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Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Season of HOPE!

This truly is a season of HOPE for my family. We are blessed with good health and there is no greater gift than that. Perhaps one day, no child, brother, or family will have to succumb to AIDS. That is my wish...

My family and I are so proud to be part of amfAR and their "Making AIDS History" campaign. Please take a moment to click on the link and learn more about how you can help us win the fight against AIDS. There's ground breaking research happening right now, and amfAR is leading the way!

Have a beautiful, healthy holidays, friends!

Be Blessed,

Suzan

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Child Banned from Attending School...in 2011??

I don't like to admit it, but I used to be one of those people who had irrational fears about HIV and how it was transmitted. It wasn't that I was a bad person, I just didn't have accurate information.

When I watched this story about the 13-year-old boy being banned from school, my heart sank. My thoughts and prayers really go out to this family and this child. Years ago, one of my biggest fears about "coming out" about our status was that this could happen to us. My children being ostracized at school was my biggest fear. A fear that proved to be completely unwarranted. When we disclosed to our schools, people came out in groves to support us. The schools, faculty, students, parents, even complete strangers rallied around our children in a show support. I'll never forget it. I wish it were the same for this family.

The good news is that there's a lot of good information out there now about HIV. Did you know that today's medicines supress the virus to such low levels that trasmission (even from blood, fluids, etc.) is unlikely? I just find it sad that in this day and age a child is being banned from school for being honest about his status. What are your thoughts? Why are we still having this problem?
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Sunday, October 23, 2011

Doin' the "Hivvy" dance ; )

If you've ever watched Scrubs, you'll remember the infamous episode where Dr. Turk has to tell one of his patients that he has HIV. Sure, the news was going to be crushing, but it wasn't a death sentence anymore, either ... hence the infamous "Hivvy" dance was born. Well, Alee and I loved that episode so much, that when Alee found out that "Scrubs" actor Donald Faison, aka Dr. Turk, was going to be at the EGPAF's "A Time For Heroes," she decided to track him down for an autograph, and you won't believe what happened next...: )

Friday, September 9, 2011

HOP ABOARD! IT'S MAMA-TAXI : )


When we moved, Alee and Mitch (who'd gone to the same schools since they were little) didn't want to change (something I could totally relate to, having come from a childhood where I'd moved a lot). So, we opted for an in district transfer where they didn't have to change schools. Every day (morning and afternoon) I'd drive back and forth, about thirty miles total. Three kids, three different schools! It was a handful, but we managed.

Now, with Alee off in college, and it being just me and the (growing taller by the milli-second) boys, the pace has slowed some. A good day goes off without a hitch. I get Yonas off the bus and we ride together to pick up his older brother. It takes about an hour both ways, including wait time, give or take a pit stop at one of three fast food chains we pass along the way. Yonas and I catch-up–talk about his day–what he did in school, but mostly we talk about what he ate for lunch, while he finishes his snack. Seems this "growing" boy is always hungry : ) Once we're parked at the high school, Yonas turns his attention to homework, and I like to use those quiet twenty minutes to read or edit a few pages of whatever I'm working on. It's funny, but I get some of my best ideas while sitting in my car...just waiting. I've come up with things that have so inspired me that I've written them down on the back of crumpled receipts, old McDonald bags, and would you believe that the blurb for The Silence of Mercy Bleu (HERE) was jotted down with a red crayon! Hey, whatever works, right?

A lot of thought and a tremendous amount of work goes into the making of a novel, and it's a known fact that very few first novels go on to be published. I'll just say that I feel very privileged for this opportunity. To my family, my agent and publisher, and all of you who believed this was an important story–one that needed to be told, a big "Thank you!" I appreciate you all so much.

Coming in September, I'll have more good news and fun tid-bits, along with some pics of this months big AIDS WALK event in Louisville! Oh, and I almost forgot ... The Silence of Mercy Bleu now has an official Fan Page! Thanks to all of you who have helped it grow in numbers!
Like it HERE or THERE in the sidebar >>
and you could be the lucky winner of a signed copy of The Silence of Mercy Bleu.


Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eliminating Pediatric AIDS–Yes, We Can!


The task of eliminating or curing HIV/AIDS may look like a daunting task, but today more than ever it's an achievable goal. We already have the tools to keep people with HIV living healthy, productive lives, but we also have the capability to prevent mother-to-infant transmission––not only here in the United States, but everywhere around the world. All it takes is access to medicines; a couple of pills a day! As a mother with three children, two biological and one adopted from Ethiopia (all of whom were born with HIV) that means so much to me. Most of us can't imagine being a mother whose only hope is to have a child born free of HIV. Back in 1990, when I was pregnant with my first child, even if I'd known that I carried the virus, we didn't know how to prevent transmission. Not so for women today. With the technology now available, no child should be born with with this totally preventable disease. I'm here to say that we can help make that a reality.

