Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Monster in Your Dreams

I’ve always been fascinated with dreams. They are magical doors to exciting worlds, escape from the banality of life. Dreams are the seeds of inspirations and ideas. They are source of nightmares and fear. They are the windows to our souls.

My little Ryan has always had bad dreams. He was two and a half years old when I adopted him so the situation was traumatic for all involved. For awhile they were every night, an hour to an hour and a half after he went to bed. I would rush to his room and pull him into a hug and tell him Momma was there. Everything was okay.

When I first brought him home he spoke Chinese and I knew none, but he learned English quickly. Months after he came home I asked him what he remembered about China. He looked at me with a confused expression and said “nothing.” He only had memories of being with me.

Over the years, I’ve tried to jog his memory. Does he remember China at all? What about when he was with us there? Or living with his foster family? He remembers nothing, to my huge regret. But he was only two and most people have no real memories from their past before three.

Ryan is five now. Lately, his dreams have changed. He tells me they are about China when he was little. But when pressed, he said he didn’t remember.

But this morning was different.

I woke up late and had to get three kids and myself ready. I was in my bathroom and running behind when Ryan came in and stood next to me, very subdued. I looked down at him and he said. “I had a bad dream.”

I kept fixing my hair and asked, “What was it about?”

“When I was little in China. And Jenna was there.” This was a new piece of information.

I glanced down at his face, uncharactistically expressionless. I sat on the floor and pulled him onto my lap, facing me. “What happened? Do you remember?”

He stared into my eyes, tears welling up. “I lived in China and you came to get me.”

I sucked in my breath as cold terror trickled down my back. His nightmares, finally, after all these years made sense.

I am the monster in my child’s dreams.

I pulled him into a hug and told him how sorry I was that it was so scary for him. He didn’t know what was going on when I adopted him. The orphanage director brought him to me and left. He was alone with a strange looking woman who smelled different and he didn’t understand what she was saying. He was traumatized. He had cried for hours.

I leaned him back and stared into his face. “It’s okay to have those dreams,” I said. “It’s okay to feel mad, or sad or scared of Mommy in your dreams. You’re not bad to feel that way. You didn’t do anything wrong. But I love you very much and I’ll do anything to make you feel better. I want you tell me when you feel this way and I promise I won’t be mad or hurt or sad.”

A tear fell down his cheek.

“Do you understand?”

He nodded.

“You need to tell me so you will feel better. If you talk about it your dreams might not be so scary. And I promise I won’t be mad. It’s okay to feel that way.”

He spent the next ten minutes with me as I got ready, holding my hand when we went to get his sisters up. Within another ten minutes, he was fine, his silly self.

But I’ve spent the morning reliving every nightmare he’s had, viewing it in a new light. What could I have done differently? How could I have prevented this trauma for him? Because isn’t that what we mothers do? Blame ourselves?

The truth is, there are things I could have done, but I’m not perfect. Maybe I should have pressed him harder sooner but I don’t think so. Honestly, I don’t think he put it all together himself.

So why am I telling the world this painful experience? Because I wish that I’d spent more time repeating his adoption “story” with him. Jenna, the first, had a bedtime story about a little girl who lived far away and her family flew over an ocean to get her. But Ryan is my third adoption and our bedtime routine has changed. I’m often in a hurry to get my kids to bed so I can work. Stories don’t happen as often as they should. Maybe, just maybe, if I talked about it more he wouldn’t need his dreams to sort out his feelings for him.

And I know that my Ryan isn’t the only one. You—the adoptive mom or dad—might be the monster in your child’s dreams. It doesn’t mean that they don’t love you. In fact, I suspect Ryan’s biggest obstacle this morning was resolving his conflicting feelings about me. It never occurred to me that he kept that horrifying day locked deep in his psyche, although it should have. It shouldn’t be a surprise it escaped through his dreams. But now I’m aware and I’m prepared. And maybe, just maybe, we can make the monster go way.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Hey! Look at Me! I'm a Bag Lady!

I've been busy lately getting ready for the release of Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. This means I've been preoccupied and my children have had to entertain themselves.


**Insert obligatory mom story about only having three TV channels when I was a kid and having to play outside all day.**

**Insert obligatory childrens' eye roll**

Thankfully, Ryan and Emma entertain themselves pretty well, as long as I can tolerate the mess. (And if you've seen my house, you know I can.) Today, I was sitting at my computer trying to organize a blog tour** for my book and I noticed Emma prancing in the entry way. Wearing a bag. A gift bag.

