Reclaiming Mother’s Day

I don’t remember which one of us decided to reclaim Mother’s Day, but it began with an impromptu day-long road trip. With little fanfare or notice to anyone except Ed, the #onehundredpercentgoodhusband, my sister Amy and I hopped in her convertible and drove north up Route 23 to Putnam County, the part of Ohio where both of our parents were born and grew up. We visited our grandparents’ houses, the cemeteries where our grandparents and other relatives on both sides of the family were buried, and we stopped at fast food restaurants to eat.

We bypassed the buffets in restaurants with white linen tablecloths and the brunches in popular breakfast places.

It wasn’t the food.

We were hiding from the mothers and daughters.

I’ve always said my biological clock never went off. My niece, Jamey, was the closest thing to a daughter I ever had. To claim I did anything close to parenting her would be an outright lie. She was simply the first young person in our family with whom I spent more than the occasional holiday. And she was my sister’s daughter, her only child.

And then Jamey died.

And then our mother died.

And then it was Mother’s Day.

No thank you.

So we took off.

Another year on Mother’s Day, a close friend was in the psych ward. The friend’s own mother was dead and her daughter was unable to visit. So Amy and I reclaimed Mother’s Day by spending a few hours with our friend. After, Amy and I drove through Taco Bell and ate in the car in the parking lot. We talked about our mother’s chronic cough and how crazy it made both of us and how we wondered if that made us horrible daughters. And we talked about Jamey’s illness and how that had turned the world upside down. And we talked about how much we loved Taco Bell.

Year after year we have continued the tradition, avoiding the malls and the restaurants and, for the most part, the mothers and daughters who celebrate, blissfully unaware (or so we project) of the clock ticking down the minutes until they will no longer have each other. And we usually eat Taco Bell.

This year we again reclaimed Mother’s Day, but with a twist.

This year, we both have “children” — sort of.

Three days after Mother’s Day, my “baby,” the memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink is being released by Mango Publishing.

And last year, Amy got married. Now, she and George, her husband, are raising his three grandchildren.

So we reclaimed Mother’s Day this year by celebrating so much new life: my book, Amy’s marriage, and the little people in her world. Instead of just the two of us eating in the parking lot outside a hospital or at a drive-through, we ate in their new home. Instead of Taco Bell, Amy and I, along with Ed and George, ate the chocolate chip pancakes and sausage links, strawberries, and whipped cream George prepared in their lovely kitchen.

None of this will replace our mother or Jamey, of course. Some wounds never completely heal. But we hold our love for them alongside these new loves.

Our hearts are big enough for it all.

What Not to Do When You Hold The First Copy of Your First Book in Your Hands

What Not to Do When You Hold The First Copy of Your First Book in Your Hands

 

NOTHING ILLEGAL.

Seriously. I cannot think of one single legal thing you should not do when you hold that very first brand spanking new copy of your very first, brand spanking new book in your shaky hands.

Not. One. Legal. Thing.

But what should you do?

BEFORE you take 10,000 selfies or ask your poor, exhausted husband to take 10,000 photos of you and your book, and you share 5,000 of those images on social media, take a breath. Pause. Have a private moment with your lovely new baby. Just the two of you.

Stare at it!

That name on the cover? THAT’S YOU!!! I recommend a small shriek or maybe a full-out ROAR!

Smell it!

There’s not much better than that new book smell and when it’s a book created by your very own hard work, sweat, tears, and sadly, yes, agony. Smell it all. It’s all in those pages. Sniff. Sniff. Who’s cutting onions?

Open it!

Riffle through those pages. Look at that type. Find your name on the title page, your bio, and your photo. Admire your handiwork.

Hug it!

Wrap your arms around that lovely baby and pull her to your chest. Embrace your creation. Perhaps wrap your arms all the way around yourself and, with your brilliant book against your chest, hug both of you long and hard.

Dance around!

Or not. But at least give a little hop or maybe a shimmy. Let your body express your joy.

Thank the entire world!

