Category Archives: writing contest

March Madness and Three Little Pigs

So we are all into March madness over here, both the basketball kind and the kind brought on by prolonged winter cabin fever.  Lucky for me, Susanna Leonard Hill is sponsoring a March Madness writing contest to help alleviate some of the boredom and restlessness that has settled into my brain. This one requires a 400 word max fractured Fairy Tale. thIt’s all just for fun (and a few great prizes) so give it a try, you just might get hooked!

http://susannahill.blogspot.com/2014/03/the-march-madness-writing-contest-is.html

Inspired by almost-true events:

Go outside Three Little Pigs!! 

Once upon a time there were three little pigs.

Three little, lazy pigs that just sat around all day and did nothing but play video games.

Until, one sunny day when Mama Pig decided she couldn’t take it anymore.

“That’s it!” She said, pointing to the door. “I have had enough! Go. Out. SIDE!”

“What?” said the First Pig.

“You want us to go out… there?” said the Second Pig.

“But, there’s never anything to do outside.” complained the Third Pig.

Mama Pig threw open the door.

“Have an adventure! Use your imagination! Just go outside, NOW!”

So the three miserable, lazy pigs went outside.

“It’s sooo hot out here,” moaned the First Pig.

“I’m sooo bored,” whined the Second

“I miss my video games,” cried the Third.

A dark shadow crept slowly along the fence.

“Little pig, little pigs, let me in,” whispered a deep, gravely voice.

“The wolf! Mom! Mom!” The three pigs banged on the door.

“Go away,” said Mama Pig from inside the house.

The three pigs stared at one another.

“Quick!” said Pig Number One. “To the straw pile!”

The three pigs ran across the lawn and burrowed their way into the middle of the straw.

“Ha!” laughed the Wolf. “Do you really think that measly house made of hay is going to keep me away? I am going to huff and puff…”

The three pigs dug as fast as they could through the back of the straw pile.

“To the tree house!” yelled the Second Pig.

The three pigs clambered up the ladder to the tree house and slammed the door shut.

Snap!

A branch snapped, and then another, and another.

Snap!
Snap!

Suddenly through the wall came the wolf’s furry head, his red, beady eyes and his pointed teeth.

“Really, a house made of sticks?” He snarled.

The three pigs quickly threw themselves out of the treehouse, landing one by one with a thud on the dirt below.

“Over there! Behind that brick wall!” yelled Pig Number Three.

The three pigs scampered behind the wall but they knew it was no use;

sharp claws soon crept over the rocks…

“Help! We’re doomed!” They cried.

“Pigs! Oh, Pigs, time for din-ner!” Yelled Mama Pig.

“Awww, already?” said Pig Number One.

“That was way more fun that video games!” Said Pig Number Two

“Sure was.” Said Pig Number Three. “See you tomorrow Wolf?

“See you tomorrow Pigs.”

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2012: Off And Running And Writing.

2012! Wow! How did that happen? Weren’t we all supposed to die about a million times already from some sort of apocalyptic disaster? I think there is one happening this year as well.  So this might just be it, the real end.  Better go live your dreams, make your wishes come true; eat that chocolate cake before we all explode into a million microbes.

I had a great 2011. I felt like I made some strides in my writing, and want to thank you all very every much for your votes in the various contests I entered. I truly appreciated all the support and encouragement.

These writing contests remind me of the races I subject myself to every few months.  I run and run and run, maybe limping a bit a long the way, then come home proudly clutching the medal that shows I did in fact pay the entry fee for the race and my kids jump around, asking, “So, did you win?” To which I inevitably reply something like, “No, but I was the 200th runner over the line!”  They stare at me, sadly shaking their heads and place a sympathetic hand on my shoulder saying, “That’s okay Mom.” Or, more likely,  “Wow, you stink.”

Look, I know going into these races I am not going to win but I love them. I am hooked. They challenge me, give me something to put my energy into and inspire me.  I see the true athletes out there and I am in awe. These people are good! They train year round, living and breathing this stuff. Me…not so much.  In many ways these races are a lot like the writing contests.  They provide me with a goal, urging me on, daring me to learn from my mistakes and to strive to become perhaps a just a little bit better.  Afterwards when I read over my material, see my glaring errors and then read other peoples entries and see their genius I think: That’s it!  I am done, no more writing for me… then I get just a sliver of good news.  Just enough to keep me going…like two great things that happened this past week.

One, I received news from Adoptive Families Magazine that my book, The Very Best Day, was the most read printable article of 2011. That felt great! (Not exactly sure what it means.  Aren’t they all printable?  But hey, take what you can!) Now I just need a publisher…

And, two, my book A is for Adoption was published last week in the January 2012 issue of Adoption Today. So all and all, a good end to 2011 and off to a running start in 2012.

I am placing a link to Adoption Today below, but I know some people have had trouble accessing it, so I will include a copy of A is for Adoption as well.

Now here is a quick disclaimer about the book. The book is narrated by a girl named Anna, which some people, including my own children, found a bit confusing given the makeup of my family (my oldest is named Anna).

