THE WRITING PARENT – DANCING IN THE DUALITY

Guest post from League member Vanessa Shields

I know there are many of us who are writers and parents. This is a wild duality to live. My intention with this column, “The Writing Parent,” is to write about the challenges of being a parent and a writer. I aim to share stories that reflect both the difficult and the extraordinary experiences of striving to balance the creative and the caregiving mind, body and spirit.

In this, my first column about being a writer and a parent, I think it only customary for me to introduce myself and give you a sense of who I am as a writer and a parent.

Take a look at this photo:

Writing Parent 01 - carMy car says a lot about my life. Beside my obvious love of stickers (which extends into every part of my life!), you’ll notice that the back of my car is busy. Each sticker says something about who I am and what I do in my life.

Shall we take a sticker tour then?

Let’s go left to right.

It’s a bit hard to see, but there’s a dog paw sticker that says ‘I Kiss My Dog On The Lips’. It’s true. Our Golden Retriever, Oscar, is just over a year old. I love him like he’s one of our children, just a bit hairier.

Beneath the dog paw is a sticker that says ‘Life Is Good’. The Life Is Good company is one that I believe in, and I also believe that about my life. It’s good – really good. I’m an optimist through and through. That’s not to say I don’t get down and dirty in the dumps…or even teeter on the side of the bell jar at times. Trust me, I do.

Centred on the rear window is a sticker that says ‘Love’. Ah, sweet love. It is at the core of everything I do and everything I write. I have the word tattooed above my heart as well. I’m pretty serious about this particular human experience. As a parent and poet, love informs everything.

Scooting across to the right of the rear window are those (somewhat trendy and possibly annoying?!) family stickers. It’s funny that I was able to find stickers that actually resemble our family! I’m married to a man who wears jeans and a t-shirt instead of a suit to work, and the sticker bears a striking resemblance to my true love–heretofore named ‘The Hubby’. Beside him is the ‘me’ sticker. My head is missing. So is my right foot. Okay, so I do have both feet functioning fine; however, the fact that my head is missing is so metaphorically correct it’s uncanny. You can often hear me say ‘I’m losing my mind!’ and most days, if I don’t make a list, I find I forget things because I’m just holding too much in my brain at once. Which makes me feel like I’m losing my mind. You get my drift?

The little flying superhero represents my son, Jett, who is a nearly-10-year-old mega-fan of all things superhero, Star Wars, Lego, and sports. He’s also a lover of films. (We all are.) Beside my superhero son is a sticker of a painting girl with a giant smile. That’s our Miller. She’s seven, and loves to write and paint and draw. We always say she’s made of rainbows and when she does her art and dances and laughs, I swear you can see colours bursting out of her.

The Star Wars: The Force Awakens sticker below our family is there for Jett…and me too. We’re all fans – enough to slap a sticker on our car.

Above our sticker family is another sticker that says ‘Love’ – all hippie-psychedelic.

Moving your eyes to the bottom left, you’ll notice a pretty big sticker that says ‘WRITER’. Well, I am. I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember – in a journal, writing poetry, writing short stories. I love this sticker. It helps me feel good about my passion for the written word. I see it every day, and it always makes me smile. I made this bumper sticker and have gifted them to many a writer friend. You want one too, don’t you?

A stack of three oval stickers hugs the writer sticker. They are:

  • ‘CDN’ – for Canadian. I was born and raised in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Although I’ve travelled quite a lot in my 37-years, I’ve always come home to Windsor. I’m proud to be a Canadian.
  • I made a sticker that says ‘I ❤ Poetry’. Yes, I’m a writer, but specifically, I’m a poet. Been a poet since forever. The worlds needs more poetry, and I’m happy to oblige – to write it, read it, publish it, and stick a sticker on my car for it.
  • The third oval sticker is for Mouth Piece Storytelling, a storytelling series I created and host. About every month and a half, I host an event at a different location in Windsor, and about 40-50 people gather together to share and listen to stories. I love storytelling and am honoured to be a part of keeping this oral tradition alive and recorded for the storytellers of our city and time.

Below my license plate (which isn’t a moustache!) is an ‘IMAGINE’ sticker. It’s an ode to Lennon and his powerful song as well as a genuflect to the imagination which is the fuel of my writing and parenting life.

There’s a sticker that says ‘Detroit Bikes’ because I admire the company and I think we all should strive to ride our bikes more often (myself included). I also love, love, love Detroit. We go there often to eat and learn with friends and family. Detroit, and Michigan for that matter, is a living, breathing creativity hub that has never given up on its roots. It’s inspiring to live so close to a city like Detroit.

I graduated with an Honours Degree in Communications Studies with a minor in English and that’s why the next sticker is the University of Windsor logo. Go Lancers! I also had one of the best jobs ever whilst I was a student there – I was the Arts Editor for the student newspaper, The Lance. It was at the job that I truly started to identify as a ‘writer’.

My family and friends and I participated in the Colour Run a few years ago. What a wild event that was! I had so much fun that day – getting shot with colours, dancing, running, laughing. I definitely will run for colour, thank you very much!

And finally, the sticker that rounds out the right bumper is a rose logo for the City of Windsor. A friend of mine won a contest to create a logo for the ‘Rose City’ and he won! To support his creativity as well as to show my love for Windsor, I happily show off the rose sticker.

No, my car doesn’t list the writing awards I’ve won (ahem…I haven’t won any), nor the titles of the books I’ve had published (you’ve probably not heard of them) or how many words I write a day or what books I’m reading…It doesn’t list all the extra-curricular activities I drive my kids to or where I work or how much money I make. And that’s OK. Because I just want you to know my essence as a writer and a mother, and I believe that the back of my car captures it.

Honk if you love writing!

Author photoVanessa writes in the in-betweens of a busy life as a parent, producer, photographer and poet. (That’s a lot of Ps!) She lives in Windsor with her hubby and two kids, Jett and Miller. Her first book of poetry, I Am That Woman (Black Moss Press) was published in 2014. A forthcoming book of poetry will launch this fall. Shields created and hosts a storytelling series called Mouth Piece Storytelling. For all things Vanessa, visit her website www.vanessashields.com.