I awoke with a feeling of anticipation and a sick feeling of guilt - always the guilt. Today we were slipping away to Niagara Falls for some family time and a much needed mental rest for me.
BUT (and this is a big but) my book was not yet finished and my deadline was looming. Like the Angel of Death awaiting my last breath, my self-imposed deadline weighed heavily upon my shoulders.
Then I heard sneezing, followed by tell-tale whining. My 3-year-old son wrapped his arms around my neck when I scooped him out of bed and I felt the unmistakable smear of snot on my cheek as he cuddled close.
He was sick.
Next I heard his twin sister. "Mama, I'm awake," she called out, her sweet voice oddly distorted.
She was sick too.
So, to cancel our trip or not - that was the question. Our hotel was paid for and tickets to Niagara Safari were non-refundable. We decided to take a chance. Amidst sneezing, whining and reams of Kleenex we packed the car.
The 'Street of Fun', Clifton Hill, was a welcome distraction and the fun-house drew nasal shrieks of delight from our heavy-lidded twins. But it was clear they were not feeling well so, after a stroll by the falls, we decided on an early dinner and bed, our fingers crossed that tomorrow would be better. The Rainforest Cafe was on our walk back to the hotel and the kids were instantly mesmerized by the fiber optic star ceiling and the animatronic robots of jungle animals and insects that came to life every few minutes.
Then our daughter vomited; an endless stream of projectile barf that was truly unbelievable. As restaurant patrons recoiled, our waitress - a bright smile pasted to her face - reassured that this 'happens all the time' and placed giant orange cones around our table to warn of the Danger.
Back at the hotel we gently deposited our sleeping daughter on a bed of towels, an improvised barf bucket close by her head. At 3 am I awoke to the wondrous sound of my son's giggles. He was sound asleep but his infectious laughter rang through the dark room. Weird. Upon investigation, we found he'd wet the bed - flooded it in fact. Not a laughing matter at 3am.
With the bed stripped and fresh sheets tucked in, we settled back in. But for me sleep was done. As I listened to the ancient air conditioner cough and sputter, my mind roiled and I reflected on the last several months.
My book - book two, my sequel, Lost to the Mist - hovered at the forefront. Unfinished pages taunted. The familiar sick feeling started in my stomach and spread through me.
I'd released book one, A Thistle in the Mist, in January. Buoyed by a shimmering cloud of success and without a shred of forethought, I publicly announced the forthcoming release of book two for August - a mere 8 months later.
Had I known how the next eight months would unfold, I would not have made such an hasty vow.
In February my twins came to the conclusion that naps were optional. Gone were my two precious hours of writing per day. I began to sleep, drink and eat in unhealthy doses of panic with furious bursts of forced writing far into the night. My mom came to the rescue and offered to babysit each week for a full day of uninterrupted writing. But a health scare for her and a slew of doctor's appointments quickly nixed that generous offer. March flew past and in April my twenty-one-year-old son moved out and into his own apartment. Before the dust settled, the revolving door opened and my twenty-two-year-old son moved home. With no direction and no job, I worried for his future and helped him put together a resume. The end of April brought my first book signing - a night of success and a renewed focus for book two. A sense of urgency filled me and throughout May book two began to take shape. As before, with book one, thoughts of Meara and the highlands of Scotland were never far from my mind. June brought with it the green of summer and I returned to the lake to pursue my love of dragon boating. I was flattered and excited to receive daily emails from my readers asking for a confirmed release date of book two. I continued to delude myself and strove to complete my book by August. At the end of June a job offer literally fell into my lap - a job that would help my family and lighten our financial worries. This new job included marketing and promotions and drove a huge dent into the hours I'd set aside to write. I loved the job but agonized over the loss of my writing time.
Then a few weeks ago the true meaning of my life lurched into perspective. My twenty-one-year-old son showed up at my door. His face was bruised, scraped and swollen. My heart dropped. I went numb as he haltingly confessed to crashing my car. I'd lent him my car while his was in the shop. My car was gone but my son stood before me. Alive. And he felt so good in my arms. I went to the crash site and stared at the telephone pole that stood just a few feet from where my car had come to rest. In that moment I knew an angel had been sitting on my son's shoulder - and on mine.
In the hotel room, as the air conditioner protested loudly and my family slept peacefully, I came to some realizations.
There are things in life you cannot change. I cannot change the number of hours in my day. I cannot change the fact - nor would I - that I have six children who need me each and every day. I cannot change the fact I need a day job to pay the bills. And I cannot change the fact that my deadline has come and gone.
Today I am so thankful to have my family. My car is gone but it can be replaced. My son is still here and he cannot be replaced. The most important things in my life are my family, my friends and my writing. I didn't finish my book on time but I WILL keep writing. Despite my best intentions, I know I have disappointed my readers and I have disappointed myself.
And so I have come to understand I must have been insane - am INDEED insane - to think I could write an entire book in eight months. But as most writers would agree - writing takes a certain degree of insanity. To quote Edgar Allen Poe: 'I became insane with long intervals of horrible sanity.'
As I embrace the insanity of my life, I'd like to apologize to my readers who have been patiently waiting.
Christmas is my new goal and though I cannot predict what the future holds, I will endeavor to complete my story by then.