Teddy: “Wait! Anna is adopted too?”

“No, Anna is not adopted. Eliza is adopted.”

Harry: “You never told us Anna is adopted!”

“Because she’s not.”

Teddy: “Am I adopted too?”

“No!”

Eliza (crying) “Wahh! I want to be adopted like Anna.

“You ARE adopted. Anna is NOT Adopted.”

Teddy: “Are you sure I’m not adopted?”

Challenges!

I hope you all have a good, healthy, and happy New Year.

http://www.bluetoad.com/publication/?i=95083&p=38

A Is For Adoption

A is for Anna, that’s me! What’s you name? When you see the first letter of your name in this book shout it out!  A is also for adoption. I’m adopted, are you? Adopted means your birth parents couldn’t care for you and your parents really, really wanted you so they made you a part of their family, forever.  Some people are adopted when they are babies and some when they are older. Some kids are in foster care first, and some aren’t.  How were you adopted? What’s your story?

B is for birthday.  I have a birthday party every year to celebrate the day I was born.  This year I want a chocolate cake with rainbow sprinkles and a HUGE piñata. B is also for birth parents, the man and woman that made you but couldn’t raise you. B is also for brother. I have three. They like to wrestle, look for worms and play baseball.  Sometimes they let me play with them, sometimes they don’t. Do you have any brothers? Do they live with you? Do they look for worms?

C is for cookie.  Everyone knows that!  C is also for caseworker, some people call them adoption workers or social workers.  A caseworker is the person who watches over kids before they are adopted and makes sure they get to the right family.

D is for Daddy. I love my dad. He takes me on bike rides, and buys me ice cream.  I also have a birth dad. I never met mine. Do you have a dad? What do you guys like to do together? Do you know your birth dad?

E is for eternity. Eternity means forever and ever, which is how long I am going to be a part of my family.

F is for Family.  My family has a mom and a dad and three brothers and a sister and two dogs and a turtle and some fish.  My friend Lizzy has two dads, one brother and a cat and Jay has a grandma and that’s it.  All families are different.  What is your family like?

G is for Gecko, which are the only lizards that make noise. They live where is it warm. They have nothing to do with adoption, unless… are you from a warm place? Did they have geckos there? I hope I get one for my birthday. That would be cool!

H is for Happiness.  Happiness is love, fun, friends and families…. oh, and Disney World, of course!

I is for I love you. That’s it.

J is for jumping, juggling and jogging.  J is a fun letter! J is also for Judge. A judge needs to say it is okay for your parents to adopt you. I had to go with my family to a judge when I was a baby. I saw a picture of us all in our dress up clothes.  The judge wore a black robe and was holding this hammer thing called a gavel. Everyone was smiling.  Some kids go to the court when they are older.  Do you remember going to see the judge?

K is for knowledge.  That’s a big word that means to know or learn stuff, like who you are, where you are from, what your adoption story is.

L is for life and learning and love.  My birth mom and birth dad gave me life, so I could breathe and eat and swim and run, so they are really special.  Learning is important because you need to learn about who you are, where you came from, and then there is learning in school like how to read and do math. Love is the best.  I love my mom and my dad and my brothers and sisters and friends and pets and teachers and cousins and grandparents and…whew! That’s a lot of love!

M is for Mom.  I love my mom; she plays with me and likes to read to me.  What do you like to do with your mom? I know there is another person out there who is my birth mom, but I didn’t know her. I am glad she had me though, or I wouldn’t be here! Do you know your birth mom?

N is for Naked mole rats. They are small rodents who live in underground colonies in Africa. They have large teeth that stick out that they use to dig. They have very little hair and have wrinkled pink or yellowish skin. They are really funny looking and have absolutely nothing to do with adoption, unless…are you from Africa? Maybe you have seen one?

O is for open.  Open means you can talk about anything and not be scared or embarrassed to ask questions about adoption.  Your parents might not always know the answer, but they will try to figure it out for you.  Open also means something you forgot to shut, like the refrigerator door and then your mom will yell, “Who left the door open!”

P is for parents.  I have two, a mom and a dad. How about you? Parents get to make the rules like say what you can eat and where you can go, and tell you to do your homework, and stuff like that.

Q is questions. I have a lot! Like who were my birth parents? Why couldn’t they keep me? What did they look like? Where are they now? Why did the dinosaurs become extinct? How do fireflies light up like that? Do you have questions?

R is for rainbow.  Rainbows are cool and have so many different colors, just like people.  Some families look like rainbows because there can be all kinds of colors in one family: brown hair, red hair, blue eyes, green eyes, brown skin, tan skin, light skin with freckles.  If you line up your family maybe you can make your own people rainbow.

S is for super, stupendous and special!  I am all those things, super, stupendous and special, oh and my mom says I am silly. S is also for sister. I have one older sister.  She likes to play softball, swim and shop for clothes.  Do you have any sisters?  Mine is awesome, even though she doesn’t like me touching her stuff.

T is for together. Adoption is about being together as a family.

