As Ordinary as Fiction

I don’t normally write about my kids. I used to, but they’re teenagers now, and I’m trying to respect their privacy. Even so, my writing habits are punctuated by mothering episodes, and it’s hard to think about my creative life without also thinking about my parenting life.

My sisters read my novel recently. They said, “It feels like YA in some parts because of the teenage voices.” I thought that was funny. I didn’t set out to write about teenagers. It just happened because that’s my world right now.

So often, our creative lives are our ordinary lives and vice versa. We conceive ideas from of the soil of our liturgies. Novels are birthed after a million laundry-folding moments.

This is as it should be–life informing art, art taking its place among myriad other realities. I hope I always have people or things to take care of, duties that demand I escape the world of fiction and join the one in front of me.

It can only make my life and art better.

Trying Hard and Letting Go

Something I’ve been mulling over: how do I work at something that takes up a lot of my time and mental energy, something I care a lot about, but not put ultimate hope in the results of my work?

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You think I’m talking about writing, but I’m talking about raising kids. My oldest is 17, now, and my baby is 14. So much of what I’ve prioritized in the last 17 years is stuff that can’t be measured. The trips to museums, the long talks and I’m sorry’s, the tears over math worksheets, the orchestra concerts and travel, have they made a difference in my kids’ lives?

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My kids are almost grown. They’re intellectually curious and kind. They’re beginning to know their place in in the world.

Still. How many of those traits would they have developed without focused effort on my part? Has what I worked for in the last 17 years mattered?

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Also, how do I let my kids fail (which is so important) and not feel it as my failure? How do I let go of the results of years of caring?

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Maybe this is one reason I write–because the joys and sorrows it brings, my various successes and failures, belong only to me.

 

*photos 1-3 taken by my oldest son

On Waking Up Again

My husband is in Africa, and I am in the U.S. with three teenagers and three dogs. I don’t worry when he’s gone, am not resentful to be the one holding down the fort, am used to a global life, etc., etc. Besides, sometimes it’s me halfway across the world, wondering if someone back home remembered to get more toilet paper.

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Photo by Tim Gouw on Pexels.com

This time, though, I’m trying to keep the home fires burning while developing a proposal to send to literary agents. While teaching Chinese kids English in the wee hours of the morning. While teaching American high school students medieval literature and essay writing. While being a friend (and sometimes an enemy) to my own kids. While being 40.

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Photo by Irina Kostenich on Pexels.com

I’m tired.

But I’m getting good at letting things go when I need to. To wit: my kids are eating Ramen noodles and ice cream for calories, and I let my son pierce his ear at the mall yesterday. I’m not scared to use Z-quil at bedtime (if, for example, I happen to eat a large handful of chocolate covered espresso beans for “snack” and find myself alarmingly alert at 9 P.M.).

This is real life. It’s possible to keep going strong if I let it be what it is: imperfect and good enough.