Author Archives: heidi

so. this happened.

Scott and I were on our way to a Fancy Feet book signing when I got an email from my publisher with the subject: Are you sitting down?

This has to be good news because I don’t think my editor would send me an email full of bad news with that subject. If it’s bad you use a generic subject like Hey or be super direct: Your life is about to take a turn for the worse.

Confident this was good news, I opened the email and found this gem. “I have some wonderful news for you. Consortium, our distributor, got a Kindle Big Deal for Fancy Feet. It will sell for $1.99 from 10/11-10/27 and is one of only 1,000 titles to be picked. It will be in Amazon’s promotional email and on the website and Kindle devices, of course.”

I read it out loud to Scott. “This is pretty cool, right?” I’m a little slow when it comes to good news.

That deal begins today! You can download my book at Amazon for $1.99 from October 11th to October 27th.

Thank you to all of you who have been so supportive, so wonderful about Fancy Feet. I have received such thoughtful and kind messages. Thank you to those of you who have shared your stories and trusted me with a piece of your heart. I’m honored by everyone’s generosity and grace. It’s Thanksgiving for we Canadians and I am going into this weekend with a whole lot to be thankful for.

making room for quiet

I stood in my kitchen crying and losing perspective. I was tired after a week of attempting to do everything all at once so I could have the satisfaction of shouting “All done!” I cried because I am terrible at time management.

Scott often says, “Rest is a discipline, too.” He offers up this advice stretched out on the couch while casting a meaningful look.

As I dissolved in his arms blubbering about school forms (what is with the sheer volume of paper that comes home from school??), a doctor’s appointment and the list that looms on my dining room table which also serves as my desk, I can feel the I-told-you-so as he rubs my back.

Scott shooed me away. “Go upstairs for a while. Close the door. I’ll look after the kids.” Romance is not dead in our house.

I turned to go up the stairs. He called after me, “You’re leaving your phone here.”

I clutched my phone to my chest. “I have stuff to do, people to get back to. A whole bunch of emails…” I loosened my talons and plunked it down on the counter.

Phone-free, I realized how noisy my life has become. If we’re not chauffeuring, emailing or working, we are liking, favoriting and commenting. We are awash in a steady flow of Facebook notifications, tweets, emoticons and texts. Being thick-skinned is a requirement now when I turn on the computer. Not just to handle a snarky comment but to sift through the barrage of information. I’m not lamenting the information age (are we still calling it that?) and hearkening the good ol’ days because, c’mon, sending a quick text is far superior to the telegram or the postal service or even voice mail. I have to press 1 and # again? I love cute photos of kids, funny stories and a good, soulful blog post. But I am recognizing a gnawing in the pit of my stomach, a craving. For quiet.

Quiet makes room. For rest. For perspective. For the unimagined and unexplored. Feelings get lost, buried in noise and I don’t want to miss sadness or joy. I can’t stop everything right now. I don’t want to escape, although I wouldn’t mind moving to Paris. I’ll live vicariously through the people with wealthy employers on House Hunters International. I accept that life is busy and in the middle of overwhelmed I need to make room for quiet.

Swept up
in Dreamcatcher

dreamcatcher bookcoverTara Pohlkotte is a gifted writer (one of my favorites!) who has a collection of poems and essays all tied up beautifully in Dreamcatcher. Her writing both stills and feeds my soul. You can get your copy here.

lost and found

I wrote this and posted it in April 2012 and it has become one of my favorite posts because it’s about my daughter, our family, the way we are. Annie is 10 now and Benjamin just turned 8 – my summer babies. We fight and bicker and I get annoyed about “ALL the Minecraft”, but we have our sweet, bottle-it-up moments too and this is one of those moments. 

We’re in the car, windows rolled down, words measured and aired. My family holds some of our best conversations strapped into our seats driving toward various destinations.

My eight-year-old daughter Annie, who has expressed a steady stream of thoughts and opinions, interrupts herself, “Are we always learning?”

I nod, “Yes, we are. We’re taking in the world around us. That’s one of the best things about life. We always get to learn.”

“Why do people do bad things if they know it isn’t good for them?”

I wonder why all the philosophizing, but I’m going with it. “I don’t know. We have choices, but sometimes we don’t make the right choices. Or we want to try something out, so we do, and then find out it’s a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes.” I catch her eyes in the rear-view mirror, eyes like mine. “I do know it’s important to think for yourself.”

