Pan’s Labyrinth visits Shadows on the Sound

Hello friends!

Here is a link to the most recent episode of Shadows on the Sound, a podcast hosted by authors Camela Thompson and Z.D. Gladstone. (They’re a lot of fun!) I visited their show and discussed the dark-yet-beautiful film Pan’s Labyrinth.

Warning: There are many spoilers for the movie’s plot, as we discuss the film in details! There might also be a bit of adult language.

Bonus: I talk about a creepy toy from my childhood.



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I come from the place of ice blue mountains that enclose me like crowned walls.

I dream of green forests that smell of possibility.


I am the child who found warmth under a gold lamp as I

huddled with musty books beneath a gray cloud blanket.


I come from a house filled with singing, shouting.

Laughter in one breath, tears in the next.


I come from a proud line of women

with bright eyes, large hearts

power and beauty grasped in each hand.


I come from a clan of mothers who fight for their children

hold on to them tightly, and never let go.


My world comes from music, rhythm

Beats that move feet into air.


I come from cinnamon rubbed with garlic on chicken,

of milk in a pot on the stove when I can’t sleep,

applesauce and lime soda when I’m sick on the couch.


I come from a land of soft words, cold hands, and the wish for a friend.

My safe place is the one I built. Made with

Barbies and model horses, plastic tigers and dinosaurs.


I come from a series of passport stamps,

riding in the back seat with my brother,

sharing a bed, tasting strange food,

trying to shape the foreign words on my tongue.


I come from early mornings spent with my mom

Dry paintbrush in hand

As I fancy I’m painting our Persian carpet.


I come from afternoons spent screaming

Wishing my parents would see I was ready to date.


I come from fierce love and overabundant piles of words.

From snow’s fresh excitement and summer’s fleeting glory

Twined in emerald grass and sapphire lakes.


I come from dozens of cousins who fill my family

With babies and noise and drama drama drama.


I come from a world as broken as it is beautiful.


I come from a light-streaked darkness where I must let tears pass through

I come from living without the answers I want.


I come from two parents, two siblings, more good times than bad.

I come from optimism that shoves against winter-black depression.


I come from my grandma’s crossword marathons,

my grandpa’s wild garage of inventions.


I come from spaghetti all over my face and orange popsicles under the cherry tree.


I am the child of all of these things.

I come from a hundred places. I come from my home.

I come from the life that came to me.

Lift Your Glasses, Lift Your Hearts


It’s a calm contentment, this feeling inside.

(That isn’t exactly the vibe my picture is giving you. I was striking a confident pose at the time)

The calm contentment comes later, now that the emotional confetti has settled from the air.

The third novel waits alongside its brothers in my home’s Harry Potter closet (we have a fantastic cupboard under the stairs!) nestled in its box, filled with the words that I hope will ignite and capture the imagination of many minds yet to read it.

This past weekend I threw a large party to celebrate the book’s “birth.” (I’ll admit I don’t think I’ll ever lose the Baby Analogy for this sort of thing.) We designed it to be as fun as possible.

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Having fun talking and eating!

There was a tea table with scones and cucumber-cream cheese sandwiches, an assortment of tea and lemonade, cold ham and fruit.

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Baby Michael is awed by the fresh flowers my friend Carrie brought. Me too!

I gave a short speech and talked about how I’d threatened this year to take a break from writing, and how my community of friends had strongly protested. I talked about making plans for my future and getting thrown a curve ball. I choked up.

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You see that cucumber sandwich on her plate! Delicious! Thanks, Scott!

My family’s a capella quartet sang a few songs. You know what’s fun? Surprising friends who think they know you. Lots of people told me afterwards, with big grins, that they’d no idea I sang in a quartet. I love the sound of blending musical notes with my mom and my siblings. For a moment our hearts and our voices are one.

There was a photo booth with costumes so that guests could snap a picture of themselves being silly and putting on fantastical guises. (I brought my husband’s Claymore sword. There was a belly dancing skirt and an Elizabethan veil and lots of cool hats. Let’s just say the costumes rocked.)