Elizabeth Glaser once said, "Sometimes in life there is that moment when it's possible to make a change for the better. This is one of those moments." That was such a profound statement and one that still holds true. Elizabeth was a wife and mother who made it her mission to fund the very research that's made it possible for children to be born HIV-free. There's no one that worked harder, and what she started so many years ago is still going strong today. If you want to make a difference in the lives of children and families who desperately need our help visit The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation www.pedaids.org to learn more.


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

"Making AIDS History"

What an unforgettable experience... to be a part of amfAR's "Making AIDS History" Campaign. I'll never forget the people I met and the bonds that were forged in the two days it took to shoot this video. Their stories, as you'll see, are truly amazing and full of heart...as are they. To view my family's story, along with six other stories that are sure to fill you with hope and inspiration please visit: http://www.makingaidshistory.org/

Friday, August 5, 2011

Pencils...Crayons, and Glue-Sticks, OH MY!!

Seeing these two boys go from being complete strangers, just five years ago, to being true "brothers" has been one of the most profound experiences of my life, but I'll get mushy about that later. Right now, I'm too busy! With school just around the corner I've been doing the mad dash to get everything done. Yonas, my little guy, will be a big 4th grader this year! He is the best kid ever, and as you can see by the fuzzy cell-phone pic (sorry, can't find the camera) he's growing very tall, very fast. He also loves football : )

It's been a really great summer, but still I think we're all ready and excited for the year ahead.

Yesterday was Mitch's registration at his high school. While there, we got a moment to talk to one of his school guidance counselors who was extremely helpful in mapping out his course of study. Mitch, at only fifteen, has big dreams. He's very mature and thoughtful for his age; a whiz in Math, Science––part writer, part artist, like me. At only age fourteen, he had his first story published in a literary magazine that his school puts out once a year. Talk about a proud mom moment. He's also musical...likes to listen to Mozart...symphonies even, and is a self-taught pianist. We'll be in the car and I'll say, "Mitch, can we please turn off the Beethoven and put on some Michael Buble or something?"

"But mom, listen...this is so amazing!"

I think he is amazing. Anyhow, Mitch's dream is to be a pharmacist after he graduates and we found out through his counselor yesterday that his school offers a pharmacy tech program that he'll be able to enroll in his senior year. He'll have to double up on math next year as his goal is to take a calculus class before graduation. I tried to talk him out of the heavy course load. "Don't you just want to have fun your senior year?"

He just smiled, "Mom, math is fun...trust me."

Yeah, I'm still shaking my head over that one!

Three years and I've got another one college bound. Wow, this beautiful life really is flying...


Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Guardian Angel Story


Woman's World Magazine-August 2011 issue #32
My Guardian Angel by Suzan Stirling-Meredith

When we pray for help, help always arrives--often in the most remarkable way.

As I sat beside my baby boy In the hospital, I suddenly knew what it meant for a heart to break.

There he lay in the NICU, a thick tube jutting from his mouth, his tiny chest rising and falling to the rhythm of a machine. Diagnosed with asthma and RSV, a respiratory virus that his newborn immune system couldn't fend off, he'd been fighting for weeks. Now, doctors were candid: Things weren't looking good.

Though I'd prayed constantly since the day Mitchell had been born, my hope was running on empty as I left the hospital that evening, planning to make a quick dash to tuck my daughter in for the night at my mom's before I returned.

But the roads were still covered in ice, and it was going to take forever. Tears welling in my eyes, desperate to see my little girl and equally desperate to return to my baby, I began to pray: "God, We've done all that we know how to do. I'm giving this to you now. Please make him well, or take him. Just don't let him suffer anymore."

Now, my tears streaming so hard I could barely see, I pulled to the shoulder, where I lay my head on the steering wheel. "And please," I whispered, "help me..."

Just then, the car filled with the glorious scent of freshly cut summer lilies.

The fragrance was so clear, so strong, that I stopped crying. I scanned the car, even rolling down the window to find the source of the scent. But there was nothing around to explain it, nothing but snow. And suddenly, a deep wave of peace poured through me.

He's going to make it, I knew.

Later that night, I told my husband, "It was Mitchell's angel. I know it was." And it must have been, because from that day forward our son began to improve.

Though the long battle he'd fought had left him with cerebral palsy, Mitchell was alive––a blessing of love, and a warrior who has bravely overcome every obstacle he's faced since. And I never forgot the beautiful message the angels sent to me.

Still, I'd never shared the story with my children. Not until last summer...

"I'm thinking of getting a tattoo." my daughter said. "A yellow lily."

Just then Mitch, now a strapping tall teenager, walked into the room. "Like these?" he asked, placing a vase of the blooms, cut from our backyard, on the table. And as the flowers' perfume wafted through the air ... I remembered.

"Why are you crying, Mom?" Mitch asked, slinging a protective arm around my shoulders.

