(If you’re new to Embrace the Detour, click HERE and HERE to read about my crazy plan.  If you have ideas or suggestions, I’d love to hear from you!  Feel free to leave a comment, send me an email at lauren at embracingthedetour dot com, or use the comment form on the right-hand sidebar).