In honor of May and Mother’s Day, I’m posting a series of guest blogs about Moms-Who-Write. This first one is by one of my daughters, who appears to have survived being raised by a writing mama.
Cowboy Boots by Karen Haueisen Crissinger
My first memory of mom-as-writer was sitting in her lap while she changed the goofball to italics. That was the day I learned the value of taking a minute to set aside work and cuddle the kid. I silently. promised I would always do the same for mine.
My second memory of mom-as-writer was taking her precious papers to proofread. She paid a nickel per mistake, and I learned the value of attention to detail. (And how to get rich quick when my allowance dried up at the 7-Eleven.)
Mandatory Cowboy Boots
When we moved to Texas, I had no idea that Go Texas day meant donning that dirty red bandana and putting on your Sunday cowboy boots. I was distraught that my closet was filled with midwestern saddle shoes and jeans that were neither starched nor pressed. As I cried to mom, she proudly told me she had just sold an article for $45, which was enough to buy my cowboy boots. That day, I learned that doing the little things along the way netted big results.
After our move, mom wrote Married and Mobile. I learned that she was a real person with real feelings. She could be sad and confused. I learned the value of self-care so she could keep being Super Mom. That’s a lesson I REALLY wish I’d remembered far sooner in life, but better late than never.
I knew she had an inner muse. I knew she summoned her daily life when she put goofball to paper. I knew if I did something stupid, I would eventually end up in her Sunday sermon. Me, I wrote diaries. I wrote morning pages inspired by The Artist’s Way. I wrote English papers and book reviews. I wrote long letters (on paper!) to the friends I left behind when I came back to Ohio for college.
And Then I Had Children
I had no idea early on the comedic value of children. The year my daughter whined that there was noooothing to read at the library, and books were soooo boring, we decided as a family to write something she would read. We wrote the humorous tales The Kokopelli Capers, about kids who developed magical powers and saved the universe from an ice storm. Those ideas entertained us all summer and made for many pages. Eventually we moved on to other things, and my visions of the four of us on stage at Good Morning America, lauding our creative greatness, were dashed like the waning days of that summer vacation.
Then came the day I had to teach my twins to plunge a toilet – a lesson that went poorly, at best. Suddenly, an idea was born. I was so proud of myself for mothering that near vomitous experience that the snark book practically wrote itself. I soon determined that other people deserved the benefit of my genetic gift for words and sarcasm. I should write a book! Better, a whole series of books! Other parents should be able to hand my brilliance to their 12-year old children and watch them learn the lessons of life, conveniently packaged in a bright, colorful book that even their 5-year old brothers could read! I found a small publisher and it was off to the races; Big Kids Flush was born. Its sequels, Big Kids Wash the Dishes and Big Kids Chew with Their Mouths Closed, were tucked away awaiting their turns to take Amazon by storm. I would be the next Adam Mansbach. Finally! Good Morning America would have its finger on the call button, begging me to tell the world about my mom’s tremendous influence on my success!
Not As Easy As It Looks
Of course, like most things in life, there was far more work than met the eye. Writing is the expression of an idea into some readable format. Publishing is a whole different ballgame. Shortly after Big Kids Flush hit the digital marketplace, I developed a new level of respect for mom. She worked at it. She workshopped it. She talked about it and read about it and went on retreats in beautiful places to think about it. My ten self-bought copies of my firstborn book sat on the shelf collecting dust, waiting for me to give them as occasional gifts to some other sarcastic parent.
These days, my writing has shifted to my other great creative outlet. Today my ideas are patterns; my words are fabric; my punctuation and grammar are needle and thread. I make my living making stuff, repairing stuff, and altering stuff for other people. Will I write again? Some day. Those lessons I learned at my mother’s knee are deeply ingrained in my soul. I write long, emotional letters to my kids that send them into hiding where no one can see them cry as my words touch the memories of their childhood. I write coherent emails with full words and sentences. I use the Oxford comma in my texts. (Long live the Oxford comma!).
Writers give gifts that no movie producer can replicate. Writers make us feel so deeply we get lost in their words for days. Writers push our imagination to places far beyond our limits. Writers move mountains, speak for the unspoken, and drive change. Writers bring us together at book clubs around the world, sipping wine while trying to dissect the author’s meaning of life.
Nonstop Merry-go-round of ideas
What’s it like growing up with one? It’s a nonstop merry-go-round of ideas and possibilities. It’s a daily desire to make people think and dream and feel. It’s seeing the tiniest grain of sand and the vast expanse of the universe in a simple string of letters. Maybe one day my kids will get the bug and put themselves on paper. Maybe they’ll learn a few lessons about life. Maybe they’ll just “mom” me and roll their eyes while I wax poetic. I mean, I’ve done the same thing once or twice. But in a rare gesture of sincerity, thanks, mom. For all of it.
Karen Haueisen Crissinger resides in Columbus, Ohio with her husband, two stepdaughters, and pictures of her three children who have scattered to exotic places like Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and Arkansas. She aspires to travel the world in search of all the beautiful things there are. She is a lover of the law, hugger of kids, sewer of clothes, writer of words, taker of pictures, and a junkie for Pinterest. If you’re anxiously awaiting the resurgence of the Big Kids Books, please reach out to Karen at facebook.com/bigkidsbooks. For custom creation questions (t-shirt quilts, flower girl dresses, thematic kid clothes, etc.) you can find her at facebook.com/karencrissingercreations. You can also contact Karen directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thank you for taking time to read my daughter’s guest blog. I hope you enjoyed it. If so, please forward it to a friend. If you want to read future weekly blogs about people and programs making helpful contributions to society, sign up at HowWiseThen. I’m currently giving away a section from the study guide from of my most recent book, Asunder.