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“Is this the peak? Are you on top of the mountain right now?” a friend asked me. She’d called me a supermom, noting everything I’d done to get this book out there while staying home to care for my son. Honestly, I think all moms are pretty super. I was happy. I was excited to see everyone. But it didn’t feel like the “high” of my first book. It felt like something more familiar. Something less mysterious, but no less valuable.

It wasn’t about sales (Friend: “Is your book on the New York Bestseller list yet?” Me: Heh. No.”)

It wasn’t about popularity. I invited a bunch of friends, but I didn’t chase down RSVPs. The ones who thought it was important made a point to come.

It was about doing something I needed to do and allowing others to celebrate it with me. I admitted that writing a book and dealing with the business of publishing was incredibly difficult. My son has tried to physically push me away from my laptop when I’m in the midst of dashing off an email.

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But I also knew that if I didn’t write at all, I’d be going a different kind of crazy. Not to mention the inevitable mush if would make of my brain…

Lastly, but by no means least, I realized at this launch party how deeply indebted I am to the throng of friends who raise their hands to help me.

I had about ten folks helping me set up the house before guests arrived. They polished silver, lit candles, arranged food, brewed coffee, laid out costumes, connected sound-systems, manned the books table, and laughed and loved on me in a dozen ways that were invisible to me as I rushed around.

My heart was gladdened by the love and delight I saw in so many faces.

These people were proud of me. They were joyful with me.

It wasn’t about the book itself, though I’m assured that the book is good (by somewhat biased sources). It was more because I’d written the book and they wanted to be happy with me.

It’s a beautiful distinction.

Thank you for toasting to me and Guardian of the Gold Breathers, my friends! That you for lifting my heart with the hope you have for my future. Thank you for another safe delivery of a written work into the great big world!

I just love this guy.

I just love this guy.

She’s Got Everything Figured Out (NOT)

red-shoe-4-1307923-640x480“I was really intimidated by you.” A friend once told me this.

Actually, a lot of people have said it. I guess I make a killer first impression that says:

“I’ve figured out how to do life. I’ve got my act together. I’m beautiful and powerful and intelligent.”

Heh. On my good days, maybe.

Let’s not forget that I also studied acting in college (full confession for those who don’t know: I’m the first-born child of an actress. You think I *don’t* know how to project an impression?)

I don’t mean to say all you see is a carefully-crafted facade. The reality is that no matter how lovely or competent I look, I’m dragging a train behind me of fears, weaknesses, and a broken heart.

This year especially was the year of broken hearts.

Two babies lost. Two enormous waves of hope that crashed down on the rocks. More pain and despair and awful dark thoughts than I ever thought I’d walk through. And now, perhaps a a result, I see the pain pf others more clearly.

The woman who burns with loneliness and yearns only to see more of her family while her body’s physical ailments confine her to limited movement. The man who had his life prepared to marry the woman he loved, only to receive the shocking and startling “no” that changed everything. The woman who has all the patience, love, and affection to be a fantastic mother who has discovered her body needs massive medical intervention just to have the chance of getting pregnant.

Pain has passed before my eyes before, but in so many ways I saw each instance as an outsider. Compassion welled up in my heart, but now, with my own deep grief, I’m finding that a new empathy flows.

I didn’t want this empathy. I’m not going to say “Oh yay! Now I’ll be glad for everything I went through, because I see how it all adds up!”

On my thankful days, I’m grateful that I can cradle the bitterness of my struggling friends and family, rocking them and pondering with understanding. On the bad days, I’m an impatient, raging mess filled with exclamations of “This isn’t fair!” and “What is the point?” and sometimes, in the darkest moments, “Why can’t I just die now?”

Do you know what takes courage? Finding reasons to laugh when all you want to do is curl up in a dark room. Dancing with your husband (alternate version: dancing with your baby/toddler on your hip) instead of staring at a blank wall. Forcing yourself to not hide from the people whose happiness makes you feel miserable, but also being gentle enough to know when you need your space to recover.

My dad’s side of the family speaks Arabic. The word “habibi” is a term of endearment that translates as “beloved.” When we say it to my son, he thinks we’re saying “Hi, Baby!” It’s these things that remind me to smile. They lead me back, slowly but surely, in steps toward a road that’s lit by hope and joy.

So many things worthy of gratitude pass us every day in life, yet one large vacuum of pain can tear it all away.

