Category “Lil Mil”

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.

Happy Birthday, Baby

Dear Baby,

Has it really been a year?

Has it only been a year?

It’s funny to me now, how worried I was about your arrival.  Little did I know that the first year of your life would be the very best of mine.  I have a feeling, sweet girl, that it’s only going to get better from here.

Happy Birthday, Baby.

Love,

Mom

P.S. – in honor of Lil Mil’s first birthday (and the fact that, in the year since her birth, I wrote a novel and sold my first TV show!), starting tomorrow, I’m going to re-post some of my Embrace the Detour favorites.  If a particular post stuck with you and you’d like to see it again, let me know.

Living a Laugh-Cry

It was the Sunday after Thanksgiving and we were both in the kitchen.  I was on the phone with Mom and she was playing with the toys in her drawer.  A few weeks ago, in an attempt to keep her out of our pots and pans (and because I have so far been to lazy to do any official, plastic-latch-on-the-cabinent-that-even-adults-can’t-figure-out childproofing), I emptied out one of our bottom kitchen drawers and filled it with Lil Mil’s toys. Now, when I’m in the kitchen cooking (or, in this case, sitting in the kitchen floor talking on the phone), Lil Mil has something to do. She seems to know that this particular drawer is her drawer, and she seems not to care that the toys inside it are the same ones she’s been playing with since she was old enough to play.

On Sunday, she was standing at the end of the drawer, removing its contents one by one. Mom was asking about her granddaughter, so my eyes were on Lil Mil as I described the delight with which my daughter had devoured her Thanksgiving meal (the girl loves her some cornbread). Happy to have my attention, Lil Mil let go of the drawer and walked towards me.

Walked. Towards me.

I immediately screamed “she’s walking!,” and Mom and Dad cheered. Lil Mil just plopped down on her butt and laughed, totally clueless that she’d just participated in a momentous moment, and not the least bit interested in demonstrating her new skill again.

I could not accept this. I had to see it at least one more time to confirm that it had actually happened. So I stood her back up, placed her little hands on the edge of the drawer for balance, then scooted back three feet and beckoned for her to come towards me. It took a little coaxing (okay, a lot), but eventually she did it.

This time, she knew she’d done something new and possibly important (perhaps it was all the wild shrieking her mom was doing). Beside herself with excitement, she collapsed into me and dissolved into uncontrollable giggles.

“Let’s do it again!” I said, standing her back up. She looked at me and kept laughing. Or was she crying? I studied her and couldn’t tell.

Slightly concerned but determined to confirm that I hadn’t imagined what just happened, I got her all set up and scooted away.

She stayed standing, clearly up for the challenge of Round Two, but that laugh was really throwing me.  It had this slightly maniacal quality, which matched the slightly maniacal look in her eyes. She was literally beside herself with emotion. As she let go of the drawer and wobbled toward me, the laugh morphed into a full fledged cry. But she didn’t fall or sit down. She kept walking.  And then, just like that, she was laughing again.

Joy.  Excitement.  Pride.  Bewilderment.  Uncertainty.  Panic.  Anxiety.  Fear.  I could see it in her eyes, she was experiencing all of these things at once, which is why a mere laugh wasn’t sufficient. But a pure cry wasn’t right, either.  She needed to do both.  She needed to laugh-cry.

And realizing that, I understood for the first time why this was a such a momentous occasion.  My daughter was – right now, right before my eyes – exceeding her own expectations.  It was freaking her out a little, but she wasn’t letting that deter her.  She was seizing this moment and walking the hell out of it.

Joyous.  Excited.  Proud.  Bewildered.  Uncertain.  Panicked.  Anxious.  Afraid.  Watching her, I was all of these things.  As she stumbled towards me and into my open arms, I was laugh-crying, too.

Thankful

I didn’t know what I was getting into.

Exactly a year ago, on Thanksgiving 2009, I revealed my super secret “creative project” to my family.  Up until that day, Embrace the Detour was just a figment of my imagination.  Yes, I owned the domain name and yes, I had paid someone to design the site (back then, I knew exactly nothing about HTML and the ins and outs of Wordpress), but since no one knew about ETD, I could pretend it didn’t exist.

But I didn’t want to.  Not back then, anyway.  Shot through with third trimester pregnancy hormones, I was raring to go.  I didn’t want to wait until Lil Mil arrived.  Eager to convince myself (and everyone else) that I COULD DO THIS! I started working on my first post (which, I’ll admit, took me over a week to write).

While certainly supportive, my family had mixed feelings about this creative project of mine.  Husband in particular was lukewarm.  He was excited that I was excited, but at the same time, he was worried that I was taking on too much.

I was.

Of course at the time I didn’t realize that.  I honestly believed that I could write — and finish! — a novel in the first three months of my baby’s life, and I said as much on my Because page.  Believe me, if I’d known how incredibly hard the undertaking would prove to be, I never would’ve made such a grand (and public) pronouncement.

Thank God I didn’t know.

By the time I realized what I’d signed up for, it was too late.  There were too many people watching and, even more than that, too many people telling me to give up.  It was too much, they said.

They were right, of course, but I refused to accept that.  So I kept at it.  Kept juggling.  Kept struggling.  Kept writing.

Three months turned into 100 days.  My definition of “draft” morphed into something more manageable.  My blog posts became less frequent.

But I kept at it.  Kept juggling.  Kept struggling.  Kept writing.

And today, one year after this blog was born and 10 months and 8 days after my baby was born, I have a completed novel to show for it.  And!  On top of that, I have something unexpected.  A community.  This community.  Friends!  Not the fake, we-met-over-the-Internet kind, but the real, live, we-met-over-the-Internet kind.  Friends like Rachel of MWF Seeking BFF (who I met in person two weeks ago and am now obsessed with.  Rachel, if I move to Chicago can I please be your BFF?)

Thank God for unrealistic expectations.  Thank God for this blog and the book that came out of it.  Thank God for the baby who’s made all the juggling and struggling worthwhile.  Thank God for the boy who is juggling and struggling with me, holding my hand while I do it.

And thank God for you, my friends.

Happy Thanksgiving!

While You Were Out

Any day now, Lil Mil will take her first steps.  Someone will be there to see it. 

It won’t be me.

Yes, I’m being pessimistic, but I’m also going with the odds.  During the week, I see my daughter for about two hours every morning.  Sometimes less.  On the weekends, I’m with her all day, but we’re usually out doing stuff, so she doesn’t spend much time on her feet.  It’s during the week, while I’m at work and she’s with S (the part-time babysitter who became our full-time nanny when we yanked Lil Mil out of daycare - see what you missed while I was away?) that she prances around the house, holding on to her wooden pushtoy, hamming it up for the applause she’s come to expect (if she doesn’t get it, she’ll plop down and clap for herself).

Most weeks, there’s at least a chance I’d be there to  witness those monumental first steps.  But this week, Lil Mil is with Mom and Dad for the week (mine, not hers), which means that if she decides to walk in the next six days, I will most certainly miss it.

Is it horrible that I’m willing my daughter not to walk just because I want to be there when she does?