Thank you.

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Me, circa 1998. They hadn’t really invented hair straighteners yet, at least not ones that worked on my hair.

 

There is always a spot for the “middle school me” in my head. The girl with the thick black hair and big eyebrows who is trying, like a lot of 13 year olds, to learn how to love herself. It’s almost like she has a little room up there, one that she has decorated with rodeo print curtains and a white cotton bedspread. She has Breyer horses up on her windowsill and stacks of books everywhere. Instead of a teddy bear or a special blanket, she sleeps with whatever book she is reading curled up in her arms. Because that makes her feel safe and also reminds her that there is a world she can escape to, through reading, that will take her wherever she wants to go.

As I get older, that middle-schooler’s room occupies a little less space, and the rest of my brain is taken up with more important things like my job, my family, my happiness. But, she’ll always be there, and I’m grateful. You wanna know why? Because she is like a measuring stick. I can’t tell how far I’ve come if I don’t see her, don’t know her, and remember where I’ve been.

Last night, Saturday, we had my book launch party for my middle-grade novel, When the Stars Lead Home. I had a mixed bag of feelings leading up to it this last week. I threw up on Wednesday, I cried on Thursday, I ran to the store and bought 100 plastic cups on Friday (but what if only 10 people show up?!!!). Part of the anxiety was being the center of attention, and part of the anxiety was the unknown. Seriously, I invited every single member of my family with a “p.s. you have to be there and stay the whole time because you might be the only ones” added at the end.

But what happened was this. It was awesome. It was beautiful. It was a reminder to me that the world is good and kind and full of amazing people. People who I know through work, or life, and people who I met last night. I kept telling myself (and everyone around me) that this was even better than a wedding, because I was old enough to really appreciate it. Weddings are amazing, but they sort of fly by and I had RSVP cards so I knew 120 people would show up. Book launch parties make you throw up 3 days before and you have no idea what to expect, until it happens and you realize there was really no reason to throw up at all.

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Me with all of you wonderful, wonderful people at my book launch party.

 

Two things really stand out from my party. The first is that while I sat at the round table with a line of incredible people patiently waiting for me to sign their books, I kept looking down at my wrist. In fact, I would look at my right wrist, lift it up with the pen in hand and then shake it until my new bracelet slid back down to where it sat comfortably.

Yesterday morning, Isla came to me with a blue bead on a silver string. She must have found the bead somewhere and got the string all by herself, cut a piece, threaded the bead on and then gave it to me.

 

“A necklace,” she said and smiled at me. We tried to fit it around my neck but it was a little too small. “Maybe a bracelet?” she asked.

Danny came in to tie it for me. “A double knot, please.” I asked him.

I wore it all day yesterday and then when the time came to put on my “party outfit”, I looked down at my wrist and smiled. It would stay. Because she made it. And I loved it.

As I sat in this total dream-come-true moment last night, I kept looking down at my string bracelet and it kept doing its job. Reminding me that the moment I was in was hard fought for, required a lot of time and sacrifice over the years that it has taken me to get this book published, and that really, at the end of the day, I am simply grateful. Grateful for this book, for these people and for my family. Without them I would just be a girl that wrote a book. That means tiddlywinks to me. My family makes me, and the silver string with a blue bead reminded me of that every time I looked down.

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Isla’s gift to me.  A beautiful, hand-made bracelet.

 

The other thing that really stands out for me last night was something I overheard my mom say to a guest. I was sitting at the table signing books when I heard her voice, they must have been talking about libraries. “Laura has always loved libraries,” she told the lady, “growing up she always said there were two places where she felt completely safe. At home with her family and at the library.”

She’s right. I’ve mentioned before that I have anxiety, I have since 3rd grade. It went untreated until I was about 19, mostly because we didn’t know exactly what it was and I was always too scared to do anything about it. I didn’t really even understand what specific type of anxiety disorder I had until I was 26, so for 18 years of my life I treated it with books. It’s odd and it’s true and it was my saving grace. I remember my mom surprising me with Janette Oke’s book, The Tender Years, while I was somewhere in my mid-teens and on a day when I was particularly struggling.  I read it again,  just a couple of years ago, loved it equally as much, and laughed when I realized that this book explains my love for all things prairie, frontier, Canadian, simple and Janette Oke. Honestly though, this is the perfect example of how books could reach me, in just the right moments.

