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Friday, June 7, 2013

Time to DTR?

          Every now and then I'm asked not only by someone new that I happen to meet but even by some acquaintences I've known for years to DTR (define the relationship) I share with the many young people in my life.  While I consider the six children I've shared my home, checking account and my whole heart with nothing less than my very own,  I'm happy to oblige the curious--"my oldest" turned twenty-five in February after all, and I don't exactly want anyone walking away thinking I was Alabama's youngest tween mom.

         My latest request to DTR came from my publicist at World Weaver Press.  Seems she and my editor were curious about whether the "giant posse" in my novel Heir to the Lamp came from my real life.  My author bio is vague:  "too many children to count".  I was trying to be mysterious and not give the impression that I walk around dragging a wornout uterus behind me.  I've seen people look over my shoulder for just such a thing as soon as I've told them how many children I have at home eating every thing in sight with all the appliances and lights in our house on as if electricity is a new invention.

          Here's the low down:

          I became a mother for the first time in July 1998 when Michael Lowery and I welcomed our daughter Shelby Tate into the world.  In 2002,  Shelby got two brothers:  one 6 lb 7 oz bundle of joy Michael and I named Jackson and one 145 lb fourteen-year-old cousin named Shane who came to live with us after some difficulties with his parents.  I was happy to be the mother of a sweet baby to snuggle, a toddler that made me laugh, and a teenager that kept me on my toes.

          Fastforward a few short years to my second marriage.  Chris Combs and I had been a long-time couple as teens but went on to marry others.  In 2005, after our respective 1st marriages had ended, Chris moved from Georgia to Alabama with his two young sons--Christopher, 9 and Elijah, 6--and we combined our families.  I was now a woman with five children under one roof--a roof, in all honesty, that could have stood to be a whole lot bigger.  It was a challenge, sharing a mere 1,500 square feet with so many, but one that made me happy--this dispite Chris's and my never-ending battle to keep milk in the refrigerator and the washer and dryer running 24/7.

          I was content.  Shane was a senior in high school and Jackson was in Pre-K.  There was light at the end of the long, dark tunnel that is preschool tuition, and I'd have a few years repreive before the next round of driver's licenses, proms and college applications.

          Then I learned that I was expecting...again!  Danann was born in 2007.  I promptly begged Chris to run not walk to the nearest urologist for a vasectomy.  It is a testament to his love for me that he did not hesitate.  While under serious anasthesia, he even offered to let me do the job--this tickled his doctor to no end but, like a true professional, the man didn't send for me out in the waiting room.

          And there you have it:  the story of how I became a mother to five--er, six.  Sometimes I lose count myself.

          All of the children in the Lawson family in Heir to the Lamp are based on my real-life children.

         My little monsters really did starve to death the first pet I ever let them have.

         My younger daughter Danann aka Dahlilah collectively calls the older boys in our family "The Brothers" the same way that Ginn refers to her younger brothers as "The Terrible Twosome" in HTL.

(Danann with her BFF Gabby)

          Jackson, like Jasper, talked with a lisp when he was six.  He also cussed like a tiny sailor from the ages of four to seven, but I figured that tidbit to be inappropriate for children's literature.

(Jackson, the face of an angel and the mouth of a dirty sailor)

          Like Virginia, my older daughter Shelby is an athlete who bites her nails to the quick.  She's also a Homecoming princess and has a great sense of humor.

(Shelby with product placement for Dr. Pepper.  Where's my check?)

          My Elijah, like HTL's Eli, is crazy smart and mischivous.  He really did electrocute himself at school in the 5th grade when he cut a laptop cord with a pair of scissors.  Did I mention he's crazy smart?

(Danann, Christopher & Elijah)

         Christopher, aka CJ in HTL, is forever in trouble, but has a generous spirit and is my only child to thank me EVERY single night of his life for dinner.

          Like Sean, Shane is the consumate big brother, willing to help any of my other children out whenever they should need an accomplice.  He's dedicated, hardworking and fun.

(Shelby & Shane, Homecoming 2012)

          I drew on the real life adventures of my large family when writing my 1st novel.  Everything from the way my children came to me in unique ways to their highly indiviudalized personalities.  I'm thankful for all they've given me to work with as a writer.  Now, if only they'd learn to properly sort the laundry and leave me at least one Little Debbie cake in the pantry every once in a while.