Overcome, I said, "I have something to tell you ..." And as I shared the memory of that night, and how the scent of freshly cut lilies––the very scent that filled the room now––had carried me through one of the most difficult times of my life, I thanked the angels once again for that long-ago beautiful message, letting me know my boy would be just fine.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Plan B

It's that time again. Every three months we load the kiddos up and off we go to St. Jude's. Because we travel for their appointments, the day typically starts at about 5 am. When we land in Memphis we're met by a driver who takes us from the airport to the hospital.

Once at St. Jude's, there are blood drawings, well check-ups, and a multitude of other things all sandwiched into the space of a few hours. Everything generally runs like clockwork, and the kids love seeing everyone at St. Jude. It's pretty obvious that they enjoy caring for the kids too. I can't sing their praises enough. It's been awhile since I've made the trip on my own. It's no big secret that I have a fear of flying. My palms get sweaty just thinking about it.

There aren't too many things in this world that make me shake in my shoes––public speaking, flying, centipedes, freeways, flying... Did I mention flying? Because of this, my sweet husband usually does the day trip with the kids, but this time there was a ticket mix-up and I'm stuck like chuck. Flying solo. Help me@!!

Usually, when there's flying to be done, I resort to what I refer to as Plan A: This consists of two cocktails (preferably Bloody Mary's) tossed back in quick succession just before the plane starts to shimmy down the runway. Although this works wonders on vacation jaunts, I doubt this would go over too well before the kids' doctor appointment. Which means I'll have to resort to the dreaded Plan B.

Plan B, you ask? It's pretty cut and dry, and calls for courage. Which means, I'll just have to face my fear like the cool-under-pressure, gutsy woman that I know resides within me somewhere. (Deep Breath) Yes, that's what I'm gonna do...

Here's to St. Jude's and all they do for kids, our safe journey, and to being back on the ground SOON : )

Suzan





Friday, July 15, 2011

No Fear...Hope is Here

"There is no medicine like hope, no incentive so great, and no tonic so powerful as expectation of something tomorrow." – Orison Swett Marden

Just recently The New York Times posted this very interesting article about a study supporting the use of anti-virals to ward off HIV-infection. They proposed using it in people who are believed to be at high risk, but did you also know that antivirals can be used for "possible" HIV exposure? As a mother with three school age children who are positive, I felt confident–nothing could happen. I mean, what were the chances that my child would scrape knees at the same exact time with another child, or any of the other (never could happen) bodily contact scenerios that might go through your head?

The odds were a million to one. I would have banked my life on it. Even so, in 2008, shortly after Yonas was adopted, we made the decision as a family to let each of our children's schools, including their PE teachers, know about their HIV status. Why? There were a number of factors, but the biggest was that keeping it a secret had become a burden even larger than the illness itself. It was just "time," was how my daughter put it.

Have I ever regretted that decision? Never–not even once. I think that after hiding it for so many years, being able to have it out in the open felt like becoming a free man after a life-long confinement. I don't think I realized, while we were going through it, what a toll keeping the secret had become.

Disclosure is a very personal decision, and one that should not be taken lightly, especially where young children are concerned. In our case, it was the right decision at the right time. I know that there are other mothers and families out there struggling with these same issues and I hope that my story offers reasurance and hope.

In lieu of all the recent news about the success of anti-virals for post exposure, I think it fitting to reshare this story, "A Mother's Worst Nightmare."

Do not fear the unknown, but instead arm yourself with education––

Suzan

*Questions or comments? I love to hear from my readers! Comment below or e-mail me at Suzan1111@insightbb.com

Friday, June 24, 2011

A Time For Heroes 2011

They surfed. They danced. They ate foot-long chili dogs ... Santa Monica may never be the same ; ) Every year we look forward to the EGPAF's "A Time For Heroes" event and this year was pretty amazing. There was a new buzz in the air ... a lot of talk about ending pediatric HIV/AIDS once and for all. If you're not familiar with them, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation is an incredible organization whose mission is to prevent pediatric HIV infection and to eradicate pediatric AIDS throughout the world. They plan on doing this through research, advocacy, and prevention and treatment programs.

This year's event, I'm pleased to say, raised an amazing $1.1 million! That should help a lot of mothers and babies win this fight. I know there isn't a day that goes by that I don't thank God that my children and I live in a country where we have access to the medicine that saved our lives.

And would you just look at those smiles? Here's a recap of our day in pictures...Thanks for stopping by.
Mitch catches a wave. If you've never caught a plastic rip-curl, it's a must! Look at my son mastering that board ... why, he's a natural!
Yonas and "Chuck" hanging out ... and yes, they are both really this cute.
Hangin' ten! She makes it look SO easy! : )
That's the ever so talented Joey D. on the drums and his side-kick (aka, my son Yonas) showing us some NEVER before seen dance moves. He popped, he moon-walked, he rocked the dance floor : )

Ending pediatric AIDS is no longer an impossible goal. In fact, we have more hope now than ever before. If you want to learn more please visit www.pedaids.org .



Thursday, June 2, 2011

Five Pages...


