If you missed the beginning, the first four parts about my descent into writing hell are right here: The Torture Begins, Just a Singer in a Rock and Roll Band, A Charmin’ Experience, and Death, Destruction, and Polysendatons.

thYQ166BOE.jpg panning for gold

Over four weeks I paid my money, read until my eyes fell out and typed until my fingers bled, conquered countless internet demons and made new internet friends, eradicated my self-editor, killed my little darlings, panned for gold in my SFD, cultivated new habits and got rid of old ones, cried, cursed, and doubted my sanity, and at the end of the course I ended up with this. Hope you like it. JFM did!

My Bouncing Bundle of Gold

I contemplated naming my youngest daughter Olivia Octavia Penelope Smith because her initials would spell OOPS. Months earlier, my universally admired OB/GYN had taken a laser to my inside parts, negating any chance, he said, of another pregnancy. Yet there I was, knocked up at thirty-eight. I’m a pretty smart cookie, too smart to be knocked-up at thirty-eight. Clearly, I’m also part earthworm and amazingly capable of regenerating body parts.

I was hopping mad at the fates and my deceitful innards for altering my life—hopping mad and depressed.  I kept bursting into tears at odd moments for the next seven months. The only reason I didn’t cry the entire nine months is that it took me two of them to realize I was pregnant.

When my husband and I broke the news to our daughters, the guileless five-year-old was abashed, bewildered, devastated because she’d no longer be the baby. The conniving twelve-year-old was euphoric, smug, triumphant because she’d been praying for a baby brother.

Baby brother? I knew nothing about boys!  Panic grabbed me, held me down, and forced me to watch scenes from the horror movie that threatened to become my life: a tangled pet-wad of snakes and lizards and rats slithering wild and loose and evil inside our house; a miasma of boy stench rising up to suffocate us all as we slept; me forced into duty as a Cub Scout den mother.

I prayed a counter-prayer: “Please, God, don’t let it be a boy.”  A few weeks later, a simple medical test proved to me, once and for all, that there is indeed a God, and that in spite of being a practical joker, he does indeed love me.

That fear quashed, I focused on names. Olivia Octavia Penelope was never a serious contender, but it made me laugh between crying fits. Other names flew into my mind like chattering grackles, each trying to out-caw the others: Whitney, Chelsea, Emily, Serendipity. Serendipity? I swear it wasn’t a drug-induced hippie notion. Serendipity Smith simply had a nice ring. Serendipity Smith—such an optimistic name; a happy, sliding-off-the-tongue name; a perfect-for-the-surprise-nature-of-its-owner’s-existence name.

Despite the tremendous thought I’d put into the appellation, I never mentioned it to my husband. If his stomach couldn’t handle Chelsea, he’d projectile vomit Serendipity.

Eventually we agreed on Caitlin Elyse, but in my mind she was–and still is–Olivia.