For me, choosing to be thankful and to trust God to help me with the challenges I’ll face is a daily meditation. I can only hope that it will help me launch the day with the strength I need to finish it without sliding back into the darkness.

“Wow, Elise, maybe you don’t have it all together.” Yep. That’s the point. I don’t.

So give hugs liberally. Say kind things as often as you can. Offer hope and brightness in your conversations and your emails and your texts. You never know what impact your words and love will make, or what hurting heart will receive them.

Launch Day! Guardian of the Gold Breathers is here!

Fireworks and trumpets! The day has arrived when I get to share this new book with you!

By way of introduction, I thought want to share the mosaic of my life experiences that helped compose this story.

My main character, Liam Finley, is a boy looking for his courage, trying to do what’s right, and growing to understand what it means to be a man.

Events in my own childhood interweave through Liam’s story.




I lost a baby brother when I was two years old.

At my early, tender age I stepped into the role of loving my parents and being a little “light” to help them bear the grief when all they really wanted to do was crawl into a corner and disappear.

This wish for a sibling who I didn’t have appears in the story. I wrote about a boy who had no siblings who discovers he has a brother-friend waiting for him in a magical country.


My story tumbled into the green fields and forests of Ireland, perhaps because of my Celtic blood from my mother, or perhaps because the folk tales of this wild country beckoned my story to run free inside of it.


Songs and the singing of songs are a fiber knit tightly around my heart. Irish songs especially make me want to dance and cry (sometimes at the same time). I’ve spent my whole life singing with my family, and this spurred me to fill the book with scraps of Irish songs.


I tried my hand at writing my own song to go along with this story. Liam dreams of being a hero worthy of protecting small, innocent creatures.

The following is a rough draft that I dug out of a notebook. The original title was The Heart of a King.



These pieces made up just some of the project

that became the short story

that became the manuscript

that became the novel

that became the published book.



Twelve-year-old Liam Finley doesn’t expect anything good when he is forced to move from Dublin to his stepfather’s large country house on the edge of the wild woods. But after the first night there, Liam abandons his fears of dreary boredom when he discovers that fairy tales haunt his new home. Has he truly discovered a dragon egg?

The house’s old blind gardener Michael Moran claims to know Liam’s secret destiny, which lies in an enchanted Otherworld. He says Liam is the next Guardian of the Gold Breathers, a champion of dragons.

Time is not on Liam’s side. Can he complete his three tasks to prove himself as Guardian before the paths close between his world and the Guardian’s land? Liam wants to believe the mysterious tales of Michael, but should he instead seek shelter in the practical kindness of Hannah, the housekeeper who calls Michael’s stories “rubbish”? Liam’s heart tells him to trust the things of magic, but it’s the humans he can’t be sure about.


Click here to purchase GUARDIAN OF THE GOLD BREATHERS (Print and eBook versions available)


Thank you for witnessing this little book’s “birth”!

I’m delighted to share it with you.







Here it is! This is the glorious, beautiful cover design that will grace the front of my newest novel, which will be available in both print and ebook on October 15, 2015!

Isn’t it beautiful? My cover designer, Amalia Chitulescu is a very talented woman.

There are many elements of the story woven into this cover design, but if I were to tell them to you, it would ruin part of the story…

I will say, even though it sounds so simple, I just love the little sparks of light hovering in the air amidst the dark forest. They are perfect for many reasons, and they set the mood exactly the way I want them to.

Stay tuned for more announcement on the birth of this book.

Publication day is almost here, my friends!

Sugar Scars: An Interview


This woman had a tough job when the world ended. Seriously.

I have the honor of interviewing the main character of the novel SUGAR SCARS today. I met Travis Norwood through our mutual fate as writers in Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp. Travis has gone on to publish his first novel since then. I read it, enjoyed it, and wanted to do something fun with Travis and the book on this blog. I asked if I could interview his character, Sugar, and he agreed.

I think Sugar had a slightly different sentiments.





THE INTERVIEW: Elise Stephens talks to Sugar


  1. You decided to ditch your given name and to go by “Sugar” in the new community that was left behind after the virus destroyed almost everyone in the world. How does it feel to change your name? Do you feel like you’ve become a different person, or that you’re the same person with just a small detail changed?