She wonders, “Is it important to like yourself?”

“Yes it is. To know and respect and like you is very important.”

In my girlhood I often felt hesitant and cautious, searching for something just out of reach. I had trouble identifying my emotions at the age of eight, but I knew I was lost. I silenced my confusion, who could understand me? Instead I played to my strengths. I was the loyal sidekick, a friend to the popular girl. What I couldn’t do for me, I did for the girl in charge. I made her feel good about herself.

From lost and uncomfortable to insecure and loathing, I could not like myself. I wanted to, but didn’t know how. Years later I peeled myself from the wall, abandoned friendships that harmed, and stopped hiding in the shadows. It was okay to want more. It was okay to like me. It wasn’t arrogance. It was necessary.

When I get to observe Annie in her ballet class, I can see from fingertips to toes she is armed with confidence. Concentrating on a drawing, giggling with her best friend, bounding across the yard, she is fearless.

I once lost Annie at the school playground.

I can’t see her anywhere. “Annie! Annie!” I’m frantic. My fingers graze a friend’s shoulder as I dart by, “Have you seen her?” My eyes are everywhere at once. And I stop. Of course. I walk over to the tallest tree, the best tree to climb.

“Hi, Mommy! I’m up here!” she chirps. High, high in the tree is my girl. I gulp air, consoled by the realization that I know her, I found her.

In the car I listen to her chatter, her curiosity and I breathe; please, please keep this. This knowledge of who you are. Always, always be yourself. The wind finds me through the open window and carries my wish for both of us, discerning I need this grace as much as she does.

Swept up
a3841688826_2in the song San Francisco by the Mowgli’s. It’s my summer jam. You have to listen to it LOUD and with the windows rolled down.

 

a week in the life of a debut author

My phone is ringing, loud and persistent. I’m asleep and bleary-eyed as I roll over to look at who is calling me this early?! I squint. Does that say radio? I reach for my glasses and let the phone go to voice mail. I pick up my cell phone and see missed calls and texts. I put on my prosthetic legs and shuffle downstairs to the kitchen. The phone rings again. My friend, Jenn. “CKNW wants to interview you! You have to call them!”

I call the producer and she answers. “We want to talk to you in 10 minutes about the article you wrote for The Province.” I look down. I am in my jammies and I haven’t had coffee yet. For those of you who live life with me you know that I am not a whole person until I’ve had coffee. I can hardly string a sentence together. In fact, I can be a little mean before that sweet caffeine is in my bloodstream. I wait downstairs in the dungeon that is the office for them to call me back. I have ‘morning voice’, but I answer questions. The host is wonderful and I manage not to sound like a robot.

On Saturday I am at a TV News studio and seconds before the show is about to air live I’m concentrating on the very hot lights above me wondering why everyone isn’t sweating profusely all the time. I’m fascinated by the green screen and the weather person. Sunny skies! My thoughts turn to me and I give myself a pep talk. Do not screw this up. Be coherent. Don’t talk too fast. It’s not an inspiring pep talk but it works. The segment went great. I didn’t wave my hands around too much and the host was lovely. Phew!

I have received the nicest, kindest texts, emails, tweets and FB posts about Fancy Feet. People have spotted the book in a bookstore. Yay! So, so exciting! I ask my kids if they would like to do a little book tour with me. “Do you guys want to go into a couple of stores and see the book?”

“No, that sounds boring. Let’s go swimming!”

I turn to Scott. “I wanted to make them hold up the book so I could take a picture. It would be kinda cute, right? My kids with my book?” Annie shakes her head.

My kids – keeping me humble.

Seeing my book in a bookstore for the first time is wild, almost scary. I am tempted to shout, “That’s my book!!” Instead I sidle up to it and stare until the sweet girl at the register asks if she can help me. I point and smile. “That’s my book.” She congratulates me. “We just sold one.” She moves my book to the middle of the counter where more people can see it. I’m thrilled and I want to throw up a little and I hope, hope, hope people will like it.

Not everything is about the book. One afternoon Ben waved a slide-whistle in front of my face. “I’m going to play this for people. Outside. On the street. For money. How much do you think I’ll get?” I’m afraid he will live in our basement forever. On the flip side I don’t know if I’ll be able to keep my 10 year old daughter home. I was headed to UBC to do an interview and Annie was desperate to join me. “Are there rooms you can live in when you go to University? What are those rooms called? You can live alone, right? What do those rooms look like? Can we see one?”