U is for Ultrasaurus which was a huge, long-necked dinosaur.  Their bones have been discovered in both South Korea and the United States.  They don’t really have anything  to do with adoption either, well unless you are maybe from South Korea or the United States. Are you?  Wouldn’t you love to ride on an Ultrasaurus!

V is for valuable.  Valuable means something that is desired or wished for or important.  My parents say all kids are valuable.

W is for wish.  My parents had a wish and it was me! I have a wish, to go to Africa and see a naked mole rat in action.

X is for Xenops, which are birds that live in South America and again have nothing to do with adoption, unless you are from South America, then, I suppose it could have to do with your adoption story.  Are you from South America?

Y is for yes! Yes I am adopted! Yes I love my family! Yes I am valuable! Yes I was wished for! Yes I have questions! Yes I want to see a naked mole rat!

Z is for zillion. I have a zillion more places to go, things to do and questions to ask.  Oh, yes, and I love my family a zillion times through.

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2012

Santa’s Mom/Santa’s Dad

Merry Christmas to all! December is both such a short and a long month isn’t it? Short for adults who feel the hurried pressure to send the cards, get the perfect gifts, decorate the house, make the cookies, all with a bright smile and a joyful nature (ARGH!) And it is L-O-N-G for kids, who have been patiently waiting and feeling the holiday anticipation building since Halloween, when the stores all began their advertising campaigns.

I am currently in waiting mode myself. I am patiently waiting for the end of the MeeGenuis contest, which is over in about one week so if you haven’t voted yet PLEASE do and you have already, thank you so much.  (Just so you know, I hate these contests too, where you have to beg for people to vote for you, but unfortunately it looks like it is a necessary evil of the trade.) I am also waiting for another story of mine to be printed in Adoption Today Magazine, which should be out shortly, so in the meantime, I thought I would go ahead and post my Christmas story for you to read while you are taking a break from all this craziness.

This story really began a few years back when I was telling (begging) my youngest son, Teddy, to brush his teeth before bed. He was whining and stalling and then said, “I bet Santa’s mom doesn’t tell him to brush his teeth!”  (Can you believe his dad is a dentist!)  I said, “Of course she does, and wash his hands and put down the toilet seat!”  Teddy laughed and then said, “Does Santa even have a mom?” I said, “He must!” And we started going back and forth with the things Santa’s mom might do or say, then we added Santa’s dad. Pretty soon, I thought…I should write this down. So I did. Tweaked it a bit and here it is. Hope you enjoy it.

Happy Holidays! 

                                                                                                                         Santa’s Mom

When Santa was little he had a mom just like yours.

A mom that:

Made him a bowl of hot oatmeal on frosty mornings,

Sprinkled it all over with brown sugar,

And always remembered not to add any raisins.

A mom that would say things like:

“Please, stop teasing the reindeer!”

“No more wrestling with the elves.”

And “Happy Holidays! Watch out for that Christmas tree!”

A mom that helped him to put on all his snow gear:

His warm, wooly socks,

Waterproof boots,

Thick snow pants,

Fluffy coat,

Long windy scarf,

Two matching gloves

And one fuzzy hat.

A mom that:

Wasn’t afraid to go super fast down the big sledding hill,

Always making sure to sit right behind him and squeezing him really tightly so he wouldn’t tumble off,

Then laughing like crazy when they ended up rolling around together in the cold snow at the bottom.

A mom that helped him to take off his now:

Soaking socks,

Slippery boots,

Sopping wet snow pants,

Bulky coat,

Knotted up scarf,

One no longer matched glove,

And… “Nicholas Christopher Kringle-Claus, where is your hat?”

A mom that would:

Start a crackling fire to warm him up,

Make two big mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows bobbing on the top,

And put a big bowl of buttery popcorn on the table for them to share.

A mom that would:

Help him to decorate the Christmas tree,

with the red and green balls placed all along the bottom,

The twisted candy canes carefully circling the middle,

And then lift him way up high so he could place the shining star up at the tippy, tippy top.

A mom that would:

Put on his red, wooly feety pajamas,

Help him find his favorite stuffed penguin, his cuddly polar bear and his worn out grey walrus,

And say, “Sweet Noel! Could you please, PLEASE brush your teeth!”

Even Santa had a mom that would:

Read him his favorite book,

Give him a soft kiss goodnight,

And whisper into his ear,

“May all your Christmas dreams come true.

Goodnight my little Santa Claus.”

When Santa was little he had a mom, just like yours.

                                                                       

                                  Santa’s Dad

When Santa was little he had a dad just like yours.

A dad that would:

Make his world famous, top secret, absolutely incredible chocolate chip pancakes on the weekends,

Play holiday hide and seek with him all morning,

And even let him win (sometimes).

A dad that could:

Make the best gingerbread house in the whole North Pole with:

Vanilla frosted walls,

Spicy gumdrops,

Chewy caramels,

Licorice bits,

Spearmint leaves,

Striped gum,

Cinnamon sticks,

Chocolate chunks,

And one fat candy cane chimney on the top.

