I recently applied for a grant. I never done that as an individual, and I have no idea whether I have a chance. A few years ago, I would have been more nervous, but these days I figure, What have I got to lose? Writing the application gave me the chance to bottle up a snapshot of right now.
The application started, “Please tell us about yourself….”
From off my nightstand I pick up Rogue River Journal by John Daniel. I’m wearing a red cotton hat that, I say, wards off colds, and my mouth guard and some dental floss are nearby. I’m still steaming from a hot bath, and I’m frustrated that tonight—like most other nights—it’s an hour past when I wanted to be grasping at the hopeful threads of sleep. I’m beseeching John Daniel—a writer who takes my spasmodic pre-bed brain waves and presses them out with a steady, self-effacing hand—to soothe me and keep the maddening, mundane logistical dreams, that make me feel like I’ve lived all night, at bay.
Suddenly, my baby wakes up. From across the hall and one room over I hear her howling. Hers are the screams that were once sharpened on steel, and are now jagged and rusted on the edges as they rip my skin. She is one. Her nights are pierced by terrors regularly. I don’t know if they are nightmares or fitfulness, or if we’ll look back and simply say, “She’s always been a light sleeper.” But they are terrors to me. She throws a rock through night’s glass window. And as the shards hit the ground and break into smaller pieces, her cries remind me of how she took our timeline, dragged it back, and forced us to face her.
I am a writer.
It took a surprise third baby to etch it on my chest in calligraphic all-caps. In 2014, we had two full-contact boys—five and three at the time—who were beginning to show us their rational brains on a regular basis. “Let’s plan a road trip along the coast and up to Canada for next summer. Imagine the things we can do,” my husband and I said to each other. We were driving home from celebrating our anniversary—as a family—in Astoria, Oregon, a fishing town overshadowed by the churn of the miles-wide mouth of the Columbia River, the expanse of the Pacific, and the breathless industrial beauty of cargo ships in port.
A month later, in spite of an intrauterine contraceptive device with over 99% effectiveness, I was pregnant. Then we were told the pregnancy wasn’t viable and we needed to terminate. But this baby persevered. Her destiny is written in the stars, and she is here—a celestial guest, a reorganizer of plans. Instead of the road trip that was to culminate in Vancouver B.C. for the 2015 Women’s World Cup, where I would pitch and write articles about gender equity in women’s sports, we found ourselves in the throes of feedings and interrupted sleep. I could leave the house for three hours at most: she never took a bottle.
During the years before children, the years of thinking how something should go and then having it go that way, I pursued other things and shoehorned my writing into the handful of lives any millennial has had by age 35—an internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a Teach for America position and a Masters in Education in Arizona, a year as founding academic dean of a charter school in Brooklyn, and a tenure as project manager for military families’ initiatives at Sesame Workshop in New York City.
When my oldest son—now seven—was one, my writing started to claw its way to the front of my show, shoving sleep and sanity and full-time work out of its way. I’m a storyteller, and I wrote stories and sent them to my friends, who encouraged me to share. My blog Momsicle: Something to Suck On is now six years old. It’s not crafts, or multilevel marketing, or a digital memory book for my family, or a place to promote Oreos and Disney. I don’t accept sponsorships. I feature amazing women doing amazing things—often non-parents. I dig deep into postpartum depression and the cruelties of raising a really intense child. Instead of featuring a first-birthday cake-smash, I highlighted a series of tragic and tender black-and-white photos in a post called “A Postpartum Depression Love Letter to My Feisty, Old-Soul Daughter on Her First Birthday.” Momsicle has a devoted tribe—parents and non-parents and parents of friends for whom children or life have not gone the way they’d planned. I write about death, depression, Christianity, and raising a boy who loves pink, a boy who lives in an imaginary world, and a girl who took our family like chess pieces and rearranged it all.
I’m interested in authenticity—the real things and raw things. And from this core have blossomed opportunities to write about other passions for bigger audiences: the third iteration of women’s professional soccer and its most passionate city, the gender inequity of ESPN, the radical love demanded by true Christianity, and an ongoing journey to replace the commercialism of Christmas with the gifts of time and tradition.
This god-baby took away my launching point, but she clarified for me that I can’t let my creative life lay fallow in sacrifice to story time and play dates. I have to write.
My friend Lauren (who is writing her memoir) sent me the grant application–it’s for writers and artists who have children, offered by a very cool organization called the Sustainable Arts Foundation. They grant awards twice a year.
“The name of our foundation is sometimes puzzling to folks. We’ve gotten our fair share of inquiries about art projects involving recycled materials. But the ‘sustainable’ in our title has to do with the importance of family and the passing of beliefs and ideals to one’s children. We created this foundation because we think it’s important for children to grow up with artists and writers as parents, to think that being creative is both a normal and necessary thing.”
They’re particularly looking for applicants of color.
“This holds doubly true among artists and writers of color. They have fewer role models, fewer works in the community and in museums, and fewer published books. Our hope is to promote extremely talented artists and writers of color so that they may serve as sustainable leaders both in their communities, but also — and just as importantly — in their own families.”
You should apply in 2017.