For most of my married life with children, my living room has been a disaster area.
I mean this literally. Let me conjure up a particular afternoon: there was a sinking ship and drowning passengers were flung far and wide, except for the lucky few who made it into the laundry basket. Oops, I mean the life boat.
“How the heck do you expect me to make lunches today, if you use up my sandwich bags?” I demanded.
Aidan, my then 5-year-old son, looked up from the couch, where he was conducting emergency rescue operations with all 28 of his stuffed animals. “But Mom, this is the Titanic!” he wailed. “The passengers need those bags to breathe!”
I looked again. Sure enough, some of the smaller animals had been stuffed into sandwich bags on the wide blue carpet, or rather, on the wide blue sea. The bags were life preservers, complete with oxygen. I sighed and retreated to the kitchen.
Imagination can be a messy business. It’s also the most essential ingredient for both a happy childhood and a productive adulthood.
You'll hear many writers claim that it's tough to combine parenthood with an artistic career. Art, by its very nature, demands a lot of reflective time as well as practice. It also doesn't pay well enough for day care. Conflicts are inevitable.
On the other hand, having children transforms you, expanding your creative vision and adding to your artist's toolbox. When a child says he wonders what it would be like to be a flower for a day, you can't help but wonder, too. And, in watching a child's raw anger or horrible, belly-filling sorrow, you feel the very primal nature of the human beast.
My second husband and I got married in a wonderful backyard ceremony that included our four children, ages seven, eight, nine, and ten--a son and daughter from each side of the aisle. We then added our own child two years later to complete our blended family. Each child has taught me valuable lessons on what it means to be creative. Our oldest was a passionate redhead who was angry at the world as often as he was content; from him, I learned that nothing is worth doing if you don't do it with your whole heart. Our second son was a philosophical Zen master who would say things like, “I wish I could be a box turtle, because they live a hundred years and have no natural predators;” from him, I learned to sit quietly and observe my surroundings. Our oldest daughter was keen on saving animals and flowers; from her I learned compassion. Our younger daughter? She could argue you into a corner and leave you begging for mercy; from her, I learned to stand up for myself and for my writing. The youngest, a boy, embraces every new risk with joyful abandon; from him, I'm learning to do the same.
Would I have published more books if I hadn't had quite so many children? Maybe. But none of my writing would have had the layers of complexity or the nuances of emotion that it has now. Motherhood has taught me everything I needed to know about love, loss, betrayal, fury, confusion, weariness, and unadulterated joy—emotions well worth capturing on the page.
By Holly Robinson
Jordan O'Malley has everything she ever wanted: a job she loves, a beautiful home, and a dependable boyfriend. When her life unravels after a breast cancer scare, Jordan decides to join her wildest childhood friend in San Francisco and track down her drifter brother, Cam, who harbors secrets of his own.
When Cam suddenly flees the country, Jordan follows, determined to bring him home. Her journey takes her to the farthest reaches of majestic Nepal, where she encounters tests—and truths—about love and family that she never could have imagined.
Funny, heartbreaking, and suspenseful, Sleeping Tigers reminds us all that sometimes it's better to follow your heart instead of a plan.