A dad that would say:

“Sweet Blitzen, could you please stop ringing those jingle bells in the house!”

“Go. Now. And sweep out those reindeer stalls.”

And “Nick-O-laus! Who ate all the candy that was on that gingerbread house?”

A dad that knew how to:

Make a huge snow castle with secret tunnels,

a look out tower,

and not just one, but two hidden hideout rooms.

A dad that would:

Tie little Santa’s ice skates so tightly he couldn’t wiggle his toes,

And always picked him up and dusted him off when he fell down on the ice,

And always picked him up and dusted him off when he fell down on the ice,

And always picked him up and dusted him off when he fell down on the ice.

A dad that showed him how to:

Throw a super duper, fast snowball,

Rock out to Christmas carols on the electric guitar,

And drink a cup of eggnog in just one gulp… with a loud burp at the end!

(But only when Mrs. Claus wasn’t around.)

Even Santa had a dad that would:

Make sure to leave on the hall light,

Tickle his feet,

And whisper into his ear,

“Good night little Nicholas Christopher Kringle-Claus. Don’t let the jingle bugs bite.”

When Santa was little he had a dad just like yours.

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan, 2011                                                                      

MeeGenuis, you Genuis too?

Hi all! T’is the season to freak out! I am freaking out.  Just back from a great trip to Florida, and not one Christmas decoration has been dragged down from the attic, unwrapped or hung yet. I received my first Christmas card in the mail today, I haven’t even taken our photo yet! Somehow these things all manage to get done in time.  Thank God, Steve Jobs, Amazon and UPS for without them Christmas would simply just not happen here.

I do have a Christmas story I am going to post in a few weeks but first it is time for a holiday appeal, and the hope for a Christmas wish to come true.

Wouldn’t you like to make just one person’s Christmas wish come true? Guess what, you can! It takes no money and minimal effort on your part. I know everyone is tired and annoyed from the last writing contest I asked people to vote for, and believe me, no one is more tired of asking people to vote for them than me but… (you knew that was coming right?), I entered yet another writing contest so if everyone just goes and votes for my two books I can stop these annoying and rather embarrassing pleas for help.

A company called MeeGenuis, which publishes and markets online books for children, put out this contest.  I tried a few of their books out on my youngest and she liked them, so their marketing ploy has already worked for them with at least one consumer. I entered two books into this contest, and if I win I not only get my book published but the local school library gets a free library of ebooks for a year. Pretty cool, right? So please, take a break from the Christmas hubbub. Make yourself a cup of cocoa with creamy marshmallows melting over the top, sit down by a crackling fire, put your tired feet up and vote for me.  That’s all I want for Christmas…oh yeah and world peace, of course. Thanks guys!

Oh, here is the link, see how easy I made it for you? Relax, breathe, now click the “Like” button right there next to to the story.

http://www.meegenius.com/challenge/the-baseball-game-by-anne-sawan

and again, here.

http://meegenius.com/challenge/two-years-bigger-two-years-smaller-by-anne-sawan

Thank you! You are the best! You deserve something really great this year. Something really big! Really expensive! Really cool! Treat yourself, go ahead. Or better yet, write a blog, tell people what you want, and maybe…. 

The Very Best Day

Sorry I have been neglecting my blog! I have been pulled into this NaNoWriMo thing and have become a bit obsessed.

NaNoWriMo, for those who don’t know, is a contest of sorts where writers are encouraged to write a novel of at least 50,000 words during the month of November.  Sounds easy? You think you can do it? Go ahead, I dare you.  This is hard work, almost like writing a dissertation in thirty days, but unlike a dissertation, it is actually fun. Also unlike a dissertation, there will most likely be no reward at the end, no cap and gown, no ceremony, but for some crazy reason I need to do this.   I know there is probably no way I will finish my novel in time but the contest has at least finally got me to sit down and put on paper a story that I have been mulling over for a long time.

More on that later.

November is National Adoption month and Saturday is actually National Adoption Day. National Adoption Month is dedicated to educating people about adoption and honoring those involved in the process: adoptees, adoptive parents, birth parents, foster children, foster parents social workers, judges , etc. Whew! It takes a village! Funny that November is Adoption Month because November 17th is Eliza’s, my youngest child, actual “home to stay day.”

On November 17th, four years ago, we returned to Boston after a wonderful and life changing trip to the Middle East. A trip I never would have taken if it were not for this one small baby with big brown eyes that called me there. I met members of my husband’s family that I probably never would have met, and saw things I never would have seen.  We were treated like royalty, marched around to parties and dinners, tasting wonderful food, visiting villlages, seeing ancient ruins and beautiful underground caves filled with pools of aqua blue water.  The people were so gracious and wonderful yet through it all I felt unsettled and anxious. A piece of me was far away, across the ocean. I needed my kids.

It was freezing cold when the plane finally landed in Boston, the wind howled and snow was whipping about.  We piled into the warm limousine that was waiting for us outside, and started the last part of our journey home.  The drive to our house seemed to take forever. When we were finally passing the shops on the main street of the town where we live, I looked at my husband and said, “Now, I can breathe.”