How did you know that? If you know it somehow, don’t tell anyone my old name.

Anyway I’m glad we got you on the radio. I didn’t think this thing would work from Tallahassee to Seattle. Listen, I’m gonna die if …

Hold on a minute.


Okay. Ralph said I’m being rude and should answer your question. Sorry. I’m not good with people.

Um … I’m glad to change my name. I hated the old one. I don’t know what my parents were thinking. What was the other part?

Oh yeah. I’m a completely different person. Before I couldn’t stand the sight of blood, except for the ten thousand pricks on my finger that diabetics have to do. Now I’ve had to … well I’ve had to see a lot of blood. Let’s just leave it at that.

Anyway, I need—


  1. The desire to survive is a force that is so strong in humans, we never get tired of hearing stories about other humans fighting against the odds to live. You decided to dedicate a ton of time and risk and effort to try to make insulin so that you could live with your diabetes after your supply expired. What was going through your head when you made this decision? Did you have anything you focused on to help you keep pushing even when results were discouraging?

What do you think was going through my head? I didn’t want to die!

And the results are discouraging now. Making insulin is complicated and I haven’t even figured out the simplest first step. I’ve got to learn how to get a pancreas out of pig. You think it would be simple, but have you ever look at the raw insides of a pig you’ve just cut open? It’s nothing like the clean, bloodless pictures in the anatomy books. That’s why we’re contacting people on this radio. I need to know if there’s anybody up there in Seattle that can—


  1. There are a lot of things that disappear from society when just about everyone dies. One in ten thousand people survived this illness. That’s a lot of people dead. But some stuff remains. What did you notice about the people in the society that was left? What did they all still decide was important? What did they decide wasn’t worthwhile anymore?


Why do you keep interrupting me with these questions?

And it’s 1 in 9,600. Get the numbers right. Numbers matter.

I’m done. This is pointless.


Sorry. I’m back. I guess this has been hard and you’re probably just lonely. I forget how this has affected other people sometimes. I’m fine with being alone. The loss of people hardly phased me. My problem was the loss of insulin.


I’ll answer your questions, but please answer mine when you’re done.


What did I notice about the people in the society that was left? I thought it would be all Mad Max or The Walking Dead, but it’s not. The people left are just lonely and hurting from all the loss. There’s no reason for people to fight for resources. Everything is in vast supply. I’m sure it’s that way in Seattle too. I calculated that there are at least five full grocery stores per person. And thousands of houses to choose from. Well, if you don’t mind clearing out the dead bodies.


We all realized pretty quickly that materials and money had no meaning anymore. The only rare resource was people. And that’s part of my problem. Making insulin takes skills that I don’t have. That’s why we’re trying to find someone that can —


  1. You described yourself as not wanting to spend much time around other people before the virus struck. Then, after it had devastated the globe, you found yourself enjoying the companionship of the few people you encountered. How would you say your perspective shifted?

Before the virus I thought my desire for other people was zero. It turns out that was wrong. It’s a non-zero value. Small, but definitely above zero.


And then I realized that I needed people. Not in the emotional way. Physically. Mentally. You take for granted all the things that civilization does for you, until it’s gone. I curse myself every day for not learning more for the brief time that the internet still worked after the virus hit. Have you ever tried to learn something from a library? It’s literally about five thousand times slower than just googling. Researching how to make insulin would have taken a few hours or days with the internet. I spent weeks pouring through book after book.


And that mainly taught me that I need someone with expertise. Do you have anyone in Seattle that can —


  1. You’ve faced a ton of terrifying situations (I’m not going to detail them all here because I want people to read the book!) and what you’ve faced leads me to the conclusion that you’re an extremely gutsy, dauntless woman. Then again, I know everyone has their fears. What would you say you’re most afraid of?

Book? What are talking about? Have you read my journals? Those are for people to read after I’m gone. Which won’t be long if I can’t make insulin.


I guess I was most afraid of the first step. I stood holding a gun to the head of an unsuspecting pig, knowing that I would have to cut him open and find the one tiny part I needed in all his bloody flesh. The pancreas.


You know what I’m most afraid of now? You’ll never guess.


