In our house, books are scattered across every surface, bookshelves line the walls, and tottering book stacks lie next to each bed, bath, and commode; we revere the written word, and those who are its alchemists. So I respected Vicki Forman the author long before I came to know her as a literary-award winning friend.
Both Vickis are wise, generous, frank, eloquent, tough, and not afraid of confrontation -- even if that means confronting themselves. What a pleasure to get to know them. And now, through Vicki's "Memoir of Premature Motherhood," This Lovely Life, that pleasure can be yours as well.
The best way to take advantage of this opportunity is to buy your own copy of This Lovely Life. If you're thrifty (euphemism) like me and prefer to enter Vicki's twitter/blog contest to win a signed copy instead, please do so, quickly.
If you want the author herself to compel you, then attend one of her readings (her Bay Area Book Passage reading is August 6th, and you'd better believe I'll be there), read her This Lovely Life website author Q & A, or ... read my BlogHer interview with her. (Get tissues. Her eloquent and honest responses to my questions had me crying at a workstation in the public library.) Here's an except:
I've had the pleasure of knowing Vicki since we both spoke on the BlogHer 08 panel, Blogging About Our Children With Special Needs. Here is what I had to say about her at that time, and it still rings true:
SDR: You spoke about medication and taking sleeping pills, about grief, about it distracting you to the point where you had a couple of fender-benders. Did you see a therapist? Why or why not? Do you have any advice for parents processing the reality of a medically fragile child?
VF: The day after I gave birth to the twins, I returned to the therapist I had not seen for nearly a year. I stayed with him from that day on until six years later. I could not have survived without his help, and that of medication. It was never even a consideration that I would do it alone, or without support. I’m fortunate in that I have never felt shame or guilt about needing help, and that my family has always been by my side.
Being the parent of a medically fragile child or a very premature child or disabled child is possibly the loneliest and most devastating experience a person can have. Nothing in life prepares you. I think parents often feel they have to be strong for their spouse or other children, but this becomes a burden in itself. I heard a story that Barbara Bush lost a daughter to leukemia at four years of age. After her daughter died, she retreated to her bedroom for a year. If Barbara Bush can disappear to bed for a year, how can any of us expect to do any better? Honestly, the best advice I can give is not to judge yourself, get help if you can, and allow every emotion to play itself out. There is no right way.
I was excited to finally meet my co-panelist Vicki Forman. She lives and breathes and writes (and teaches) literature. She has the strength and talent to describe her own harrowing parenting experiences without resorting to melodrama, or detachment. She is a role model for any person with writerly aspirations.Her own take on our friendship is witty & magnanimous. I'll share jalapeno-studded potato chip tuna fish sandwiches with her any time, especially if we can openly dual-tweet it while discussing which rum makes the best Cuba Libres.
She is also raising a strong, independent preteen girl in our body image-obsessed and materialistic society, and I wanted to get her advice, wanted to ask how she innoculates her daughter against toxic media messages. Her response: she surrounds her daughter with strong, principled, women; with role models.
Vicki's son Evan is the catalyst for This Lovely Life and the reason she and I met, yet I never got to meet him -- he passed away suddenly, one week after our panel. But Vicki has shared so much of her son with us, both in This Lovely Life and through her Special Needs Mama column on Literary Mama, that I am on my way to understanding her assertion, "He was my greatest teacher and I am honored to acknowledge that gift with this story."
Thank you, Vicki, for opening your gift to the rest of us.