We pulled up to a house full of family, friends, and balloons.  Eliza was passed around, we all hugged and chatted, and I felt my heart come to a quiet, peaceful rest. The next morning, long after all the well-wishers had left, I awoke to a quiet house.  I picked up my baby and went downstairs. There were plates of leftover cake and empty cups scattered about. It was wonderful. Soon the other kids ran downstairs, there was breakfast to make and cartoons to watch and I thought… this is it.

This is the best day of my life.

And…that’s what I wrote about. The wonder of being a family, the sense that the real miracles of life don’t occur with lots of fanfare and glitz, (sorry Kardashians) they occur in those small windows of time when you just breathe in each other.

I thought I would honor this special month on my small little blog by reprinting the story I wrote about that very day.  This is the original book that started this whole crazy blogging-writing thing. It was published in Adoptive Families Magazine this past summer and I placed a link to the book on the sidebar of my blog, but I never really placed the book here for all to see.

I look at this book now and think, it really isn’t just about Eliza, it is about all of us. All of the pieces of our journey, our family, our friends, near and far that brought her to us.  I also think this book could just have easily been written for biological children as well, and I may just do that one day. Here’s a start:

I remember painting the walls a foamy green, and stenciling a school of silly fish on the nursery wall.

I remember sitting in the rocking chair, my hand wrapped around my big, bloated, belly, feeling you dance inside.

I remember daddy struggling to put together the crib, swearing that several pieces appeared to be missing and the directions only came in Chinese.

I remember the excruciating pain as your big head…

Okay, wait; maybe I should work on this book a bit more.

No matter how they come, plane, or pain, all my kids are special, all are loved. Happy Adoption Month everyone.

THE VERY BEST DAY

Mommy, tell me again about the best day ever.

The day the social worker called and said you could adopt a baby, was that the best day ever?

Well, that was certainly a very wonderful day full of wishes, and dreams and hope, but no, it wasn’t the best day ever.

The day you opened the mail and saw a picture of me for the very first time was that the best day?

That was without a doubt a truly marvelous day full of happiness, excitement, and joy, but that was not the best day.

The day you went on the airplane to come and get me and bring me home, was that the best day?

That was such an extraordinary day, full of luggage, and taxis and lots of rushing around, but no, that wasn’t the best day ever.

How about the day you held me in your arms for the very first time was that the best day?

That day was so very close to being the best day.  It was definitely a miraculous day, full of love, and wonder, and awe, but it was still not the best day.

The day you, and me, and daddy all came home and there were lots and lots of people at the house having a big party with a huge painted sign saying, ”Welcome Home” that spread across the whole front porch, was that the best day ever?

That day was utterly special, incredible, amazing, and fabulous! It was a day full of hugs and kisses, meetings and greetings, brothers and sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers, aunts and uncles, cousins, and friends, cakes and cameras and gifts, but still, still it was not the best day ever, because…

While all of those days were wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary, miraculous, special, incredible, amazing and fabulous none of them were the best day, because the best day, the absolute very best day ever, was the next day.

The sun came up,

the dogs barked,

birds chirped

and you were there

There were empty cups scattered about the house,

and paper plates with crumbs of leftover chocolate cake still stuck to them.

There were scraps of wrapping paper and brightly covered ribbons covering the floor,

and three clunky suitcases waiting to be unpacked in the corner.

And you were there.

Daddy fed the dogs,

got out the flour,

and cracked some eggs into a big bowl…and you were there.

I put on a pot of fresh coffee… and you were there.

Your brothers and sister came running downstairs and suddenly there was laughter and yelling and sticky pancakes

…and you were there.

The snow started to fall quietly outside… and you were there.

And what could have,

should have,

been just an ordinary day was suddenly

wonderful, marvelous, extraordinary, miraculous, special, incredible, amazing and fabulous because you were there.

Now that, THAT was the very, very, very best day ever!

Telling the truth, the whole truth…….

Plane approaching ZRH

Image by Adnan Yahya via Flickr

Hey ! I am a guest blogger on adoption.com this week!  You can find my article there at

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://adoptive-parenting.adoptionblogs.com/weblogs/telling-the-truth

This is the piece I wrote…

Telling The Truth:

It was a beautiful day yesterday. A treasure to enjoy before the cold weather sets in.  Early fall, the sun was shining, the leaves just starting to turn orange, red and yellow.  We ran around as a family; cleaning the garage, cheering at soccer games, friends stopped by, the boys looked for frogs and played wiffle ball in the backyard. In the afternoon, my husband piled as many boys as he could fit in his car and took them out to lunch. I took Eliza, my four year old in my car. She wanted McDonalds (sorry health nuts), or Old McDonalds, as she calls it, so we went to get her Happy Meal, and I got the requisite boring mom salad.  We whipped through the drive thru and brought our lunch home to enjoy outside on the porch.

The house was momentarily still, as the boys were away and it was just my daughter and I enjoying our picnic.  We sat outside munching away, the leaves falling around us, and high above a plane flew quietly overhead.