I have much to be grateful for and most days I'm brimming with happiness, but these last couple of hours today, I admit, I'm a complete and utter mess; crying–snot running, the whole nine yards. I wonder if all writers get this engrossed in they're work, or maybe it's that I'm just so close to it. This chapter that I'm re-vising is only five pages, roughly a thousand words, but at times it feels as if my heart is breaking on the page. Writing about those first terrifying moments when I realized that my baby wasn't breathing right, and the hours of chaos that followed will never be easy. There was the emergency room, my baby's lips turning blue ... that receptionist that said we'd have to fill out paperwork–wait our turn like everybody else; the sheer panic of knowing that we couldn't wait. The doctors surprised faces when my husband and I burst through the ER doors with our son in hand, demanding–begging for someone–anyone, to please help us. That frozen moment as they took in the frightening sight of us. Mitchell's baby blanket dropping to the floor. The doctor who sprang into action first, taking Mitchell from our arms, and the frenzy that followed as they worked to save our son. Five pages. One thousand words. I can do this. I can do this, because I know these five pages are important. They are a catalyst toward something bigger and better, and if not for our struggles, my family wouldn't be where we are today. Although there are some heartbreaking moments, this isn't a story about heartbreak, it's a story about family, love, triumph and yes–miracles.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Writing It Down

A couple of years ago, I set out to write a memoir. I wanted to share my story of adoption and raising children with HIV, but half-way through the rough draft I decided I wasn't quite ready. My family and our story was still evolving–still growing. So, I stuck in in a drawer where I imagined it would stay for a little while. How long, exactly? I wasn't sure. I then went on to write my first novel, The Silence of Mercy Bleu, which I'm thrilled to say will be released in early March 2012. Needless to say, this is a very exciting time for me.

The plan, after finishing my novel, was simple. It was to go onto the next story, and then the next after that. In fact, I'd already finished outlines for my next three books, but like I always say, life is full of surprises!

A few months ago I had this vivid dream that I was holding a book in my hands. Not just any book–a memoir–my memoir to be exact. I could see the cover. The art. Even the title, and I was marveling over the beauty of it. Then I woke up ... ready and incredibly eager to finish it.

AND if you don't believe in serendipity... Not long after my decision to pull out the memoir, I received an e-mail–from (get this) a publisher who'd happened across my blog and wanted to know if I had plans to finish the memoir. If so, they would be interested. After I picked my jaw up off the floor, I pulled said memoir out and started typing ... even faster.

With the rough draft now complete, I'm starting in on the first edit. Writing my own "real life" story, I must say, is very different than writing fiction. I'm more emotionally vested and it can be taxing at times, re-living the difficult moments and the struggles, but more often than not, it is an incredibly rewarding experience. Writing it, like living it has become a journey in and of itself; truly meaningful, and well worth it in the end.

Writing has, for me, always been a way to share and connect with people, and it's that connection that keeps me getting up before the sun rises, to write another story, or in this case–another chapter of my own life. My hope for the memoir, when it's finished, is that my readers will take from it something valuable, something that will enrich their own lives, and if by my telling about my own struggles, and triumphs, I give hope to even one person, then it's done exactly what I'd wished for.

June 5th will mark the 30th anniversary since the first documented case of AIDS.

I've learned this: Every person you meet has a story. Listen. Learn. Share. That's how it all begins...

Friday, May 27, 2011

After the Storm

Just moments after the storm...

How about that rainbow? I shot this picture a few days ago. May 21st actually. The day "The Rapture" was supposed to happen. I took this as a lovely little sign from God. His was of saying, "Hey, listen up–not going to end the world today–just thought I'd let you know."

How many of you even thought for a second, this could be it, that this could really be "The End" of the world, even if just for a second?

That's how I felt the day I found out that my children and I had AIDS–that it was the end. I thought about the things that I'd wished I'd done differently, all the people I loved but had never told how much they meant to me. I thought about what I wanted to do with my last days on Earth. I felt the clock ticking–running out of time. How was I going to accomplish what I needed to? Would there be enough time? Did I have months or did I have a few more years? I remember hoping and praying for time... time with my family, time to do–everything.

And here we are, almost sixteen years later, healthy and going strong. Did I think, way back then, that I'd still be alive today, watching my children flourish ... fulfilling my dream of being an author and writing stories? I hoped I would.

I've since learned that a little HOPE goes a long, long way, and so here we are friends, facing another hour and another day...surviving "The Rapture" prophecy, AND surviving HIV/AIDS : )

I hope everyone has a GREAT weekend and I hope all my Southern friends are fairing alright with these storms that keep passing through.
With school about out, I'm super excited to get a jump on summer, and start this exciting next chapter of this beautiful thing we call life. Here's hoping the storms stay away at least for the weekend as there's fun to be had with the kids and we are definitely ready to hit the pool!



"Hope is only the love of life... Who knows?

God may save us, may work a miracle."

–Henri Amiel (1821-1881)

Monday, May 9, 2011

Happiness is...