This picture doesn't do it justice, but she's ripped out the bottom of the bag and the handles are her shoulder straps.

Why yes, she is doing a pageant move with her fists under her chin. Why do you ask? *blinks*

Note: my children are not involved in pageants. Julia, who just turned 14, is obsessed with Toddlers and Tiaras and has taught poor innocent Emma how to walk with cupcake hands and blow kisses in the shape of a heart. God help me.

But why stop with dresses?

How about a cape?

Or a hat?
Ryan couldn't be left out of the fun.

Meet the future winners of Project Runway. With their use of sustainable products along with their unique style, they're shoe ins.

**Book Blog Tour: I am putting together a book blog tour for Twenty-Eight and a Half Wishes. The tour will start on my blog on the release date, July 12 and travel to other blogs for 2-3 weeks. If you'd like to be part of it, send me an email at Thanks!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Admitting You Have a Problem is the First Step

Hi. I'm Denise and I'm addicted to emoticons.

It all started innocently enough. A smiley face here :-) or there. :)

Then to convey sarcasm. The wink: ;)

Surprisingly (or not), I use that one a lot. ;)

The I moved onto to the angry face: x-)

And surprise: O.O

Then one of my favorites, the spit face: ;-P"""

Why, yes, I'm a bad influence on my children. Why do you ask?

The next thing I knew, I couldn't send a tweet or write a Facebook status update/comment without one.

I was addicted.

But it's annoying with all those unclosed parentheses floating all over the place with carelessly attached semi-colons and colons. I need to stop and admitting you have a problem is the first step to recovery, right? So I vow to stop using emoticons as much as possible. Even if it's really hard. O.O Oh wait. x-( This might be a little harder than I thought.

Still, some things are sacred.

They'll have to pull the LOL out of my cold dead fingers.

Thursday, June 9, 2011


With a mom who's busy trying to get everything ready to publish a book (while attempting to write another) and two small children who don't understand why they can't go to the pool, how is this resolved?


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Why Mommy Wears Headphones

Summer vacation is here! Yay! Unfortunately, I've had a hard time concentrating the last few days. I wonder why. This video was taken just a few moments ago from my desk chair.

Be sure to get to at least 30 seconds to get the "full effect."
*this is a cross post with my writing blog

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Nerves and Ways to Deal with Them

You can always tell when I'm nervous. My house is usually clean. And decorated.

It's kind of backward, I know. I should be too anxious to clean, but I've come to realize it's my way of trying to exert some control over a situation that I might feel out of control.

Last year I had a bad pap smear, only it wasn't a the usual kind. The bad cells were endometrial which made me more than a little freaked out. My nurse practitioner was fantastic and got me into a gynecologist in her office within days to have a coloposcopy. The doctor removed a large polyp during the procedure that appeared to be attached to my endometrium. He said he was sure it was the cause of the bad pap smear and that the growth was most likely benign, but the pathology report would tell us. I'd have the results in a few days.

{Side note: If you didn't know this, don't feel slighted. I think I only told two people.}

Over the next few days I painted and decorated Ryan's room, cleaned out and organized his and both girls' bedroom closets. Busy girl. I had a paint roller in my hand when the phone rang, the nurse calling me to tell me everything was really okay.

{Side note #2: The doctor wanted to have me take a pregnancy test before he did the procedure. My insurance sucks so I told him it wasn't necessary. He said sometimes women thought they might not be pregnant so I should do it to be sure. To which I replied: "Trust me Dr. XXX, you're the first man to be down there in years." He turned a lovely shade of crimson and let it drop. Imagine my horror when several months later I discovered he was the husband of Julia's vocal teacher.}

My nervousness now is minor in comparison. While it's over a possibly life changing situation, no matter which way the decision goes, my life will continue just fine. Still, it's something out of my control.

So, my house is getting really clean. And pretty. I woke Ross up yesterday morning and asked him if he wanted to help me paint the kitchen and hearth room. He's my usual partner in home repair so he said yes. We spent the rest of the day painting and later last night, as Ross and I were finishing up, Jenna asks, "Does this mean we have to spend all our time outside?"

I looked at her in confusion. "What?"

"Since you're making our house so fancy, does this mean we have to spend all our time outside and only come in to go to bed so we don't mess it up?"