Can we see one? Live alone? “No, I don’t think we can see a room today.”

My kids – keeping me tethered to the earth and scaring me every day.

Swept up
in our Sundance trampoline
I’m not jumping on it – are you kidding?! But my kids (and the neighborhood kids) love this incredible gift from their grandparents. Ben snapped this picture of Annie jumping. No net! We live dangerously around here. BRaT2EtCAAE2Hy3.jpg large

my first reading

I pick up my book with trembling hands. “Thank you for being here. I’ve been speaking for the burn fund for a long time. Whenever I’m with you guys and our fire fighters it feels like coming home.”

Deep breath.

“I’m going to read you a little of chapter 12 called ‘Home for Christmas’.”

Deep breath. My hands are still shaking. Keep still. But my hands won’t hear me.

I begin to read aloud from page 63. “Tinsel, wreaths and garlands…” On a hot July evening I read about going home for Christmas after being in the burn unit for 6 months. In front of me is a small audience of fire fighters and burn fund supporters. We’re on a large boat, big enough to hold many people, serve dinner, and pick up a gaggle of campers waiting on an island for us as we make our way across the ocean.

It’s quiet as I read. There is a smattering of applause when Peter is mentioned. Peter is the fire fighter who drove me home when snow had fallen hard in the Lower Mainland, making the roads slick and dangerous. My voice is steady but my hands continue to shake. This is the first time I have read my book aloud to a group of people. For years I’ve spoken to audiences large and small, telling my story, and I have never been this nervous, this raw.

I finish reading on page 66. I look up. “Thank you. I’m so happy to be here. Thank you for listening.”

People are smiling and clapping. I look at my family, at Scott and my kids. Annie and Ben have never heard me give a speech. They’re too young to read my book, but they came with me today. I wanted them to be here, to be a part of what I do and meet kids who have suffered, who are spending a week at camp to have fun and be free. Ben jumps up from his chair. “Good speech, Mommy!” He wraps his arms around me tight. I squeeze him back, hard. “Thanks buddy.” I return to my seat beside Annie. Tears shine in her eyes. “Mommy, some of that was so sad. It makes me sad.” I pull her to me, rest my chin on the top of her head and breathe her in, shampoo and sunshine. “It’s okay. I know. But there is a happy ending.”

Swept up
in the incredible people of the BC Professional Fire Fighters burn fund

1082731_10152075690059202_159081274_n1085225_10152075690064202_1643917081_nThis photo of these lovely women reading my book was snapped and sent to me. The second photo was taken on the Burn Fund Cruise where I did my very first reading and signing.

fancy feet: turning my tragedy into hope

I had just dropped off a van full of kids at the pool on a school field trip when I decided I needed a coffee because everyone needs caffeine on a field trip. Home isn’t far, so I made my way there to make my extra dry cappuccino. I opened the door and found Scott in the kitchen. He pointed to a box on the counter. “Your books are here! I wanted to open it, but I thought I should wait for you.”

My books. My heart caught in my throat. Instead of tearing open the box, I circled it. “Go ahead. You can open it.”

Scott ripped open the box and picked up a book. I stared at them. Stacked neatly, one on top of the other, Fancy Feet: turning my tragedy into hope. My sparkly red shoes on every cover. My words on each page. I picked up a book, opened it, and shut it. Chapter 1, 15, 28…Acknowledgments. Uneasiness formed a hard knot in my stomach. I looked over at Scott who had begun to read the book. “You’re reading it now?”

“Yeah. This is awesome. We’ve been waiting a long time for this. Don’t you want to?”

I grabbed my phone and snapped a picture. Because I’m supposed to capture this moment. My book is here. It’s here! I’m supposed to be excited, but I’m not. I’m nervous. Apprehensive. Will people like my book? I snapped a photo of the box of books and posted it to Facebook. “A case of books! That I wrote.”

That hard knot of apprehension bloomed and then slowly shrank as your comments and emails and texts made their way to me sharing in my good news. Because this was good news. In the midst of worry, I’d forgotten this was good news, great news. I wrote a manuscript that became a book that got published. I’m an author.

A few friends and family who picked up early copies gave me more good news. I received texts like this one from my friend Jenn: “Just had to choke back tears at end of chapter 8. It’s so intimate, vulnerable and brave. You just let the reader feel with you. It’s beautiful.” And there were a few back and forth texts from my friend Tanya who said: “The book is so you. All I hear is you.” A request was made to the library for my book which will be a neighborhood’s book club choice. A dream come true.