“Look, Eliza a plane,” I said.

Planes play a significant, symbolic role in our little lives. At bedtime, I often tell Eliza a short story of her adoption. She will whisper to me, “Tell me the baby Eliza story.” And I will whisper back in the dark about the baby that needed a family, and the family that needed a baby. About how her dad and I got on a plane that flew high across the ocean to get her. We wrapped her in a soft, pink blanket and took turns holding her the whole way back on the plane.  When we got home, there was a big party for everyone to meet her, and her brothers and sister had made a beautiful Welcome Home sign that spread across the whole front porch.

It’s a soothing ritual and a way for her to always know a piece of her story. Just a piece.  I have never ventured far outside of the story. I have never explained what “adoption” means. It is just a word she knows.  It has been enough, for now.

But as we sat out there on the porch, looking at the blue sky and the plane sailing smoothly across, I thought, I should start telling her now.  So she will always know.  Not just that adoption means love forever, but the nitty-gritty physical part of the adoption; that another woman gave birth to her, that she was not created in my body, as her siblings were, but that another mom and dad created her…that whole piece I have left out.  I felt like I should introduce the concept soon, she is almost school age, she sees other women who are pregnant and is starting to ask, ”Why is her tummy so big?” Soon she will say, “I was in your tummy too once, right?” With my biological kids it was easy, “Yes you were! I remember you kicking me!” But now….what do I say?

It’s easy to tell her a bedtime story about a plane and wrapping her in a blanket of love…it’s not so easy to look beyond that. So, I thought I will tell her gently, slowly and we can talk about it in pieces, as kids thankfully do. I want her to always know so it is never a surprise, just a natural part of who she is…but I guess I also want her to know to make it easier for me.  So she doesn’t turn to me in public and say, “ I was in your tummy too, right?” So we can have our own discussions, on our own terms and then she can say just as proudly as any child, “I was born in someone else’s tummy and in my mom’s heart! ”

So on a splendid fall day, in a moment of quiet and sharing, I thought, “Here I go.”

“You know what?” I said, cheerfully.

She turned and looked at me. A chicken nugget in one hand. Her eyes big and brown, her long hair tousled, her sparkly shoes always on the wrong feet, glimmering in the sun.

“What mom?”

And in a sudden unexpected rush, I felt my throat close. Tears appeared out of nowhere. I couldn’t say it. I choked.  Because the truth is, I want her to be from my tummy. I want to be the one that felt her kick. That pushed her out into her dad’s waiting arms. I want to avoid the questions that will surely come, the possible pain she may have. I don’t ever want her to ever feel “less than” or unwanted. She is so not that.

“That plane sure is beautiful,” I said.

“Yeah!” she said. “I came on a plane, and you and daddy!”

“We sure did,” I said. “Come on, want me to push you on the swing?”

Anne Cavanaugh-Sawan

agsawan.wordpress.com

You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them. ~Desmond Tutu

Teeth, Feet and Fly…..

Kenny Rogers - Nov 2004 Photo by Alan C. Teepl...

Image via Wikipedia

Funny, the things we remember from our childhood. Often, it’s not the big expensive trip or the thing that cost the most, but the little pieces that make up the bigger ones: the crazy family car rides, the chaos involved in actually taking the family photos, the tree in the front yard.

Another story I wrote also made it to Editors Picks in The Readers Digest contest.  It is on the front page as of now, titled “Eddie.”

It is about the “photo” tree we had our yard growing up. The maple tree where we would stand and take all of our family event photos, first day of school, First Communion, prom, etc.

“Eddie”

His name is Eddie. The big, tall maple that lived in our front yard. We named it Eddie because momma always said there was a refreshing eddy of a breeze that would come right around that tree in the sticky, hot summer. Eddie is in all our family photographs, the first day of school: “Go stand near Eddie so I can take a picture.” Easter: “Kids line up near Eddie. Quick, before you go get your church clothes all dirty!” Prom: “Why don’t you and George go stand over near Eddie? Ya’ll look so grownup!” Eddie was the home base for our massive neighborhood games of hide and seek “I gotcha ya!” “No way. I tagged Eddie first!” Eddie is still the first thing I see when I pull up to my parents’ house. A few less leaves, bending perhaps a bit more, but standing proud, delivering his cool breeze.

Do you like the Southern effect I threw in there? I think I wrote this after seeing The Help.

(My other Editors Pick, Sunday Car Ride, is now on the third page as more Life Stories flow in.  Some of them are pretty good…but ignore those and vote for mine, http://apps.facebook.com/yourlifecontest/node/)

Don’t you wonder what sorts of things your children will carry with them into adulthood?

I came across an article recently about Randy Pausch. You all probably know who he was, the Carnegie Mellon professor who was diagnosed with terminal pancreatic cancer, gave a lecture to his students titled, The Last Lecture, which went viral and was viewed and read by people all over the world.  Originally written for his children, he shared it with a million others.  You can find his lecture on YouTube, or buy the book version.  It was a wonderful speech, the wisdom of a dying man, full of the kind of guidance and value only those in such a position can give.  Sadly Randy Pausch died in 2008.