My daughter is a genius. Why did I never think of this?

Monday, May 30, 2011

Sisterly Love

Last week I was in New York City for BEA, Book Expo America, which is all about publishing and the newest books coming out in the fall. Basically, it's like Disneyland for book lovers. But leaving for a week always proves a challenge with a house full of kids and no significant other to help out. This trip was a hodge-podge of child care ranging from Ross and Julia tag-teaming during the week, Friday night at my brother's house and a baby sitter Saturday and Sunday.


Needless to say, my house was a freaking disaster when I came home.

As I was cleaning the entry way this morning, I found a wadded up napkin. Ewww. Gross. But I noticed the napkin had writing. It was trash from Jenna's lunch on Field Day which Julia had made for her.

My oldest girls, Julia 13 and Jenna 8, sometimes get along but more than half the time fight like the two gangs in West Side Story, only thankfully my girls don't use knives. (that I know of) So finding this napkin was reassuring that maybe there is hope for them after all.

Even though Mom couldn't be here she loves you! Have a FANTASTIC day! I hope your day is filled with sparkles!
Love you!
Your sister, Julia

Excuse me while I go find a tissue to wipe my eyes.

Monday, May 23, 2011

My Big News

After a year and a half of writing non-stop (I'm currently working on my SIXTH manuscript) I am THRILLED to announce that one of my books will be available to the masses! I'm self-publishing my quirky southern mystery, TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES.

And my release date is July 12.


TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES will be available as a soft cover book and as an eBook at Amazon (Kindle), Barnes and Noble (Nook) and Smashwords (Sony, and other formats.)

This wasn't an easy decision. Many people in the writing world look down on self-publishing (or indie printing) and with justifiable reasons. There's a lot of junk out there. Lots of people think they can just write a book, slap on an image for a "cover", and put it up for sale. The truth is a lot of people don't spend much time on their book editing and revising after writing a first draft and it shows. There's a reason why those people couldn't get published in the traditional publishing world.

But sometimes, a book comes along that agents or editors aren't sure what to do with. Or they might like it but don't think it will sell. Traditional publishing likes neat genre packages and TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES doesn't fit that mold. Its part mystery, part paranormal, part romance, with a touch of woman's fiction. I sent out over fifty query letters to agents (rewriting my letter three times) and got only a handful of requests. And the ones who read part of it said it had a great "voice" but it wasn't for them.

So now you're saying "Isn't that a polite way of saying it sucks?" and I'd be inclined to think so if I hadn't won The Beacon 2010 Unpublished Division, Mainstream category. Obviously, the writing is good, the voice is good and I have about 30 beta readers and critique partners who tell me that the story is good. Some, who've read everything I've written, say it's their favorite of my manuscripts.

I had two choices. I could let TWENTY linger on my external hard drive for eternity or I could send it out into the world on my own, without the help of a traditional publisher.

Here's what finally pushed me over the edge: the world of publishing is changing since the birth of eBooks. I learned with financial investing that it's best to diversify. You spread your money out in several different investment areas. With the changing landscape of publishing, why not apply that same principle? I still want to be published with a traditional publisher. I still want an agent. But my writing career is just like financial investing. I'm investing in my career.

But all that aside, I believe in this story. I LOVE this story. It won't be for everyone and that's okay. NO book is for everyone.

So how is my book going to be better than a lot of the other self-published books out there?

1) I didn't write this book, immediately fit it into the proper eBook formatting and upload it all over the place. I've spent hours on this book. No, wait. That's an understatement. I spent hours, and hours and HOURS on this book. I spent more time editing and revising than I did writing it. A conservative estimate is approximately 700-800 hours. And yes, some of those hours were in VERY long days. During first draft, one day I started writing at 9 am and finished the next morning at 4 am. (Yes, that did include breaks for kids, eating, etc. but for those who are writers, it was a 10K day)

2) My book is being professionally edited. I don't want people to be distracted by typos or misplaced commas. It's my hope that readers won't be able to tell it didn't come from a legacy publisher.

3) My cover will be made by professionals. The saying people judge a book by its cover is true. Even my 13 year old daughter notices book covers and has on more than one occasion NOT bought a book based on its cover.

4) My characters are very well developed and real. I love Rose, the main character. She's sweet, innocent, funny and once she decides to live her life, she embraces it to the fullest.

