In Lieu of Candles

October is Pregnancy Loss Awareness Month, in case you haven’t read the captions under the candles in your Facebook newsfeed. I have ached, reading some of my friends’ stories, acknowledging the grief they have carried for years. Even as they have rejoiced in rainbow babies and minivans full of laughing children, sorrow lingers. Death does that to a heart.

Fifteen and a half years and four healthy babies after the fact, I still recall the unexpected ending of my first pregnancy. It happened so early I’m sure many would wonder how I mustered the tears to cry. But cry I did. It felt like my entire world had crashed in on me.

I’m not lighting any candles (except to cover the inescapable dog scent inherent in owning a Great Dane), in part because I have this weird thing where I try not to acknowledge holidays on social media, in part because I don’t want anyone grieving for me over something I made peace with fourteen and a half years ago, when my second pregnancy ended infinitely more happily than the first. My personal grief, though intense at the time, passed gently away, thanks to grace and four beautiful babies who survived to fill our lives with joy and wonder (and ample snark, just to prove they are ours).

Like many women, I look back on miscarriage with only the slightest twinge of wondering what might have been and a whole lot of gratitude for what is. Other mothers suffer acutely, even decades afterward.

I’m not lighting candles on Facebook, but I do speak with my children about what was lost before any of them were born.


I tell them that life is fragile,

That up to 1 in 4 pregnancies end in miscarriage,

That often, there’s no way to predict, prevent, or explain it.

I tell them that life is fragile, but love is not,

That parents love their children long before birth,

Long before conception, even.

I tell them that death happens,

That it hurts.

But you go on.

Sometimes the hurt remains sharp,

Sometimes it doesn’t.

We need to talk about these things.

Really, we need to talk. When I experienced miscarriage at the age of twenty-three, I didn’t know any of the above. It came as a shock – a life’s worth of dreams forming only to disintegrate in the space of a week.

I want better for my daughter, better for my future daughters-in-law, better even for my sons. I hope none of them experience miscarriage or stillbirth, but statistics aren’t in our favor.

I want my daughter and daughters-in-law to know, should they experience pregnancy loss, that they are not alone. I want them to know that more women than they possibly imagine have been through this grief. I want them to see the childless mother’s strength, a strength that says to someone she never knew, “I loved you before you were born and love you still.”

I want my sons to understand the aching of their wives’ hearts and perhaps of their own. I want them to know that many, many grieve with them.

In lieu of candles, I’ll talk with  my children now and hope that, if ever death steals so cruelly from them, they will find some small solace in knowing their grief is shared – and a whole lot of strength in the examples set by those who have endured.

She Gets It All Done

It comes in a couple different versions, and it keeps popping up in my Facebook newsfeed, that generic photo of a thoughtful woman with a caption something like,

“She doesn’t know how she’s going to do it all,

but somehow, it all gets done.”

How inspirational.

It strikes me that whatever photo the quote happens to fall on, “she” had time to apply make-up and style her hair in a gorgeous devil-may-care sort of way, but that’s mostly beside the point. Beautiful women who carve out a few minutes of their day for self-care can feel overwhelmed, too.

If I were making the meme, I might pick a hot mess of a mom in bleach-stained yoga pants and a shirt she’d be embarrassed to wear to the mailbox – simply to make myself feel better about not prioritizing the replacement of my own worn out wardrobe – but it’s the quote I’d really like to change.

The message we need, especially in the midst of chaos and self-doubt, isn’t that we will get it all done, and it certainly isn’t that we must get it all done. I daresay, because I suspect a lot of us are taking on burdens God never intended us to take, the message we need isn’t even that with God’s help, we can get it all done. Most often, we need to hear that our to-do lists aren’t as urgent as we think they are, that God never intended us to do Everything. Right. Now.

Most of the time, the things that genuinely need to get done will eventually get done. Maybe not to our standards, maybe not on our timelines, and maybe with a few adjustments and complications, but they get done. We put a lot of items on our lists, though, that simply don’t need to be there, at least not with the level of importance we give them.