The columnist in the piece I read asked people to send in one piece of  advice they wished to share with their children.

“One?” I thought, “That’s impossible.”

We humans love to give advice. We have whole magazines full of advice on how to parent better, how to lose weight, how to be sexier, how to clean your house.  And then there are books and movies and talk shows full of advice. Every month professional advice givers are coming up with new suggestions for us; people like Oprah (the almighty advice giver), Dr. Oz (who makes me want to run out and buy vats of disinfectant), and Charlie Sheen (who also makes me want to run out and buy vats of disinfectant).  Just please don’t take any instructions from that horrid Snookie person on MTV.

I realized that, thanks to all the media and wise people who have gone before me such as Randy Pausch, Dr. Seuss and Kenny Rogers, all the good advice has already been given. (What? You never thought of Kenny Rogers as a philosopher?)

“Do not tell people how to live their lives. Just tell them stories. And they will figure out how those stories apply to them.” (Randy Pausch).

 “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” (Dr. Seuss).

“You better know when to fold them, know when to hold them, know when to walk away and know when to run…”  (The great Kenny Rogers, he is as of this writing still alive, although his plastic surgery debacle is awful!)

“Man,” I thought. “That’s not fair! Those people got to give a lot of advice! Not just one piddly little piece, lots!”

So…then I thought, I have some life knowledge I would like to share, but I can’t narrow all that valuable insight down to just one thing! Forty or fifty things maybe, but not one! I mean, who can only give ONE piece of advice?  Especially someone like me; I am a woman, a parent and a psychologist. That combination SCREAMS advice giving!

So, after mulling it over for some time, I managed to condense my infinite wisdom down to just three crucial life recommendations I would like to now pass on to the next generation.

Get your pens and paper ready!

Teeth, Feet, Fly.

When I was in college, a friend and I had a rule that when we were out and went to the ladies room, before returning to the table (or the bar), we were to check our teeth (for wayward pieces of food that might be stuck in there), feet (for a piece of toilet paper that might be trailing on the bottom) and fly (to make certain it was properly fastened).

Simple, basic, straightforward advice.

And while you are at it, teeth, feet and fly can also be expanded to looking after other proper hygiene issues such as brush, floss, deodorize, and wash. If you smell bad and look bad, you won’t get in the door: not for a date, not for a job.

This advice may help get you in but the rest is up to you.  (Such as look people in the eye, without being creepy.  Smile and answer them when they talk to you.)

And don’t forget to discreetly tell your friends when they have something in their teeth, or if their fly is down.  Wouldn’t you want to know? Isn’t that what a true friend does? Tells you when something is not quite right? Helps you out when you are in a jam?

(See how I managed to sneak in a lot of advice there? It’s a mom trick.)

Never Say Never.

Never Say Never.

Not as in a, “fight for what you want, and stand up for yourself” Justin Bieber sort of thing, (What? You never heard the Bieber song, “Never Say Never?” You obviously don’t have a teenage girl).

Although that’s all good and true, and you should stick to your guns and not give up (sneaking in more mom advice here), what I mean is never say, “I would never do that!” Because the truth is, we don’t know what we would do, or not do in certain situations. What words we might say, or how we might act.

I am not saying you shouldn’t have your beliefs, or values, those are important, but just realize there are situations in life in which we all become strangers to ourselves, and do and say things we may not recognize.  And if you say, ‘I would never do that,” in a judgmental way about someone else’s behavior and then later do something similar….it’s just awkward for everyone (Ted Haggard).

And, no matter what, when you are a parent don’t ever say, “My kid would never do that!” That is like the kiss of death! Once you look at someone else’s child’s antics and say, “Oh my God, my child would never do that!” I can pretty much guarantee you; your kid is going to do whatever it is… or worse.

Marry the one who makes you laugh the most.

Forget the one who your friends think is the cutest, or the one your parents think will be the most successful.  Life is long, trying and tiring at times.

Marry the one who makes you laugh the most.

Marry the one who makes you giggle at the most improper times.

Who makes you smile at the same time you are crying.

The one who makes you see the absurdity in all of it all: in life, in others, in yourself.

The one who makes you laugh when you come home from an important job interview in tears and tell him/her that you just realized that you had some leftover green thing from lunch  in your teeth the entire time.

Or who makes you smile inappropriately when you catch his eye in the middle of a serious school meeting regarding your child’s less than stellar behavior.

Marry the one who brings you joy, instead of flowers.

(Unless you are lucky like me and find someone with all of those aforementioned qualities, then go for it of course.)

So there it is.

My three pieces of advice  for the next generation.

Now it is you chance. What three important things do you want to say to your children, or family, or friends, or dogs before you go?

If you had three pieces of wisdom to pass on, what would they be?

There is no guarantee anyone will listen but I bet the next time you go the restroom you will remember Teeth, Feet and Fly….

A Cool Change

Glove box with owner's manual.