A winding road...
A vineyard sunning beneath a blue sky...
A day of love and laughter : )

Happiness is... my children's love, and this was the best Mother's Day a mom could ever wish for. Happy Mother's Day to all you wonderful moms out there. Enjoy every moment with your children (they grow up fast, it's true!) and not only today, but every day, know that because of them you are blessed beyond measure.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ending Pediatric AIDS


The Time to Eliminate Pediatric AIDS is Now from EGPAF on Vimeo.

Here's to Elizabeth Glaser–a woman who's legacy, strength, and dedication to ending pediatric AIDS still lives on today. This powerful video is up for a Weeby Award. I just voted and you can too. Just follow the link and look for the EGPAF video titled "The Time to End Pediatric AIDS is NOW"

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Adoption


"Where there is great love, there are always miracles."
~ Willa Cather

Families who are pulled toward adoption are often surprised when they are met with opposition. I know I was, and the only thing I could do was accept it and move on. Not everyone is going to understand your desire to love and adopt a child that isn't yours ... a child who belongs to no one. You may encounter bias, racism and cynicism–sometimes from your own family, but hearts can change (as did my own mother's) and how lucky are those who love beyond race–beyond biological ties, and even beyond the constraints of culture and entire continents. It's true what they say about that undeniable "pull" of the heart that adoptive families feel. I know, because I felt it too, and what other choice did I have but to follow, and I'm so glad I did. My story of adoption, like so many, is nothing short of remarkable. There were brick walls and triumphs, hardships and times of downright despair, but the one constant that kept us going was love. As difficult as the process of adoption was, we never stopped believing that we could and would bring our child home, and even more remarkable were the many people–from friends & family to complete strangers–who helped and supported us along the way. I have so many people to thank, who, without them Yonas would most likely have succumbed to HIV/AIDS and died without ever knowing the love of a family. Willa Cather, a great voice in American literature, once said, "Where there is great love, there are always miracles." Believe that.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Annie Lennox and Yonas?

Being the big American Idol fan that I am, I couldn't resist sharing this story (and beautiful song) once again.

I cried when I saw this video. I was so surprised to see my child's face near the end of this! Unfortunatley, we didn't have it video recorded, but I was able to find it on YouTube. This footage is so special because four years ago, my son Yonas was an orphan living in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. (Adoption Story Here).

One evening, not long after Yonas came home to America, we were all sitting in the family room watching Idol Gives Back. Annie Lennox, a singer dedicated to the fight against AIDS, was on the screen singing "Bridge Over Troubled Water," when, just a couple of minutes into the song, on the screen behind her flashed Yonas's smiling face! Well, all of our jaws dropped, including Yonas's! We just couldn't believe it. Watch the video below and listen closely to the lyrics; just as Yonas's face comes on the screen, Annie sings, "Your chance has come to shine...all your dreams are on their way..." It still gives me chills. Those beautiful words carry significant meaning, and always will.

It's difficult, even now, when I think back to what my son's life was like before we found him. I know that whatever pain he endured, his spirit somehow soared regardless. So, yes–once upon a time, my son was an orphan. But he's not an orphan anymore. I bet Annie would be happy to know that.

Today, Yonas has a home, food and access to medicines that will keep him healthy for a lifetime; he also has a family who loves him beyond measure. Like the song said, "Your chance has come to shine...all your dreams are on their way." I do believe that. Thank you, Annie, wherever you are, for the song, the music and all you do in the fight against HIV/AIDS. We love you for it.

Annie's SING site here

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Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Those Crazy (remarkable) College Kids...

I have some good news to reveal, but first I want to share this latest blog post, inspired by my daughter, Alee, and her love of theater. See that sign above? It just so happens that was the first thing that greeted me as I walked through the theater doors of Alee's last performance. Curious yet? Trust me, it gets even better.

When my daughter, a college sophomore, told me she'd landed a part in a play, and that she'd be doing a politically motivated skit about HIV/AIDS, naturally, I was eager to see it. I have to admit, though, that when I saw the "Viewer Discretion Advised" I got a little worried.

I had no idea what was in store as I headed for the last empty seat, (front row and center) but let your imagination run wild, and let me assure you this will be better.

The theater was jam packed with college kids. Seems the entire student body had come to see Naked-Man. Now, you have to picture it. Sleek, nice looking college kids–kicked back–very cool. Me–Nervous-Mom, slumped in the front row having a hot flash–not so cool. Anyway, I smiled at the kids on either side of me and settled in just as the lights dimmed.

Each skit was a riveting, politically motivated rendition to drive home a point. I was glued to my seat during the entire emotionally charged performance ... and then, once again, the lights dimmed. When they came on again, front and center stage, stood NAKED MAN. Okay, so I admit, Alee had tried to warn me, but nothing could have prepared me for this. There stood naked man, ( and I do mean NUDE) with slur words written in black marker all over his skin. I have to say that once I got over the shock, the performance in itself I found to be very profound and beautifully executed. And I tried not to stare at the penis, which wasn't easy to do with the lighting guy upstairs shining the spotlight on it the entire time. (Laughing yet? Me too!) Those crazy college kids...