When I’m feeling overwhelmed by everything that “needs” to get done, my husband tells me to relax. The dishes can wait. He doesn’t mind clutter; the mess is okay. Sometimes, I have to remind myself of this. I’m prone to occasional bouts of laser focus – Our homeschool sometimes takes a break for an Emergency Cleaning Day – cleaning almost to the exclusion of all else. Sometimes, if I’m honest about my housekeeping skills, that’s necessary, but given a choice of spending time simply enjoying life with family and friends (or recharging on my own) or having every last piece of laundry folded, I’m usually going to let the laundry pile up to mountainous proportions- and not just because I hate folding clothes. Life isn’t bound to a checklist.

There are only so many things a girl can do in one day. However high I aim, I can almost guarantee it won’t all get done. Very rarely do I get anything done, if I’m honest. Mostly, I’m getting things started. I’m very slowly learning that’s okay, that life offers more starts than finishes and many tasks will never, ever be complete. Some days, I have to train my eyes away from spilled milk and muddy paw prints, because saving myself from despairing of ever keeping the floor clean for more than five minutes – or worse, from resentment of the darling ones who keep the floor so, ahem, well-loved –  is far more important that getting it all done. Character and relationships are more important than getting it all done.


Seriously, do you see those paws? That’s what I’m up against. We won’t even talk about her drool.

During our wonderfully busy summer, I neglected my blog. Tonight, I come back, drawn by the feeling that offering a word of acceptance to others struggling to get even some of it done, with or without make-up and perfectly windswept hair, is more important than getting it all done. I know the struggle. I stand with you. Or sit. Yes, let’s sit.

Let’s set aside the stacks of papers to be filed, push the laundry basket into the corner, and put the cushion back on the couch. Let’s pretend we don’t see the smudges on the wall or feel the sticky spot where a kid dropped a piece of watermelon last night. (I’ll mop tomorrow. At least, I hope I will…) Tonight, let’s mull over a different thought:

She doesn’t know how she’s going to do it all,

but she’s learning to leave things undone

because her life is so much more than her checklist.

Let’s sit in life’s messy places and consider what’s important, what really needs to get done, and let’s trust God for the strength to do those things honorably and the grace to let go of the rest. There’s no rush, of course. Stay as long as you like, but if you don’t mind, I have a few things I’d like to get started before bed.

Write Club 2015: Belated Observations from the Ring

It’s been about ten months since Commando Grace won Write Club 2015, but apparently, sometime last summer, I sat and jotted down a few observations from the contest. Then, I got up, went on with life, and forgot to finish and post my thoughts.

Procrastination? Perhaps a little.

At any rate, I polished and updated my thoughts and decided to share them anyway. Maybe some kindred procrastinating spirit will put this post in their TBR pile and finally get around to reading it just in time for Write Club 2017.

Without further delay…

1. First and foremost, DL Hammons and his wife are pretty spectacular! I cannot fathom all the work they put into this contest, and I’m grateful for their arduous work throughout the many weeks of Write Club.

2. There are some great writers out there. I enjoyed reading the various entries, and was disappointed more than once to have to choose between two excellent pieces.

3. You have to bring your best. Because of #2 (and because I border on perfectionist at times), there can be no half-hearted entries. Great writers make great observations, and the Write Club voters were sure to point out any issue a piece might have.

4. Sometimes critique is a matter of personal taste. It was interesting to see how each piece (not just my own) went down. Almost invariably, some people loved a piece, while others… not so much. The takeaway is an important lesson for all writers: This is a subjective business. What resonates with one person may very well make another shudder in disgust. Similarly, style choices that delight one reader may make another want to throw a book across the room. You will never please everyone.

5. But sometimes critique is invaluable.  I’m sincerely thankful to the voters who pointed out a major flaw in one of my pieces. It was a scene in a bookstore in which two sets of teenage girls face off. One of my girls said some things that were, frankly and without defense, out of character. That scene has been rewritten in such a way that Molly does not succumb to the mean girl posturing going on around her, but rather leads Grace away with dignity and gentleness, in keeping with Molly’s nature. The rewrite made the story so much better, and I’ll always be grateful to the voter who pointed out my mistake.

6. You have to know the difference between #4 and #5. A writer must neither take every word of criticism as truth nor dismiss every word as personal taste or simply “not getting” the story. We have to evaluate each comment soberly to determine where each piece of feedback falls on the spectrum of Junk to Gold. And then figure out just what to do with everything in between.