We have an exciting two months ahead of us! I'll have some giveaways. TWENTY-EIGHT AND A HALF WISHES will be part of a book blog tour. I'll be revealing the cover in about a month. Those of you who were readers and followers of my blog before I abandoned you all will get a chance to see what I ran off to write. And hopefully you'll love it too.

So what's this book about? How about I show you the blurb on the back of the book?


“It all started when I saw myself dead.”

For Rose Gardner, working at the DMV on a Friday afternoon is bad even before she sees a vision of herself dead. She’s had plenty of visions, usually boring ones like someone’s toilet’s overflowed, but she’s never seen one of herself before. When her overbearing momma winds up murdered on her sofa instead, two things are certain: There isn't enough hydrogen peroxide in the state of Arkansas to get that stain out, and Rose is the prime suspect.

Rose realizes she’s wasted twenty-four years of living and makes a list on the back of a Wal-Mart receipt: twenty-eight things she wants to accomplish before her vision comes true. She’s well on her way with the help of her next door neighbor Joe, who has no trouble teaching Rose the rules of drinking, but won’t help with number fifteen-- do more with a man. Joe’s new to town, but it doesn't take a vision for Rose to realize he’s got plenty secrets of his own.

Somebody thinks Rose has something they want and they’ll do anything to get it. Her house is broken into, someone else she knows is murdered, and suddenly, dying a virgin in the Fenton County jail isn’t her biggest worry after all.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Just Because I'm Mean...

I wanted to tell you that I have an exciting announcement!

Which I will make on Monday!

Told you that I was mean!


Wednesday, May 18, 2011


I've gone a little flower crazy.

I love flowers and I used to love to garden. In an attempt to put a little more balance in my life, I decided to create a giant flower bed. It previously ended right in front of those bushes to the right. I took it to the tree. (I foresee a water feature of some kind in that bare spot.)

I also built this landscape wall, which if you're friends with me on Facebook, you saw me brag about share my pride. Lots of flowers here too, and a pink dogwood tree.

And my front porch, several pots of flowers, surely to be joined by more after my trip next week.

So now my house looks like a greenhouse nursery, which makes me really happy. I can look out my office window and see all those blooms between the bushes and the trees. But with this change in the landscape, we've learned something new about Emma.

Emma loves flowers.

I guess I knew this already. I always have to plan an extra five minutes into our walk to pick up Jenna from school so Emma can stop and pick clover flowers and dandelions. Who knew all that innocent flower picking could cause widespread devastation?

>>cue ominous music<<

Where have all the flowers gone?

What did this poor plant do to loose all it's MULTIPLE blooms?

To be fair, how was Emma to know? I didn't specifically tell her not to pick the flowers and how is it any different than our daily, every other day, a couple of times a week walks?

After a minor freak out (one of my finer moments, to be sure) I explained to her that these flowers were supposed to be looked at and not picked. If we picked them, we wouldn't have lots of pretty flowers in our yard. It took a couple of times outside for the rule to sink in, a rule that she now helps enforce with neighbor kids.

Next Tuesday is Ryan and Emma's last day of preschool. This is actually on the radar of my attention because I'm going to New York City next week and I won't be here for it. Big brother Ross is in charge of the kids part of the week, a babysitter over the weekend. In any case, I'm trying to figure out who needs to be where and when while I'm gone so I can make a detailed list. Ross already feels a bit overwhelmed by his responsibilities, I figured I'd save him an item and send the teacher's gifts on Thursday.

Which meant I had to get their presents before 2:00 Thursday afternoon when I picked Emma and Ryan up. (You think I jest. Trust me, I've been known to be that late to the game.) You can only imagine the immense pride and satisfaction I felt realizing the need for gifts on Wednesday morning. (Go me!) But what to get? Gift cards would have been easy but less personal and I wanted their teachers to know how much we'll miss them. I mean, obviously you only have to look at my children's mugshots to see how happy they've been this year.*

*Not an accurate representation.

Since Ryan and Emma loved helping me plant flowers and we needed a morning activity, I decided we'd make pots of flowers for their teachers. I'd let the kids pick out which flowers they wanted then we'd come home and plant.

We got Jenna off to school and I was checking email when I told Emma that we were going to go pick out some flowers for her teachers.

"No, Mommy. You said I couldn't get my teachers flowers."

"No, it's okay. We're going to go get some after Ryan gets dressed."