Alee's performance was next. You could have heard a pin drop as she spoke of what it was like to grow up with HIV, and what it was like to finally come out to her friends about it. I heard someone behind me whisper, "This is a true story."

I have to say I was incredibly proud of my daughter, and moved by her honesty and brave performance.

At the very end of what proved to be an amazing night, there was a Q & A with the audience. There were a lot of questions for Alee about HIV, and how that works in a committed relationship. It was great to see young people so open and unembarrassed to talk about condoms, relationships and safe sex–much more so than when I'd been their age. We must be doing something right.

Now, about that good news I've been wanting to share; I'm pleased to announce that my novel, The Silence of Mercy Bleu, sold on just its second read to a wonderful publishing house, kNight Romance Publishers. It's been an amazing experience from start to finish and I can't wait to share this story. Watch for it in bookstores and online beginning March 5, 2012!

To learn more visit: SuzanStirling.com and you can also follow me on Twitter for the latest updates.

Friday, March 25, 2011

A Little Cotton Candy for the Soul

These last two nights I could have been the poster child for that common, yet rarely talked about affliction called "new author syndrome," an almost painful condition that affects most authors at one time or another in their career. The symptoms range in severity, but are always the same. You may recognize some of these symptoms in yourself: incessant checking of e-mails, stalking writer's sites like Publishers Marketplace and AbsoluteWrite, and for the worst of the worst–daydreaming away the hours while that mountain of laundry grows bigger than Mount Sinai in the corner.

I never really fully understood the agony nor the angst that my published author friends would try to explain. Only now, as a writer on the brink of getting published, do I finally get what they were saying. Now I understand just how easy it is for a writer to fall into the trap of obsessing over that "first" novel.

After all, you've carried this bundle of work with you for many long months, sometimes years and then, like an expectant mother about to give birth, finally comes the big moment you've been waiting for–your "Book" is about to be born! You push and strain until, finally, out pops your beloved little novel–all pink, wrinkled and ugly, but (you give a big sigh) all ten toes are seemingly intact. You then set about the arduous task of investing the long hard hours it will take to polish your little darling into something really, really great. And then, just when you dare hope it might sprout wings and fly, in walks the perfect publisher who sweeps your novel right off its feet! It's every mother's...errr, I mean writer's dream. And it's the way things ought to be. It should be easy, right? Don't get me wrong. It's every bit wonderful, but easy? Never.

Be it for love, a book deal, a waiting child–let's hope not a kidney–the waiting is never easy. But, we all must do it. My best advice? Try to stay busy, live in the moment and enjoy the journey, and should the waiting get tough–a little cotton candy for the soul never hurts!


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Making of a Novel...

Although my first love has always been writing fiction, a couple of years ago, I set out to write a memoir about my experience with adoption and raising kids with HIV. About half-way into it, I realized that I just wasn't ready–my family and our story was still growing, still evolving and far from complete. I decided to take it off the burner (so to speak) and I packed it away in a desk drawer where it will no doubt stay for at least the next few years. The same week that I packed away the memoir, my husband and I made a trip across the bridge into Madison to attend an arts festival. While we were sitting on a grassy bank looking out over the river, a story began to take hold of me; a story about a young woman I didn't know yet, but who, over the course of a year would become a friend and character I won't soon forget. When we returned home from Madison, I immediately sat down at the keyboard and began to craft the outline for a novel that I titled The Silence of Mercy Bleu.

I love the freedom of fiction, the freedom to create characters and story out of thin air, and because I was writing about a subject that I'm so passionate about, it didn't take long for the words to fill the page. What began as just an idea, soon grew into a compelling story–a story about secrets, second chances and strength through adversity as told through the eyes of Mercy Bleu, a young HIV positive mom-to-be.

Once the first draft was finished, I immediately started in on the edits. I'd work each page, over and over and over again, until "Mercy Bleu's" story began to unfold. It wasn't finished yet, when I came across the William Faulkner "Novel-in-Progress" Contest. I entered my novel and low and behold it was chosen as one of the semi-finalists! That was the kick that really got the ball rolling. And roll it did.

I'd been working on my novel, day in and day out, for over a year at this point and I still wasn't sure if it was ready, but I had to at least try. I began pitching my novel to a few "big city" agents. Months passed. There were some encouraging words, but no takers. I was heartbroken, but I didn't give up. I just couldn't. I knew that if I could just get someone to actually read it, Mercy would soon be on her way. I re-worked the pitch, crossed my fingers, and sent out 10 more queries. It worked! Within a month, I received 7 requests for the full manuscript...and two rock solid offers of representation. I chose wisely. I knew that my agent, Jeanie Pantelakis, would be the perfect champion for my novel. Her sensibility and insight has been invaluable these last months.

We are now out on "submission," which is the process of pitching publishers and waiting for them to request a read. This could take days or it could take months. I honestly have no idea, but whatever happens, you know I'll certainly be posting it all right here for all those interested.