7. 500 words are entirely different from a novel. In a contest like Write Club, you have 500 words to capture your readers’ attention and get them wanting more. You need a solid plot, round characters, realistic dialogue, and a whole lot of emotion to pull readers in and make them want to stay. You simply do not have the space for unnecessary details or for things that might require further explanation. A scene from your novel probably won’t cut it – unless you cut it first. For reference, scenes I used in Write Club 2015 went from a sparse, snappy 500 words for the contest to a fuller, more detailed 700-1,000 for the manuscript.

8. Write Club can get the creative juices flowing. When I submitted my first entry, I wasn’t entirely sure where the story was going. I had a vague notion of how I might weave together several ideas I’d been playing with, but nothing was certain. Mostly it was a challenge to see how many weird things I could connect in one 500 word piece. As the contest progressed, the story became clearer and clearer and the characters more deeply ingrained in my heart. By the time it was over, I had a general outline of four books. Four books with their own individual storylines, as well as an overarching theme to tie all four together into one cohesive whole, if only I can make it work.

9. Write Club inspires confidence. As mentioned above, I didn’t know going in how Commando Grace would fare. I’d never written contemporary YA, never really read much of it, for that matter. The feedback was spectacular, giving me confidence to continue with the story. Thank you so much to everyone who voted for Grace, and especially to those who connected with her and with her struggles. That’s why we write, really, for that moment when a reader says, “That’s me!”

10. Write Club people are swell. Seriously, it’s a great little community.  The support they show one another, especially in the final days of the contest as writers reveal their identities, is heart-warming. I’m hoping to attend DFW Conference next year and look forward to meeting other Write Clubbers face-to-face.

On that note, I close. I have a manuscript to polish, thanks to Write Club 2015…

Review: UNITY (Illirin Series #2) by Laura Maisano


Unity 333x500

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review… and was more than glad to catch up with Gabe and Lea!

Laura Maisono’s recently released YA Urban Fantasy novel, UNITY, provides a satisfying conclusion to the story begun in her debut novel, SCHISM.

In the early chapters of UNITY, the author inserted bits of backstory to refresh the reader’s memory. She also reintroduced the world of Illirin with rich language that fully immersed the reader in the physical setting. Several months or more had passed since I read the first book, so I found the reminders  helpful. The vivid descriptions were simply beautiful.

UNITY is told from multiple points of view. Because I was reading the book at a busy time, catching a chapter here and a chapter there, there were a couple times I had to flip back a few pages to keep track of an individual character’s storyline. This probably would not have been an issue if I had been able to read at a more relaxed time. Overall, the author made clear shifts between points of view – no wondering whose head I was in – and the multiple viewpoints served the story well in developing the characters and their relationships with one another. I especially appreciated the intrigue added by knowing just enough of a certain character’s motivation.

Stylistically, the writing was clear with a nice balance of poetic narrative and snappy humor. The dialogue was realistic, heartfelt and funny in turn. At times elegant, at times contemporary, the writing fit well with the theme of converging worlds – modern-day Earth and the more fantastical Illirin. Humor interspersed throughout the narrative brought the characters to life and a smile to my face. The book did contain some language that might be offensive to some readers. I, personally, didn’t have a problem with it, but it’s something to be aware of if the occasional swear word is an issue. On the other hand, more conservative readers will appreciate the protagonist’s commitment to “save that action for the wedding night.”

SCHISM and UNITY together tell a tender story of friendship, love, and healing. The relationships between characters throughout the series, and especially in UNITY, make this a series I would recommend to Young Adult and New Adult readers in search of a story with a whole lot of world-hopping heart!


Find SCHISM and UNITY by Laura Maisano

Amazon        Barnes & Noble         Kobo        Goodreads     MuseItUp Publishing





About the Author

Laura Maisano is the author of the Illirin series of YA urban fantasy books, SCHISM and UNITY. She has an MA in Technical writing and is a Senior Editor at Anaiah Press for their YA/NA Christian Fiction.