The hard knot in my stomach disappeared and I felt gratitude, relief, and, finally, a sliver of excitement. People like my book. They’re seeing what I want for them to see. Through burns, amputations, the loss of a best friend, enduring more than 20 surgeries and a trial, there was hope. Hope was there from the beginning, woven through my entire journey, and here today.

I am thrilled to announce that you can pre-order my book today! For a sneak peek of Fancy Feet and purchasing a signed copy or finding other buying options look here. Can you hear my squeal of joy?

the post in which I ramble

It’s been forever. I had so many promising beginnings, so many on-the-cusp-of-genius posts and then a text popped up, a snack must be made, a floor needed to be swept. Urgent pleas to register for soccer filled up my inbox. Dance competitions and extra practices needed to be attended. A child wanted my computer, sometimes for homework, but mostly for minecraft. Speaking of minecraft, here is a must read for any parent whose children suffer from minecraft addiction. Good Lord, help us all.

I am working on book stuff, people. Book stuff! That means it’s so close. So close I can almost smell that new book smell. Hear the turn of the pages. I’ll have a sneak peek for you soon. My very first chapter of Fancy Feet, the book, coming your way!

I had great intentions of being around more, of writing more. Just a couple of months ago I made declarations of how I was back. Do you remember that post? It’s embarrassing now because I didn’t follow through. I meant to, I wanted to. What bothers me more is that I haven’t been to your spaces nearly enough; read your wise, soulful and funny words. Please don’t think I’ve forgotten or that I don’t care. I had no idea how consuming it would be to edit and edit and edit a manuscript or how weepy I would become after digging up my feelings surrounding the other driver or how exhausted I would be afterward when I was done, finally done, everything. When I read the email from my publisher that said “edits are accepted”, I joy-cried for 30 seconds and then, bleary-eyed, I binge-watched TV shows. I discovered Scandal. Scandal is super addictive. The Fitz and Olivia of it all, Defiance, the mole – I could not stop watching this show. In my TV fog, I had questions for my other shows like what is going on with Don Draper, the man with no redeeming values? Should I continue to watch The Killing? TV was a welcome distraction after being so in touch with my feelings for a very long time. What I’m trying to say is that I hadn’t counted on having to let some things go for a while because I can’t do it all.

It is almost the end of the school year and I feel the need to make a speech, thanking those around me who got me this far. To all the moms who understood and didn’t judge me or judged, but never to my face, when I forgot about a field trip or didn’t bring empty bottles, egg cartons or yogurt containers. To Scott for being the voice of un-crazy after I explained how I would be a total failure. To coffee for giving me a personality. To wine – cheers. To my friends who love me anyway. To Target where I can wander freely and aimlessly. To me for making lunches Monday to Friday from September to June…I am a marvel. To you guys, who have been here and are still here…thank you.

By the way, you can now subscribe to my blog by email. That’s for you, Julie Gardner!

 

caution to the wind

Fear is on my mind as I search for stones on the beach. It’s something I enjoy – seeking out a stone that stands out, worn by the sand and sun and water. As I pick up stones and turn them over to inspect them, I think about being afraid. How sometimes instead of pushing through fear, letting it goad me into more, it stops me. Instead of acknowledging and facing fear, I hide. I won’t run, but I let fear push me around. What if my dream doesn’t work out? What if my hard work is for nothing? What if I fail? The fear is so loud I can’t hear the beat of my heart. It’s so loud I forget how to believe. What is the point of dreaming when you’re so busy dashing your hopes? Do we stop pursuing because we can’t predict the future? Do we let go of the thrill of something new because we don’t know the outcome? Do I want a life without risking and trying? I live my life so steeped in reality and the possible pitfalls that I snuff out the what-could-be.

The problem with expecting the worst is that you begin to believe the worst. The worst creeps into everything until it clouds your vision, stunts your growth. It’s ugly because it can’t be beautiful. Futile replaces almost. There are shadows rather than light. Good doesn’t matter when it’s never good enough. ‘The worst’ is poison.