One thing I do know for sure is that I love this story and am ever so eager to share it with readers. This novel tackles some difficult issues and pushes the envelope (in more ways than one) and don't you just love when a book does exactly that?

Friday, February 25, 2011

A "Functional" Cure For HIV?

Reach For It!

Do you know what it is that you want in life? Think about it. What is it, right this very moment, that you want more than anything else? It could be just one thing, or many––something small or something so tremendous that you may be afraid to even try and reach for it. That's okay. Reach for it anyway!

What's life without risk? What is there to strive for, if not some "impossible" feat? I don't know if I've ever been so disappointed as when I read an article, years back, where a world recognized AIDS researcher was quoted as saying, "We will never find a cure for HIV."

I was devastated. To think, that someone held in such high regard, someone in charge of an entire health Institute, could have so little faith or conviction. I mean, seriously. What if Edison had said there would never be light, or what if the great men behind the first rocket-ship to the moon had said it was impossible–we'll never get there?

You have to reach for what you want. BELIEVE for what you want. I BELIEVE we'll see the cure for HIV, and right now, this very minute, there are some amazing, scientific minds who are believing for it too. They won't give up and neither will I. I simply cannot. And if you're a mom, or know and love someone with HIV, then you understand.

What is it that you want for with all your being? A new car? A book deal? A healthy child? A cure for a disease that was once proclaimed impossible to cure? Whatever it is...don't let the nay-sayers, or your own uncertainty hold you back. Start today, and just reach for it.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

A Beautiful Story...

Ben Banks was diagnosed with cancer when he was two, and the same blood that saved his life also gave him HIV. Today, he is a survivor! Meet the Banks family. I love these two and am so proud of all they do to help raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. Love is...The Banks Family.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Meet Romeo...


Okay cat lovers, meet Romeo-my very fat, Siamese cat : ) He's my baby, and if you haven't guessed–he REALLY likes my desk! He also likes my chair, which kind of throws the balance off when I'm trying to type, but we manage. In fact, if he's not walking across my computer keys, or perched on the back of my chair, my writing time just isn't quite the same. Just the other day, I'd stepped away from the computer keys to freshen my coffee and when I got back Romeo had tip-toed across the keys and added his very own paragraph to the chapter... Wasn't too terrible, actually–next time he should use the spellcheck ; ) Below is a picture of Romeo guarding my manuscript. If you couldn't tell, he takes his job VERY seriously. Would you just look at that face?


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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A Lighthouse Moment

It could go down in the Guinness Book of World Records as THE quickest road trip ever, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

If you've been following this past week, you know that the family and I flew into Orlando, Florida late Friday night to drive back the truck that Clay had found on Ebay. After a good night's sleep at a Holiday Inn, a quick breakfast, and some fresh squeezed Florida orange juice–we headed to the dealership in Daytona, signed the paperwork for Clay's truck just a-lickety-split, and then we hit the road running–next stop Savannah, Georgia!

With the Atlantic ocean breeze welcoming us in, we got right into the heart of downtown Savannah, stopping to have a little lunch at Fiddler's Crab Shack–a historic eatery along the banks of the Savannah river that serves up some of the best blue crab stew known to mankind. We must have looked like tourists (the camera and Clay's Bermuda shorts were a dead give away) because our waitress asked us where we were visiting from. When I told her we'd come all the way from Kentucky, she confided that seeing "The Derby" was number five on her bucket list. When I told her that seeing a lighthouse was #7 on mine, she said I'd come to the right place as there was a beautiful one not ten miles away and pointed us in the right direction.

Soon we were sailing down hwy 95 on our way to Tybee Island where I finally fulfilled my longtime dream of seeing a real lighthouse.

I was lucky. If I'd been three minutes later, I'd have missed out. Here's a picture of me, racing at sundown–just minutes before they closed the gate–to fulfill my dream. The picture doesn't quite do the moment justice, but trust me it was magical and something I'll never forget. Do you have a yen you've yet to fulfill? What is it? Seeing a lighthouse was just one of the things I'd hoped to do this year. Happy to say I'll be checking number seven off my list...



Sunday, January 23, 2011

On the Road AGAIN!

I sure do love a road trip. There's something about new scenery and the open road that never ceases to fuel my creativity. I can't wait to get home and start writing as I think I may have found the perfect setting for my next story.

Except for a stay in a seedy hotel that smelled like The Miami Dolphins had stayed there the night before and left their gym socks under the bed, the trip has been great. I have to admit that I was nervous about buying a vehicle that we'd found on EBay, but so far so good! It drives like a dream and we're covering some pretty serious miles to get back home. This picture is of a very large bridge on our way to Savannah, Georgia. I've never seen this side of the world and am surprised to find seagulls, sea ports, palm trees, and the most gorgeous, wide open stretch of blue sky! It's a far cry from the sub zero temps we left behind, for sure! Clay's "dream" truck is perfect, the road is beckoning, and now we're off to fulfill a longtime dream of my own.