Her gamer husband and amazing daughter give support and inspiration every day. Their cats, Talyn and Moya, provide entertainment through living room battles and phantom-dust-mote hunting. Somehow, they all manage to survive living in Texas where it is hotter than any human being should have to endure. You can find updates about writing and the random stuff in her life on her blog or follow her on twitter @MaisanoLaura. If you’re more interested in just the professional angle, check out her website

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In the Middle

It’s been some two and a half months since my last post. Sad, I know. It would be an understatement to say things have been a bit chaotic on my end. When you homeschool four children, each at his or her own level and with his or her own learning style, chaos sort of becomes the baseline. Throw in the surge of Boy Scout campouts that spring inevitably brings, as well as a few random other activities, and we pretty much can’t remember our last free weekend, nor can we figure out when the next one will be.

And yet…

We have almost completed our ninth year of homeschooling. Everyone can read. The youngest two are learning their multiplication tables and racing Daddy to label the US map. The oldest has made peace with Algebra and thoroughly enjoys Shakespeare. The one in the middle has fallen into a groove with his schoolwork, one in which he understands what needs to be done and diligently works to make it happen. They’re learning, sometimes in ways other than I’d planned, but learning no less. Often more. And while they may be sleeping till an embarrassing hour of the morning, I often catch them reading in the middle of the night, so it all evens out, right?

Somehow in the middle of all of this craziness, words came. Night after night, they spilled from my fingertips onto the keyboard and onto the screen. Almost 80,000 of them. Yes, another manuscript complete. And she’s lovely, if I may say so. This manuscript, in keeping with today’s theme, falls in the middle, the second of four planned books. It’s been a couple days since I completed the manuscript for COMMANDO GRACE: WINNER LOSE ALL, and while I’m eager to send this manuscript out for feedback, I’m relishing the peaceful feeling of having completed something lovely in the middle of life’s chaos, something lovely that I don’t have to share quite yet. With three more books to be written on either side, this manuscript is in no hurry. For now, I can savor all the joy and sorrow of the story, without the stress and uncertainty of querying.

And I can savor the release of CHILD OF THRESH, the final book in the Chasmaria series. I’ve been so busy and distracted, that it’s sort of snuck up on me. It’ll be a sad and sweet goodbye, with a high probability of tears and mental promises to revisit these characters in the future.

This is, even in the middle of the chaos, more than I could have hoped for when I walked barefoot to the alter almost sixteen years ago, when I promised to love the boy who made me laugh, come what may.

And a lot has come, sometimes in such a quick succession that we can hardly keep track of who’s going where, but somehow, by the grace of God, we end up together – the husband and I and the growing ones who emerged in the middle of chaos – reading books, playing computer games, planning a trip with us, just us. Because in the middle of it all, we kind of like each other. All crazy six of us.

Picking Poison

PHOTO PROMPT - © Sandra Crook

PHOTO PROMPT – © Sandra Crook

Picking Poison

“We’re dying, one poisonous pandemic at a time.”

I clutch Edgar’s hand, not because I’m scared, but because he needs it. We all need it. Great-Gran says there was a time people went without gloves. I wish Edgar believed legends more than pundits.

He nods at the slanted hourglass. “Time’s running out. You know, the latest-“

“Shut. Up. I don’t care about transferred bodily fluids or toxins in sliced onions or whatever the latest is.” I pull off my gloves, throw a rock at the hourglass. Glass and sand rain over the forget-me-nots. “Kiss me, Edgar. If we’re dying, we might as well live.”

Friday Fictioneers (n): A world-wide community of writers addicted to writing 100 word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. 

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FRIDAY FICTIONEERS: To the Girl at the Top of the Stairs

It’s been over a month since I last participated in Friday Fictioneers, and it’s good to be back. As always, please read other stories and add your own, using the link at the end of the story!



To the Girl at the Top of the Stairs

We’re broken, you and I.

At best, our cracks are patched, our rusted places painted.

You led me through my thorns.

I stepped with you on shards of shattered hopes.

What further wounds can life inflict?

Cuts and scrapes and scars.


There’s not much space between us now.

Five crooked, crumbling steps.

I’ll confess to you my sins-

“Just friends” and other lies I’ve told.


We’ve crawled through dirt aplenty.

I think we ought to dance-

Anyway, we might give it a try.

You’re looking like an angel,

And my heart’s as open as the sky.

Friday Fictioneers (n): A world-wide community of writers addicted to writing 100 word stories based on a photo prompt provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. 

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