Books took me out of my head and into a wonderful place. What my mom told that person last night was exactly right, books and the library made me feel safe, like I could really breathe. I’ve spent years of my life sitting on the floor between the stacks at the Richmond Beach library, totally absorbed in the mystery Nancy Drew was solving or in the adventures of the three girls that made up the Saddle Club.

That is why I’ve always wanted to be a writer. I want to create places for others to go, where they can learn, smile and rest. I wrote When the Stars Lead Home with both my daughter and my middle school self in mind. What do I want Isla to read in 10 years? What did I need to find on those bookshelves 20 years ago? This is the book.

And last night, with all of you around me, with my family nearby and a dream literally coming true right before my very eyes, the middle school Laura in my head did a little cheer. Her room got a little smaller, because I was able to actually see who I had become. All of my friends, customers and family were a tangible example of who I had grown into. They say that you are who you surround yourself with, and if that’s the case, this 13 turned 32 year old has learned to love herself (because of you).

Thank you.

The girl with thick black hair and now medium sized eyebrows

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Today I went to work with a minion tattoo

Last night I was working on the computer when Isla came running out at me giggling, lifted up the back of my shirt and put something wet on me. “Ewwww,” I giggled.

“Mama, I’m just joking you,” She yelled and laughed, “Get it?”   She held out the wet paper towel that she had placed on my back. “See? Because you don’t like tattoos.”

She was pretty sure she had just played the best prank ever on me. Let me clarify, it’s not that I don’t like tattoos, I just don’t like them on me. Danny has about 4 billion and I figure that’s enough for the both of us.

I went to Georgia back in 2011 with a friend and while I was there I got my nose pierced. I had it for probably 3 weeks before it started to get a little infected. I called Danny on the phone in a panic because there was a little bump near the piercing and what if it stayed forever? Danny told me, “Laura, DO NOT take it out. That’ll make it worse. Just let it heal and then you can take it out later.” I hung up the phone and ripped it out of my nose. The next time I saw him, he just looked at me and rolled his eyes.

That night, I told everyone in my family, “Never let me get a tattoo. It’s too permanent for me, apparently you can’t just rip them off your arm when you change your mind.” What if they misspelled something, or what if the line was crooked? For a girl that is a commitment phobe, I just think tattoos are a bad idea.

So, last night when Isla wanted to put a tattoo on me I thought, Hey, no prob, I can take it off in the morning. She pulled off a strip of about 5 minions from her new temporary tattoo roll and stuck it to my arm. She put on the wet paper towel and we waited for it to do its magic. She gave herself matching ones so we could be twins.

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This morning, I woke up and got ready for work. When you work as early as I do, and you’re a mom, and you have a house to clean and laundry to do, makeup and curling hair takes a back seat, or really it’s more like in the trunk of my car, or maybe the trailer that is being pulled by a trailer that is being pulled by my truck. Point is, it’s waaaaayyyyy back there. But I thought I would at least make an effort to remove the minion tattoos. I wiped them with a towel. Nothing. I got the nail polish remover and scrubbed them, nothing. I scratched, nothing. I think I got one minion eyeball off. Then I ran out of time and had to leave. I pulled on my hoodie left the house. As the morning got busier I forgot about it. Until I took off my sweatshirt and the man in line told me he liked my new ink. I looked down at my arm, at the 4 minions that my daughter had put there, smiled at him and said, “It’s a mom thing.”

I’m trying coconut oil tonight.

L.D.

Thank you friends.

Hey you all!

I talked to my Publication Specialist yesterday and she told me that my book was up for sale on Amazon, but that it might take a little bit of time for the picture to go up.  I was excited, but it didn’t really feel quite official….yet.

Then, last night at 8:30pm I was laying in bed with Isla when my phone rang.  It was my dad.  I answered, “Hey Daddio.”

“Hey Little O.”  He replied.  “Did you see it?”

“Is it up?”  I sort of, kind of, maybe screamed.

It was.  I looked online, found my book, saw the cover, read my name underneath the title, lost my breath and felt…………….like I had done it.

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And then, at 8:47pm, my sister Lindsay called to tell me that our college friend Katie had just bought my book.  She had posted a picture of her order on Facebook.  I will always remember that exact moment.  The moment that someone ordered the book, with the cover of a cabin and a horse, that they found on amazon, that has my name written underneath the title, When the Stars Lead Home.

Twenty minutes later Danny came into our bedroom and handed me two melatonin, “Here, you’re never going to fall asleep.”  He smiled at me and we gushed over how crazy this all was and how NO, I was never going to fall asleep.