Image via Wikipedia

This writing thing is fun…and a bit scary. It is scary to put your thoughts out there for all the world to see, to be scrutinized and critiqued, but you know what…I am 45, so screw it! It’s time to live dangerously. (I am such a rebel.)

“Forty is the old age of youth.  Fifty is the youth of old age.” French Proverb.

My Readers Digest Contest is still going, the contest goes until November 15 so please vote a few more times! Or…enter yourself.  You might get hooked like me. (If you vote for me, I’ll vote for you…)

http://apps.facebook.com/yourlifecontest/node/

(If you highlight this address, right-click, go to the site and go to Editor’s Picks, you should see my entry (Sunday Car Ride, Anne Sawan)

I actually just entered another competition put out by Writers Digest. This one is a story of 750 or less, and the topic is, “You are pulled over for speeding and when you open your glove compartment to get out your registration, something important falls out.”

http://www.writersdigest.com/editor-blogs/promptly/your-story-prompts/your-story-3

Pretty interesting, right? Could be a lot of things: a hotel receipt, a can of forgotten Spaghettios, a photo of someone, a report card, an overdue library book, that lost check you and your spouse fought over, your child’s pet hamster…anything…

Funny where writing takes you if you let it. Sometimes you start off thinking one thing and end up with a completely different story.  I sometimes feel like it controls me more than I control it.

This story is a bit different for me as I usually write children’s books, so we will see how it goes. I think it is good to challenge yourself once in a while. Change things up. Why not try your hand at it, let those creative juices flow, see where it leads you…

The Letter

The blue and white lights flashing in my eyes made me dizzy, and the starched grey pants pressed against my car door made me sick.

I held my breath, hoping he wouldn’t be able to smell the scent of alcohol. It had only been two, three, maybe three and a half or four glasses of wine.

“Registration please.”

I leaned over and opened the glove compartment,

Papers spilled out: old car registrations I had never thrown away, a few parking passes from the university, some gum wrappers.

I bent down, hoping to find a piece of forgotten gum to cover up the smell of the wine, and I saw it.

White with just a tinge of blue.

Bile began bubbling up in my throat.

The evidence of my cowardice.

The note I wrote to Jimmy.

We had met freshmen year in college. He sat behind me in chemistry class. I noticed him right away because he had this terribly annoying way of slurping his coffee, and because his big brown eyes made it all okay.

Fridays we went to Copperfields. The cigarette smoke was always thick and the place smelled like spilled beer and old sweat.  It was fall in Boston, if there was a Red Sox’s game the television would be on. I watched, I cheered. Jimmy grabbed me, sliding his hand behind my neck, and pulled me close.

Everything was changed in that one drunken moment in that small, smelly bar. After college we moved into a cramped basement apartment. Jimmy sailed through law school; I struggled to complete my doctorate.  Jimmy sat up with me as I typed away. He listened to me complain about my Goddamn professors and my useless research.  He wouldn’t let me quit, even when I cried. He would just shake his head, and quietly put the cups in the dishwater.

When my dissertation was completed, my cap and gown were on; he popped a bottle of champagne, got down on one knee, and asked me to be with him forever. I said yes.

We had sugar spun autumn leaves on our cream cheese frosted carrot cake and traveled to Africa for our honeymoon. We loved each other, we breathed in each other, we were each other.

I started my new position teaching at the university after we returned, becoming one of the hated professors I had complained about so bitterly. We bought a small house in the suburbs, Jimmy cut the grass, I painted the bathroom Seashell Blue, then Sienna Red, then back to Seashell Blue.  Jimmy wrapped his legs around mine one night and whispered, “Let’s have a baby.”

He pressed his knee into mine under the conference table.  I didn’t move.  His fingers touched mine in the elevator. I didn’t resist.  He held an umbrella over my head as we walked across campus. Then he asked me out for drink, after work. I knew what he meant; I saw it in his eyes. That’s how it began. Then came the stolen kisses in the hallway, afternoons in hidden places.  He urged me to say goodbye, to end it quickly, for Jimmy’s sake.

I stopped at the mall on the way home. There were cards for everything: cards for births, for deaths, for marriages, and anniversaries, holiday cards, leaving work cards, broken legs cards…but no, “I am going to break your heart” cards.  No cards to say, “Goodbye, I am a cheater. I am a coward. I need to go…”

I bought a card with a teal and gold peacock spread across the front, wordless inside.

I filled it with the empty language of “I am sorry,” “I don’t know what happened,” “You deserve better.”  I slipped it into the white with a blue tinge envelope.  I would put the card on the table for him to see.

I pulled up to the house. There was a police car parked outside and an officer standing on the newly painted front porch.

I slipped the card into my glove compartment.

“Mrs. Cummings?” he said, stepping carelessly onto the lawn my husband had fertilized and watered so lovingly the day before.

“I am sorry Ma’am. There has been an accident. Your husband… his car… off the road…So sorry.”

The policeman came back to the car, handed me my registration.

“I am letting you go with a warning.  Watch the speed please.”

I sat there trembling, the taste of cheap wine rising in my throat and I began to vomit.