Now that you’ve had your private moment, remember gratitude. Writing is a team sport. Chances are, while you may have spent countless hours alone, hunched over your keyboard, it took a tribe to bring your effort into the light of day.

Spread the news!

Get the selfies and the photos and the videos and let the world know your baby is for sale!

Okay. That metaphor didn’t work. I think you understand.

Here’s what the moment looked like for me.

Nita Sweeney

And YES! My lovely baby is FOR SALE!

Instagram for (Introverted) Writers

“Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.” ~ David Terrar quoting newspaper editor Arthur Brisbane in Brisbane’s 1911 discussion of journalism and publicity

One of the challenges of being an introverted author is the need for a continuous social media presence. I’ve written before about loathing the feeling that I’m constantly shouting “Look at me!” to a room full of strangers. My latest challenge has been to make Instagram work for me. I love taking photos and Instagram allows me to post them directly from my phone. But what do readers want to see?

I thought about some of my favorite writers who have Instagram accounts. Anne LaMott, for example, posts photos of her dog and her loved ones and, in her typical honest fashion, her aging mind. She posts a few writing photos including a short video taken at a publisher’s office, but she primarily documents her life. With this in mind, I began to post on Instagram the kind of things I already (somewhat compulsively) document anyway.

My first posts were photos of me with famous runners: Amby Burfoot, Bart Yasso, and Meb Keflezighi.

When Scarlet, the #ninetyninepercentgooddog came into our lives, she became the subject. Well, that and the things she shreds.

As a joke, I documented a meal. Some folks criticize Instagram as a place where you go to see what everyone’s eating. But my followers enjoyed the food post so much that I transformed it into my beloved #whatwriterseat posts which, if I’d done my research, would have been #writingfuel. Nearly everything already has a hashtag. You just have to find it. In this series you’ll find food that Ed, (the #onehundredppercentgoodhusband) cooked, things I cooked (badly), lovely things restaurant chefs cooked, and things I ate during a really nasty upper respiratory infection aka the “hostage crisis” during which I didn’t leave our house for ten days.

Since both my life and my upcoming memoir, Depression Hates a Moving Target: How Running with My Dog Brought Me Back from the Brink, have a mental health theme, I post about depression and the tools I use to manage it. I include running photos of the trail or my group or Scarlet trying to eat my hat. I show brain training photos since neurofeedback (another name for brain training) sits in my mental health tool kit along with running, therapy, and medication. I haven’t yet taken a photo of me in either my therapist or psychiatrist’s office, but don’t put it past me.

I add the occasional writing photo mostly of my laptop in different locations to show my “office-of-the-day.” When the book was short-listed for the Faulkner Award, I documented our trip to New Orleans. But my personal favorite writing photo was the “final” (hahahaha – is it ever really done) draft of the book I submitted to my editor at Mango Publishing.

As it turns out, being a writer on Instagram is no different from being a writer in the rest of my life. As a reader, I want a glimpse inside the lives of the authors I love. With the tables turned, I’m offering my readers a view behind the scenes of mine.

Eventually, I’ll post a photo of the book cover. Maybe I’ll print the cover and post a second photo of me holding the cover. Then, one glorious day, I’ll post a photo of the book itself. After that, if I’m lucky, because I do have the best friends in the world, you’ll see photos of my friends reading the book. I do love to dream!

What Writers Eat: Hubby’s Birthday

What Writers Eat: Hubby’s Birthday

Ed, the #onehundredpercentgoodhusband, and I long ago stopped giving each other presents on holidays. Instead, we go to a nice restaurant. Yesterday for his birthday we ate at Houlihan’s, a mid-scale restaurant in Upper Arlington a few miles from where we live.

I may have squealed just a teensy bit when I saw the daily lunch special. MEATLOAF! At heart, I am still a farm girl and meatloaf remains one of my favorite dishes. Theirs version was sublime.

They gladly reduced the portion of mashed potatoes in favor of more garlic green beans. The crispy onions were a pleasant surprise.

Ed ordered the taco plate with the chicken tortilla soup. As is his custom, in the time it took me to take the photo of my food, he inhaled his. Someday I will learn to photograph his food first.

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