There are lots of parts to putting out a book.  I’m learning this.  But last night, at 8:47 when I learned that someone had actually bought my book, it felt like the stars had led me somewhere too, and it was a pretty cool place.

So I just wanted to say thank you.  To you all.  You are friends and life changers and I am forever grateful.

❤ Laura Weigel Douglas

 

Fear and Writing and Happiness Abundant

Today I started writing my second book.  Literally, I just started it 34 minutes ago.  You’re the first ones to know.  My husband, AKA Handy Danny, asked me the other day when I was going to hop on it and begin number 2.  I looked at him and was like, “Isn’t one enough?”

Ok, Ok, so I did set up the first book with the possibility that it could be series…….but why did I do that?

You see, I’m still a little bit scared.  I loved writing When the Stars Lead Home, and even though it was oftentimes 3am when I was writing it, I relished in every moment.  It was as if the story was in me and all my fingers had to do was let it out.  It was fun.  It was nice.  It was……I wouldn’t go so far as to say easy, but it wasn’t as hard as other things I’ve done.  More than anything though, it brought me happiness.  I’ve told you guys before how I’m one of those jump-in-the-pool-and-either-swim-or-drown type of girls.  Well, it was so nice to swim.  And I know this from the experience of having drowned on several occasions.

And now I’m just still feeling the loveliness of basking poolside in the sun of having actually COMPLETED a novel.

That was something I:

a.  had never done before

b. wasn’t sure I could do

c. wasn’t sure I ever Would do

d.  all of the above

D!  All of the above!  So why would I want to go and start a second book.  Something that I could fail at and then worry about my first book being a fluke.  Ok, I promise I’m normally a half glass full gal, but I think it’s totally normal to still be afraid of failure at 31.  Probably even still normal at 77.  Worse than the fear of failure though, is the fear of having this happiness diminished.

But doesn’t the fear of having something taken from you already steal your joy?  With this thought in mind I’ve decided to step forward……totally afraid, but hopeful.  Hopeful in the fact that I tell stories for no other reason than that I have stories to tell.  To bring joy to others and to bring happiness to myself.

What is there to fear in that?

a. nothing.

b. nothing.

c. nothing.

And with those options, it seems I can’t go wrong.  Here’s to book No. 2!

❤ Lo

 

Yep, I screamed.

This is how my day went:

5:15:  Wake up and spend 3 1/2 minutes getting ready before I head to work.

5:40 – noon:  Talk to 1000 people, make 1000 lattes, smile 1000 times.  It’s a pretty good gig.

Noon:  Rush home to pick up my girl from my sister, but when I pull up, I notice that my parent’s car is at my house too.

12:10:  I walk inside my house and see Isla, McKayla, Tristen, Chase, Linds, Mom and Dad.  This really isn’t that unusual because we’re all together a lot, so I don’t think twice about it.

12:12:  I’m busy hugging my man-boy of a nephew who has grown 4 inches since yesterday and I can’t stop dying over the fact that his arms now go on top of mine when we hug.  I die and then die again.  I was the tallest girl in the family and now he has surpassed us all.

12:15 (3 minutes later, it was a long hug because I know in 2 years he won’t want to hug me at all):  I turn around and my other nephew is holding a flat box and my dad has his video camera out and my sister is taking pictures with her phone.

12:15:01:  I scream.  I somehow missed the FedEx man.  Lindsay saw the package when she got to my house, called my parents, who had the boys, who then grabbed there camera and drove over in the 15 minutes of notice they had, so they could all be there to see me see my book for the first time.

12:20:  Still screaming.

When I wrote my dedication in the book, I tried to write a separate one for each family member.  But that ended up being crazy because how do you say what you need to say in one line?  I couldn’t.  I tried and I ended up writing a whole other book.  In the end, I dedicated my novel to my daughter Isla, who really, I wrote the book for.  But here I want to say something to the rest of my family, the ones who show me what love is meant to be.

You Weigels, Hanbys, Mullens and Douglas’…..you are the sun that has taught me how to shine a light.  You are the people that have given me a different view of this world, a beautiful view, and have taught me how to love myself.   I am thankful for your hearts that have molded and healed and strengthened mine.  I love you all, you are my home, my whole sky full of stars.  This book is as much yours as it is mine.

♡ Laura

Between Donnelly and Dowell

Hey all!