Dying. I don’t think you understand. If I don’t figure out how to —


  1. If you could give advice to someone who has just stepped into a world devastated by some disaster similar to the virus, what would you tell this person?


Advice? Don’t be a type 1 diabetic.


  1. Anything else you want to say?



Please help me. I’m going to die if I can’t make insulin. Are there any doctors in Seattle? Someone who could extract a pancreas from a pig and help me through all the steps to refine the insulin.


Hello? Are you there?




If you enjoyed this or found yourself intrigued, take a look at Sugar Scars. Here’s some more about the book and about Travis.

sugarscarsLiving after the apocalypse really isn’t that hard for most of the survivors. The virus killed all but 1 in 10,000. The few remaining people are left in a world of virtually unlimited resources. Grocery stores overflowing with food and drink. Thousands of empty houses to pick from.

But one survivor, a nineteen-year-old girl, requires more than simple food, water and shelter. As a type 1 diabetic her body desperately needs insulin to stay alive. With civilization gone, no one manufactures it anymore. She hoards all the insulin she can find, but every day marches toward the end of her stash of vials. She has a choice. Accept her fate and death, or tackle the almost insurmountable task of extracting and refining the insulin herself.

Brilliant scientists struggled to make the first insulin. What hope does a high school dropout have?


ProfilePictureTravis Norwood lives in Montgomery, Alabama with his wife and five children. Like in Sugar Scars, he would be perfectly happy living in a world emptied of almost all people. But not you, of course. He sincerely hopes you survive the apocalypse.

Ways to connect with Travis:

twitter: @travislnorwood



Walk with Me


Grief is a deep pit. My whole family fell into it this year. Most recently last month.

None of my friends can pull me up out of that dark place.

And yet, a brave soul can climb down into the sadness with me and stand there, holding my hand and even supporting my frame so that I don’t fall over. If you are someone who isn’t sure how to comfort someone in deep sadness, read this loving post about when life is too painful for words. I’d call it pretty much perfect.

It’s easy to feel helpless when we see someone caught up in sorrow. That’s why I really value the people who jump in to help me by assisting with the stuff they know they can make easier.

echinacea flowerCooking meals. It’s uses up a constant stream of energy. I’m not consumed with debilitating weakness that confines me to the couch, but when my life is pock-marked with moments of heart-ache and grief, planning food for the table is harder.

A bunch of friends pooled together money and sent me a Munchery gift card to deliver nice meals that just needed a little heating before being served. I got the email notification as I was shopping for groceries with my son. I had to pull over in the dog food aisle because I was crying. My son does not know what happy tears are. He desperately wanted me to stop.

roses_rzSharing gifts and words of encouragement. The afternoon of the day I received the gift card, someone knocks at my door and delivers an exquisite basket of professionally-arranged white flowers. There’s a note with it that reads:

Dear Elise,

We’re thinking of you. We love you and stand with you. We’re praying for you and want to be here for you.

Please let us know how we can continue to help and support you guys.

It’s signed by my writer’s group.

bouquet_rzThat same week a friend asks if he can bring us a meal and delivers a bounty of organic, fresh food from a local deli, along with cookies, sparkling water, and a bouquet of flowers, cookies. I had to put down a red and white checkered tablecloth to honor the meal. It was absolutely beautiful.

Helping with childcare. I mentioned to a friend that my husband and I could use time to ourselves, to process and grieve and just be together without the responsibility of caring for our son. She immediately organized a team of people to volunteer to babysit the kiddo.

I got to sit in the sunshine and read and write in my journal. My brain began a slow climb out of the fog. My husband and I ate dinner in the outdoor garden of an Italian restaurant. The healing season began.

I have cried oh-so-many times, but I have not felt as though I was alone and drowning.

Because of my friends. Because of my family. This is really going to be okay.

Please swallow your pride

If I have things you need to borrow

For no one can fill those of your needs.

That you won’t let show.

(Lean on Me)

Book Review: The Art of Asking


Let’s start with the personal stuff.

When someone asks me, Elise, for help, when they point to something I’m good at and ask if I’d be willing to donate my expertise toward launching their dreams, my answer is almost always YES.


