It'll have taken me roughly six months to get this venture off the ground by the time we finally launch, but the truth is, I feel like I've been on this path for far longer. Prior to becoming a mom, I weaved in and out of industries and professions, searching for a fulfillment I wasn't finding and hoping to find it in my next position. But that would be no easy task.
You see, when I was 14 years old, I was raped and held hostage at gunpoint for a period of 36 hours. For some, this is not new information; for others, it may come as a surprise. I know that when we first started dating, it came as a huge shock to my husband. He just couldn't understand why someone would...you know...voluntarily lock themselves in a room with me for 2 days. (Yes, that was a hostage joke. No, I will not be making hostage jokes in your children's books.) To be fair, I was a lot less naggy back then.
In any event, the experience was a rather jarring one for a young teen, and I found myself irreparably changed in the wake. I wasn't jaded or angry, as you might expect. To the contrary, I was immeasurably grateful to have emerged with my life still intact. But I was dead set on making sure that that my life was one marked by happiness, and not by the monotonies that tend to define our days. Fast forward to my working years, and I'd find myself wondering if I'd be happy with how my final days had gone if something unexpected were to happen to me. All too often, that answer was no. Which is why I was elated when I found myself on bed rest in my second pregnancy!
Wait, hear me out.
I was diagnosed with placenta previa at my anatomy scan at 21 weeks and hemorrhaged the very next day. After a 4 day hospital stay, I was sent home on strict instructions not to walk for the next 4 months -- not even to the bathroom (my husband would wheel me to and fro in an office chair each day). This proved to be particularly challenging, especially since we had a 9 month old at the time, but that struggle we were encountering in the present would also prove to be the greatest window into my future.
With nothing else to do but sit, I took to writing. I wrote about parenthood. I wrote about pregnancy. I wrote about being a wife and a friend and everything in between. And I loved it. I really and truly loved it. After years of searching for my passion, a hostile fetus and a stint on house arrest had finally led me to it. Before I knew it, my posts were being picked up by bigger news outlets, and I was being contacted about paid work. It caught me by surprise and served as a much-needed distraction at a time when my focus otherwise would have been on the scary situation at hand.
Ultimately, my daughter ended up being born at 28 weeks -- nearly 3 months too early. She spent 44 harrowing days in the NICU -- days that were marked by leaps forward but also by frequent setbacks. And throughout that time, I continued to write. I found solace in prose and comfort in humor. After all, you know what they say: Laughter really is the best medicine. But I also knew that I wouldn't be ready to pursue my passion until I knew that my tiny human was going to be okay. So when she finally came home from the hospital a month and a half into her life, I made her my sole focus and first priority.
9 months later, I finally felt like I could breathe again. Not only was my daughter meeting milestones, she was exceeding them, and for the first time since this all started, I felt like everything was going to be okay. So I decided to go for it. I arranged childcare for my two girls and set up a slew of interviews. It was official; I was re-entering the workforce!
Until I wasn't.
It wasn't 3 days after I had hired our nanny that I got the phone call from my mom. She had been in to see her colorectal surgeon for what she thought was a bad case of hemorrhoids. Only they weren't hemorrhoids. And now she was scheduled for an emergency biopsy the following morning.
We sat in the recovery room following surgery, and I knew as soon as the doctor came in what the diagnosis would be.
Squamous cell carcinoma. Anal cancer.
We digested the information, asked about next steps, and I dutifully wrote down all of the doctors’ names and numbers, as my mom sat silently in a daze. She lay in her hospital gown, quiet and still, until we were released from the hospital and got into the car.
And then she started to cry.
Me: Mom, what’s wrong?
Mom: I don’t want to be sick. I don’t want to die. I have so much life left to live, and I’m really, really scared.
Me: Awww, mom. The only thing you should be scared of is telling people you have anal cancer.
I always know how to say the right thing.
My mom had a tough journey ahead. There'd be daily radiation treatments, daily chemotherapy pills, and the occasional chemotherapy infusion. I knew that I didn't want her to go through it alone, and I also knew that a hired caretaker wasn't the answer for us. That caretaker was going to have to be me. So I moved my mom into our home, canceled my interviews, and dedicated myself to her treatment process. We trekked back and forth between Broward and Dade every day for the next 3 months. We met with surgical oncologists, radiation oncologists, and pain management specialists. Every day felt oppressive. But it was exactly where I needed to be. My dad had died in 2012; my close friend, in 2013; my grandpa, in 2014; and my grandma, in 2015. If I were going to experience yet another loss in 2016, I was going to make sure that I spent as much quality time as possible with my loved one beforehand.
The diagnosis was but one more reminder of how short life can be, and it ignited a fire in my belly that I had never experienced before. Yes, I wanted to write. Yes, I missed receiving those messages from friends -- messages about how one of my posts had managed to brighten an otherwise dismal day. I wanted to continue to bring humor into people's lives, but I wanted to do so on a larger scale. And I wanted to do it while retaining the freedom to be there for my mom whenever she might need.
So when my mom was told that her cancer was in remission at the end of 2016 (!!!), Funny Fable Productions was born.
Why Funny Fable? Because I saw a gap in the market. I appreciated books like Go the F**ck to Sleep but also appreciated the fact that I couldn't actually read them to my children without incurring a call from Child Protective Services. And the rest of the books on the market had me Googling whether it was possible to forcibly remove my own voice box so that I wouldn't be compelled to read anymore. (Fun fact: It's not recommended.) I wanted to marry the two styles of literature. I wanted parent-centric humor that was still appropriate to read to children. And not only that, I wanted the experience of reading to your child to be interactive, and I wanted it to tell a story not only through abstract language but through the use of tangible toys and accessories as well.
So I decided to create it myself.
I should stop here and take the opportunity to say, if you've made it this far in my dissertation, you have unbelievable stamina and questionable decision-making skills, but I appreciate you, nonetheless. Because while this has turned out to be far longer than I originally anticipated, every word was necessary to provide a complete picture of who we are as a company and our road to get here.
This company truly is a labor of love and the result of years of lessons coalescing into one. Because ultimately, from every bad experience in my life came a teachable moment. Being held hostage at such a young age taught me to value life's brevity and to never settle for anything less than happiness. Our pregnancy complication and subsequent NICU stay offered me the unexpected opportunity to discover my passion for writing and really drove home the importance of and utility inherent in humor. My dad's death taught me to prioritize your loved ones while they're still here, leading me to put off my job search and commit myself to my mom. And my mom's cancer diagnosis emphasized to me the importance of freedom and flexibility in my career. In the end, every last road -- no matter how windy, curved, or bumpy -- led me right here. Had just one of those things not happened, I'm not sure if I'd have found myself in the place I am today.
So through my writing, I hope to be able to bring humor into your life. Through our philanthropic mission, I hope to be able to bring change to the lives of those abroad. And I thank each and every one of you for being a part of my journey to get here, whether personally or professionally. This life can be hard at times, but it can also be beautiful, especially when we all take the time to laugh.