Something totally crazy happened yesterday. I got an email from my Publication Specialist that said, “You will be receiving copies of your book in the mail sometime in the next two weeks.” Other stuff too, but that’s all I really read. I might have cried a little. I’ve learned that motherhood makes you emotional and fulfilling dreams does too.

So, to mark the big occasion, I packed my kids (daughter and niece) in my truck and hurried down the hill to my home away from home, the library. All three of us ran into the kids section like we were running for the churro line at Disneyland. McKayla went straight for the computer and the panda-faced headphones which she thinks are “just the coolest” and Isla bee lined for the chapter books. She has never checked out a picture book in her life, she’s into Beverly Cleary, Judy Blume and Geronimo Stilton and has been checking out those same books since she was 2. Ironically, this means that my girl who loves books never actually reads, or if we do, it’s usually me reading her the first page of every chapter of some Beverly Cleary novel. I watched them get settled and then I went straight…….here.

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Ok, look down. To the left. A little farther. Yes, right there. Between Donnelly and Dowell. That is where Douglas, my last name, belongs. I realized, that for me, if happiness lived in an actual physical place, it would be right there. Between Donnelly and Dowell, where my book will sit.

With that in mind, I wanted to give you all a fair warning. If you don’t hear anything from me in the next two weeks it’s because I haven’t moved from the orange couch in our front room and I’m staring out the window waiting for the FedEx man who’s coming with the delivery of a lifetime. Also, if you don’t hear from me after two weeks, I’ve probably just fainted from excitement/shock/disbelief and I’ll wake up soon and be ok. Don’t worry, I’m a tough cookie, just highly emotional.

p.s. It should be only a couple of more weeks after I get my copies until the book is available at Barnes and Noble and Amazon. Digital copies (eBooks) will be released soon after that.

I wrote a book!…..and the waiting game

I guess I missed a year on this blog….or really, completely forgot about it all together.  It won’t happen again, I promise.  I was gone because I was doing something else.  I.WROTE.A.BOOK.  I know, I still can’t believe it.  Here’s the thing, the very day that I met my husband, I told him that I was going to be an author, and that someday, he would see my name on the cover of a book.  That was 11 years ago.  At the time, I totally believed it too.  Because I was an English Lit major in college and the idea sounded grand.  Here’s a secret, I don’t do anything part-time/half-way/rationally.  I jump in to the deep end every single time.  Usually I end up gasping for breath and bounce hop/drown my way to the water’s edge before I step out, find a new pool and repeat the same process.  I really can’t help it, its who I am, and one thing I’ve learned in my 32 years is that even if its not perfect, and sometimes even silly, its ok to be who you are.

So, about two years ago I started to write a book.  This wasn’t the first time I had tried.  But something was different this go round.  I knew this story.  It was part of my life, part of what I had wanted/needed to read growing up and it was FUN.  I knew these people I was writing about and I felt committed to telling their story.  I also knew the reader (I was her once) and I wanted her to have a story to read.  THIS story.

You already know that I have a young daughter, a husband, 2 dogs, a cat, a house that always needs work, a full time job, 3 other children I care for, etc. etc.  My point is, I woke up at 4am to write my book, before I left for work at 5:30.  My husband would take our daughter to his mother’s in the evening every once in awhile to give me an hour to write.  I committed.  And then, one day, it was magically, or perhaps miraculously, done.  I had written 35,000ish words that made sense and told a story.  I had swam and not drowned.

Long story short-ish, my book wasn’t picked up right away.  That didn’t really even matter to me.  I hoped someone would want to publish it, but no feeling could surpass the knowledge that I had finished.  Not only 5 loads of laundry in a week, but a book.  And then, a year later, after submitting my book to one last publisher, I got a phone call.  They said “YES!”

I’ll tell you more about the publishing process later but right now I’m still relishing in the moment of fulfilling a dream.  I’m gone through every step the publishing business can throw at me for the last 8 months and am now waiting for a box of books to show up at my door.  The waiting game.

I imagine that when the doorbell rings and I open it to find no one standing there, I’ll look out at the street, then down at the doormat and see a brown cardboard box that holds 2 1/2 years work, and feel………I’m not sure.  Maybe something like how I felt that night I told a stranger I was going to see my name on the cover of a book, and then somehow knew I would be with this stranger forever.  Or maybe how I felt when I found out that this baby girl I held in my tummy was going to live, and be a part of me forever..  A life changing moment.  When you step through the door of one world into another and know that you can’t go back and you don’t have to, because something has happened to you and it is wonderful.