As I pick up and put down stones I think about what I want and don’t want. I put down judgment, timidity, and doubt. I pick up grace. Grace for myself and for others. I carry beauty. Beauty in the ocean stretched out in front of me, in the wondrous colors of the sky. Beauty in the softness and strength of my family playing nearby. I hang onto hope. There is hope in trying and I have to try. I am afraid of the unknown, of what I can’t control, but fear doesn’t have to be stronger than love, bigger than all that I can count on. I look at the collection of small white stones in my hand and feel the small ridges, the lightness of them in my palm, and I decide to keep what is true.

swept up

photo (2)in the beach. And throwing-caution-to-the-wind playing.

one day

She was still, her hands in her lap. Tears streaked her face as she told me her story about loss and aching sadness, loneliness that met her everywhere she went. The sun didn’t shine for her anymore. Life was too much, hard and hollow. “I’m trying to fight, to have hope. But, I can’t. I don’t know how to do this anymore. My family is gone.”

I had told my story on a stage that evening to hundreds of people. 20 minutes of how my life fell apart and how I picked up the pieces. Afterward men and women made their way to me and shared their stories of fallen pieces. Some spoke haltingly, the words stuck in their throats. Other losses spilled out fast, fast. My sister, my baby, my husband. Blindsided by tragedy. They lifted their heads. They wanted to know. “When did it get better for you?”

I couldn’t give them a definite answer. There wasn’t a timeline. I just knew that one day I began to feel better, lighter. Sorrow didn’t disappear, but joy found me. I could laugh, a body-shaking laugh, and I felt that joy and sorrow could exist together, side by side. I didn’t have an explanation of how or why, only that it was true. One day it wasn’t only about what I had lost, but what I had learned. One day I didn’t wake up and wish I could return to the numbness of sleep and shut out a world I didn’t want to be a part of. One day I made peace with my scars and saw them as a map of what I had fought for and how far I’d come.

As we sat across from each other, one by one, knees to knees, sharing heartache and hope, I told them it is possible to get to the other side where the pain isn’t as wide, so deep. The only way to get there is to go through. You did not ask for what happened, but you are capable. You cannot hear one more person talk about ‘the journey’ without growing nauseous, yet you go on. You fight because your life is worth living. You find strength you didn’t know you had. It surprises you, this strength. You will carry it with you and one day you’ll give your strength to someone who needs it. You hang on because you are loved. Have hope even though you’re afraid. You have days where you are angry, so angry it blurs your vision and crushes your chest, but one day it won’t be anger that fuels you. There is more for you than this. Because you’re not a victim. You’re a survivor.

swept up

in my new nephew Brennan! I just want to squeeze him. All the time. This sweet photograph was taken by my friend Lesley.

leaving room

This is a field trip I am not going to miss. I checked the box and signed my name with a flourish on that pink piece of paper to ensure I would go to the Orpheum to see the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra with my seven year old son Benjamin’s class. We would participate in the magnificence that is Beethoven.

After we settled in our seats and the lights dimmed and the chattering of hundreds of young children quieted, the music began. Violins, oboes, flutes; notes weaving grace. Ben sat in the seat in front of me and after a few minutes of listening he began to squirm, wiggle and sigh. He turned to look at me, pleading with wide eyes. Get me outta here. I leaned over, put my hands on his small shoulders and whispered in his ear, “Ben, you don’t know this yet. But, it is a big deal that you are here in this beautiful theater listening to this beautiful music. Look around you. Take this in. You want to remember this day.” He nodded, one quick bob, and pressed his back against the chair.

At the end of the Symphony’s performance the conductor invited us to sing along. A theater full of children and teachers and parents sang a piece of Ode to Joy. Oh, the sound. The wonder of those small voices. Together.

In the bus on the way home I asked Ben, “So, did you have a good time?”

“Yup!” He bounced, the back of his head crashing into the seat behind him. Over and over again, bounce, crash. He stopped. “I cried a little.”

“You cried?”

“Happy tears. Because of the music.”

My heart swelled, full of joy, full of a little boy who got it.

When so much of life is measured and scored and assessed, this was a sweet, holy moment. A reminder to leave room. For more than tests and grades and math. Jobs and bills and obligations. We are moving, rushing, changing all of the time. And it’s okay…because this is life. Time doesn’t stop. In the heart of busy I want to remember to enjoy, marvel, revel. To listen. I want to be reached when something sacred happens, to have space inside me marked by music and beauty. A place to catch my breath and a place for the breathtaking.

swept up
in this beautiful and poignant post called a Tale of Two Sirens by Julie Gardner. Recently her home was ravaged by fire and she writes about it here with grace.