I’m not talking here about strangers offering to rip off my services in exchange for “experience.” On the other hand, I honestly think it’s dangerously arrogant to put a price tag on every ounce of effort that I’m willing to give. Yes, I should value my time and effort, but I should also value and love and celebrate my friends who are wrestling to bring their art and work into the open.

It takes a village to raise a child and it takes a village to birth a novel, a gallery exhibition, a dissertation, a music album, and a theatrical production. And I never forget the people who help me. I want to help them in return.

Now to the book at hand.

Amanda Palmer’s book The Art of Asking is more than a how-to-ask-friends-for-help guide. It’s a personal journey of the wonderful payoffs and embarrassing mishaps of a process she’s perfected through trial and error and piles of harrowing vulnerability.

She has learned that trusting her friends and fans implicitly–with her safety, her belongings, her food, and even her places to sleep—comes always with a risk, but even more, comes with an overwhelming outrush of love as her community rises to the occasion.

There will always be someone ready to hurt, steal, or cheat us. But Amanda uses overwhelming evidence that the majority of people genuinely want to help out, honor, and protect her/us/artists.

It’s not an unbreakable rule, and it’s not a method for the faint of heart. Trusting others and letting them catch you (like literal crowd-surfing. But the rewards, I dare say, are deep and wide.

This book is a collection of anecdotes, beginning with Amanda’s first “gig” as a living statue in Boston. She posed as an eight-foot tall bride statue and gave away flowers to the audience. She connected, made eye contact, and silently loved the people who ventured forward to give her a dollar, a note, a token. She learned to view this as an exchange, not as a street artist busking/begging for money.

This has made all the difference in her art and its future.

Later, as Amanda formed her punk cabaret duo, The Dresden Dolls, this same willingness to ask and give and receive between herself and her fans carried her far into the hearts of those who loved her and loved her music.

It wasn’t just a cold exchange of ticket sales and a performer who stood far off on a stage, out of reach in every way. When signing after a show, she often stood up and hugged her fans, comforting, celebrating, and joining them in wherever they were in their life.

Amanda details her journey of falling in love with writer Neil Gaiman, their dating, their marriage, and along with this the fights and dynamics and struggles of learning how to drop her pride and ask even her husband for help when she needs funds to cover a tight spot.

On a personal aside—this relationship was a delightful process to witness, since I’ve been an avid admirer of Neil Gaiman and his work since I first discovered Anansi Boys in college.

Palmer also portrays her close friendship with her mentor, Anthony, and how his love and wisdom guided and grounded her all the way up to this man’s own encounter with a debilitating illness that finally rendered it Amanda’s turn to be the strong one to lean on.

We get to see it all in this book: The world tours, the shows, the ninja-gigs that Amanda creates, plans and enacts overnight, using her Twitter fan-base. It’s a breathtaking wonder to behold.

And yet, there’s nothing braggy or “I’ve-figured-it-all-out” in this book. Amanda has set world records with her success in crowd-funding (via Kickstarter) her own music album at a never-before-seen level and she’s done it through making connections with her fans and loving them in a courageous, brazen way.

I love her vulnerability.

I love her willingness to trust people over and over again. I love her willingness to use herself as a conduit to build a wide-spanning net that unites humanity together in compassion, understanding, and a willingness to pitch in however they can to make something bigger than themselves.

Question: Who should read this book? Answer: Anyone who has trouble asking for help. Anyone who loves to read a victorious, honest, and sometimes hilariously rendered account of an artist’s journey (I laughed out loud and wept during my reading). Anyone aching to be inspired. Anyone who would like a jolt of hope injected into their faith in humanity. Anyone who is a fan of Amanda Palmer’s music. Anyone who feels frightened of reaching out of his/her comfort zone and would enjoy a gentle push.

Hopefully that covers most of you. This is a fantastic book. I recommend it highly.

P.S. For those of you who regularly visit my blog, the quote from the Velveteen Rabbit that I used on my previous Becoming Real post was also used in this book. It’s child-like view of pain was salve to my grieving heart and I owe Amanda my thanks for it.

Becoming Real



The rabbit sighed. He thought it would be a long time before this magic called Real happened to him. He long to become Real, to know what it felt like: and yet the idea of growing shabby and losing his eyes and whiskers was rather sad. He wished that he could become it without these uncomfortable things happening to him.