Thursday, January 20, 2011

Loaded Up and Truckin'

We're on the road again. Well, almost on the road again. Okay, we will be on the road again–hopefully–very soon! What, if anything, could possibly cause a family to just up and go so spur of the moment, and in the dead of winter, you ask?

Without giving away too much, I can say that it involves a longtime dream of my husband's, and there will definitely be road, sky, and scenic byways involved; not only that but if you've been following my blog, this roadtrip will also bring about one of the significant "to-do's" on my New Year's list (see 1-1-11 post). So you see, it's a win, win situation, and I promise that it will all make perfect sense over the next couple weeks, so be sure to buckle up, get comfy and enjoy the ride with me. It's sure to be an adventure...


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A "MOM" MOMENT


Is there anything greater than watching your children grow and discover new, hidden talents? I think not. I'm always trying to introduce my three to new things that I hope will interest them. Sometimes successfully and sometimes not! Yonas, my youngest, is nine. He's in that discovery phase and excels at just about anything until he gets bored with it. There have been tap dance lessons, soccer at the "Y" and right now, it's anything and everything football.

Alee, my college girl, has always had an inborn skill for organization, attention to details, and is amazing with WORDS so it came as no surprise when she chose English as her major. The girl is amazing, meticulous, and passionate about literature. I could so see her as an Editor-in-Chief at some fabulous magazine or acquiring books for Simon & Schuster one day. Amazing as they all are, I have to admit that it's Mitchell (the quiet one) who's surprised me the most lately.

Mitchell is perhaps the most like me when I was his age–although he's much smarter (and funnier) than I ever was! He's also very creative. At just fourteen, Mitch can draw like nobody's business, write music, and he's a self-taught pianist who learned to play Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata," by ear no less! But something I didn't know about Mitch is that he's also a writer! That's right...Mitch's first published piece will be appearing in his high school's literary magazine near the end of the school year, and you know, proud mom that I am, I'll be posting it right here!

It's fun being a mom, and it's going to be even more incredible to watch and see what other hidden talents and passions my kids develop over the years. And to think, there was a time when I didn't think we'd make it to here. Even now, that thought...that memory is still too much for me to bear so I push it back into that locked up place where I keep it. During that worst of times my coping strategy was simple–hold onto the little things and be grateful for the good, and even the not so good moments we have. Well, a crazy, wonderful thing happened. Those little moments grew bigger and better and my kids and I, we didn't die like I thought we would. Instead, we grew healthy and strong.

No doubt, seeing that dark side of life is what made me who I am. I can't help but appreciate the little things still, like Yonas kicking a soccer ball, or confiding with a scrunched up face that he really hates the tap dance class ; ) or the time that Alee and I were panicked to discover three hours before prom that the dress no longer fit, and how at the last minute we'd found the most perfect, beautiful gown hanging in a consignment window just up the street... Or the way that Mitchell hugged me this morning before he left for school and said, "Love you, Mom."

No, there isn't a minute that goes by that I don't thank God for what I've been given. I know I'm one lucky mom. I get to watch my kids grow talents and passions; I get to watch them grow-up. Yes, I'm definitely having one of those "Mom" moments...and I'm SO, so glad.
Sweet Dreams... My "Piano man" at age seven.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Happy New Year!

It's a new day. It's a new dawn. It's a New Year ... and I'm feeling good!

Waking up to 2011 with a cup of java and a pen. I have a few New Years resolutions to commit to paper, but first I'd like to take a moment to reflect on the last twelve months. 2010 was an unforgettable year; a year that brought with it many joys: 

First and foremost, my family remained healthy and well, and my connection with God strong. I accomplished what was at one time an almost impossible dream of mine and wrote my first novel, and then in August I received two offers of representation and signed with my wonderful agent. I also discovered Ipad's remarkable "sample" a book feature, and decided I didn't dislike The Kindle, after all. I read fifteen books, watched 100 episodes of Joel Osteen, and walked 400 miles on my treadmill.   

It's been a good year. Hard to imagine how just a year can change everything. It can make you better, stronger, bring you closer to, or even fulfill, your biggest dreams. That's why we set goals and make up New Years resolutions. This year–this remarkable 2011, when you set those goals to paper, don't be afraid to go for your heart's desires. Go for it! Here's a look at the goals I've set for 2011 in no particular order:

1.)  Good health
2.)  Strong Bonds/Family/God
3.)  Finish Novel #2
4.)  See The Silence of Mercy Bleu published
5.)  Dream Big
6.)  See a lighthouse, a waterfall, and the Atlantic 
7.)  Chase a rainbow
8.)  Live. Love. Laugh.

So there you have it, my resolutions for 2011. No doubt it's going to be an amazing year!  How about you? What do you hope for in 2011? 

Thanks for visiting today. I want to wish you all a happy, healthy New Year over-flowing with good fortune, love and inspiration!