Five minutes later, Ross who'd just emerged from his cave (also know as his room in the basement) said, "Uh oh."

Any parent knows those two nonsense syllables will instantly stop your heart.

I looked up and there was Emma holding these.

It could have been worse. She could have cut down the dogwood tree.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Little Ryan is five now. He's come a long way in the almost three short years he's been in our family. He's gone from a very quiet, shy, fearful child to a vivacious, talkative, friendly boy. But still, there's situations he'll get a little quieter, a little shyer until he's comfortable.

Ryan has been in three preschools. His first was a small church run preschool he went to until we learned he qualified for the school district preschool for speech and language therapy. But this year, he graduated from speech therapy and his school district preschool schedule was a killer. (Monday-Thursday 12:20-4:50, including bus pick up and drop off) After a lot of soul searching and prayer, I decided to move Ryan to Emma's preschool at the start of the new year.

I worried. Was this too much change for a little guy who likes structure? But he was very excited to go to Emma's school and I breathed a sigh of relief at getting two days with four straight hours to myself. The first day he was eager to start his new class, until he got there. Then he clammed up and plastered on the stoic expression he wears when he's scared. I sent him into his classroom, more than slightly worried but when I picked him up he was all smiles and mad he had to wait two days to go back.

The school year is ending and the remaining preschool days are pretty much field days and picnics so the teachers are cleaning out cubbies and file boxes. It was like a blast to the past when Ryan brought home a folder with this picture on the front:

Is it just me, or does this look like a police mug shot you'd see on TMZ?

This photo was taken the morning he walked in and while it tugs at my heart that my baby was scared and shy, I have to laugh a little at this photo.

Yeah, mother of the year.

Since I've already incriminated myself, why stop there? Because, let's be honest. Isn't that part of what you've missed about my blog posts, my lack of self-filtering?

Emma and Ryan's preschool takes school pictures in the fall just like the big kids. Ryan was still at his other school, so on picture day, I sent Emma to school in a cute little outfit and a hair bow (gah, she hates those and outright refuses to wear them now.) A week or so later I got back her proofs.

Her hair bow is missing and Emma isn't all that excited to be there.

I'm not sure what goes on at preschool, but it looks like it couldn't be much worse than waterboarding.

Most mother's would probably see these proofs and say "oh, my poor baby was traumatized." What did I do?

I burst out into hysterical laughter, right there in the preschool hallway.


The question was which pose to order? I couldn't limit it to just one. If money were no object (and when someone discovers that magical land, you be sure to come back and let me know where it is, okay?) I would have gotten all four. Instead, I settled on two. Poses 2 and 4, 'cause you just never know when these photos might come in handy. Emma's still my wild child. I'm smart enough to know I might be able to use these some day.

Friday, May 13, 2011

One of the Many Reasons I Have Trouble Finding Time to Blog

Once again, I dropped off the face of the earth. But no worries, I've been writing, just not blog posts. My most recent project completed is a young adult science fiction novel titled TORN, which I'm currently querying.*

If interested, you can read about TORN here.
You can see photos of what I envision the characters to look like here.

But surely, you say, surely you aren't writing novels all the time. You're right. I not. I'm dealing with things like this:

Today was a busy, fun filled day that required everyone be up, ready and out of the house earlier than usual** so I could go on a field trip with Jenna. I found this nice little surprise when I stumbled came down the stairs to make a cup of coffee.

I rounded the corner of the stairs and did a double take. "Oh no," I said to myself, "please tell me I didn't see something on the floor." As you can see above, I did. What it was happened to be was the first question. The second question was what was behind the hall closet door, because obviously, that was the true source.

Pencil shavings

Why are there pencil shavings in my hall closet? And where is the pencil sharpener that produced the mess? I'm sure it will turn up in a week or so.

Oh, and for the record, those pencil shavings are still there. I didn't have time to clean them this morning before I left and I told myself (and Facebook) I was going to make a blog post. I lived up to my end of the bargain, who's going to volunteer to clean up that mess?

*A query letter is how an author tries to get an agent interested. They send a short letter telling the agent what the book is about. If the agent is interested, then they'll request the author to send them them manuscript.

**You notice I don't mention the time we had to be out the door. Many of you would laugh at me and say you were up and out ten hours earlier, but everyone knows, ten minutes or ten hours, earlier than usual in a morning schedule is a killer.