-The Velveteen Rabbit


My Dad inflates a green latex glove, tapes a smiley face and eyes onto it, then stands it upright on my bedside table with a plastic clip. The smiley glove-doll wobbles beneath the vase of colored roses that my mom has brought for me. I have just left the recovery ward following my emergency surgery. My family is with me. They are standing by me in the midst of this wild grief storm.

Before the surgery itself, a woman came by with a clipboard and asked if I had a living will or a power of attorney document. No. I didn’t. But I knew why she was asking: in case I died or got stuck in an unresponsive state. A little later, the surgeon commented that my heart rate was pretty fast–you could hear it bleeping frantically on the monitor. Of course it was fast. I’d just realized there was a chance I could die. I ask the medical staff to leave and then I cling on to James’ hand and weep as I apologize for how I don’t appreciate him enough. He’s a tender, attentive husband and I take him for granted. We say we love each other. Then I go into the surgery.

We’d arrived at the hospital at 4am earlier that day. I’d been bleeding for almost ten hours, hoping I wouldn’t have to resort to anything further, but then I get light-headed and I know my blood-loss has surpassed safe levels. Right before the nurses get me into bed, I am screaming that I’m on the verge of passing out. Deja vu. I’ve been here before. The ER doctor tells me that my miscarriage has caused me to bleed too much and they need to perform an emergency D&C to stop the blood loss.

In the depths of my sorrow, I’m tempted to mark this year, 2015, as the year that two of my babies died. A year of pain and waiting and broken hopes. But I don’t want to remember it that way. This grief will not become my master-label.

2015 was the year I turned my birthday party into a Broadway musical sing-a-long. It was the year my baby boy became a toddler. It was the year I watched with pride as my sister graduated from university. It was the year I pushed myself to write something larger and more difficult than I’d ever written, while still taking care of my son full-time. It was the year that I identified mama-hood and writing as two huge priorities in my life. It will be the year that I release my third novel. 2015 is not a year worth burying in a deep hole. But, nevertheless it is a year cut through with deep shafts of sadness.

I wrote the following meditation, based on a pslam, before the bleeding began. I wrote it in the lobby as I waited for the ultrasound that would confirm that my baby no longer had a heartbeat.


Jesus is taking me on the road laid out for me

He won’t withhold anything that I need

He presses my head to a cool pillow for rest from my sobbing

He holds my hand and shows me the gentle babble of the water, tinged by sunrise gold

He touches my heart and fills the wound-gaps

He takes me to these healing places because he is good

As the darkness swallows my hope, Jesus lays out new blessings for me

Even though I walk with broken spirit through the gravestones of my babies,

It’s not a sign that I’m unloved

Jesus is with me, weeping, and supporting me from a collapse

He will continue being faithful, good, and merciful to me for as long as I live

And I’ll be his beloved daughter and part of his family. Always.


I don’t pretend to understand how this new death fits into a greater plan for good. I know God promises to use all things that happen to his children for a good purpose, and some part of me believes that. My biggest struggle is to not choke on the lies and fears that swirl through my head, doubting I’ll ever have another living baby. They’re lies.

I believe we’ll conceive again and have a healthy birth. My son is a testament that it is completely possible.

For now, I am trying to heal physically and emotionally, attempting existence one day at a time. As always, the love of my friends, family, and community have been my lifeline. I’m always astonished when love reaches a new level. My pastor rewrote his sermon for this last Sunday in order to deliver a message of hope and life to my family. I wept nearly non-stop through the entire church service.

I am loved.

My heart is broken but it will slowly come back together. My husband isn’t going anywhere. My son is smarter and more fun to play with each and every day. My friends are bringing me meals and offering to watch my Guppy so that James and I can have time to ourselves to process this.

The web of love tightens around me, making sure I don’t fall. At first I was numb and filled with dark thoughts. Then a ray of light slipped through and I trembled because I am weak and frightened but I’m not alone. Now I feel the army of friends who are standing around me, being strong on my behalf, looking ahead of me and promising that my future is not steeped in black.

To everyone who’s already heard this news, thank you for your prayers, thoughts, messages, and kind words. To anyone learning of this for the first time, I appreciate all prayers and thoughts you want to send my way.


The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18