Saturday, December 1, 2007


Involuntary Joy is metaphorically in the backseat, and I don't like it. Holidays, caucus preparation, ungraded papers, preparation for finals, PR client projects and family needs have pushed forward making the front seat crowded. Probably not a wise way to travel.

I'm being dramatic, of course. I'm not silly enough to let things dangerously crowd. I remember that feeling from earlier decades of life. Too wise (I hope) to let it happen now. I have learned the power of "no" and the empowerment of "yes." Still, life's demands are playing a constant game of fire drill these days. Whenever I arrive at an intersection, the doors fly open and positions shift.

Involuntary Joy weighs so heavy, everything else must clump together to achieve equilibrium. Some call it maintaining balance. Maybe. For I'm not overwhelmed. Challenged, yes. Overwhelmed, no. That's good.

I sense this type of existence as necessary right now. The holidays are the holidays. Caucus season comes once every four years. Finals week comes twice a year. Clients are a constant. Family is paramount. And so it goes.

The day Involuntary Joy authoritatively climbs into the front seat again, all else will be left clamoring for prime spots in the back. Then we'll all hold on for the ride.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Busy, busy

I've thought about blogging many times; tonight I'm not just thinking--I'm actually blogging. So here goes...

October blurred into November courtesy of five book signings and three speaking opportunities. Stross joined in every book signing but one, giving us some great together time. The together part didn't necessarily mean we were doing the same thing at the same time, however. Many times, I ended up reconnecting with someone from an earlier era of life, while Stross busied himself with straightening my business cards and any promotional cards that were scattered on the table. And while he exhibited a keen interest in choosing which chapter I'd read if the event called for a reading, he didn't stick around to listen. Well, sort of. He'd wheel around the fringes of the group, listening but not noticeably so.

The first time I conducted a reading, Stross chose Chapter 9: "Sister Mary Pull-me-Down." I took his advice and ended up crying during one paragraph that spoke about how I felt the broken world had broken him. According to Mark, when my voice cracked and my eyes teared, Stross looked at him and said, "See, I got her!" Then he smiled.

Stross is so very Stross. I'm glad I can count on that truth.

As for any of these events--whether signing or speaking--I've been honored to hear positive feedback. It'd be easy to wax poetic about the comments received, but doing so seems self-serving. I'm reminded of Mary collecting things and pondering them in her heart. My heart is full and I've much to ponder.

So it continues.

And I hope it will for a very long time.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Best Book Ever...

On a handful of occasions in recent weeks, I've received this compliment: "It's the best book I've ever read."

I want to believe that's true. But I also find myself thinking: "I wonder what else they've read." Then I start to ponder whether or not--if I were to learn which books ranked #2 and lower--if I'd agree with Involuntary Joy's #1 status.

So what's up with that? My opinion doesn't matter. I simply need to accept this type of compliment. It should be enough that someone wants to share the sentiment: "It's the best book I've ever read." That's incredibly significant. Unbelievably significant. For some reason, at this point in that person's life, my book mattered. It made a difference somehow.

Why can't I believe that?

I want to believe that.

Not only's a heck of a lot better than being the worst book someone's read. And probably if someone does think that about Involuntary Joy, they will keep that a private thought.


Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Time Flies

It's so cliche' to say that "time flies" -- but really -- somehow time got away from me since I last posted. It must have flown.

The books did arrive--just in time too. And I had a wonderful book signing on Saturday. I'll have to post photos soon. In fact, many good things have been happening with the book. I have five signings scheduled in the months of October and November with a few small speaking engagements. I always appreciate those opportunities; to have so many in October and November feels extremely rewarding.

Unfortunately, I can't blog about it right now. Right now I can barely stay awake. The only reason I'm typing anything at all is to offset my feelings of helplessness. I want the book to be my primary focus, but that won't happen any time soon. (I don't think.) Wouldn't it be great if I was wrong about that in a good way.

See...I'm tired. Not making any sense.

Sweet dreaming seems to be in order. Good night, Moon!

Saturday, September 29, 2007


Yes, I'm waiting for my second shipment of Involuntary Joy, but that is not what I'm thinking about when I write the word "waiting" tonight. This waiting relates to an acquaintance who, when I asked her what she was doing these days, responded: "I'm following God's lead and waiting on his timing."

I've spent a few days wondering about her comment--more specifically, wondering what a waiting state of existence looks like to God. Does God see our waiting as active or passive? Following God's lead sounds active, but waiting on his timing sounds passive.

My nagging question is this: How can we tell if God is waiting on us instead? Seriously. What if waiting on God is a game we play with ourselves. What if when we believe we are following God's lead, we are actually living in consecutive circles, repetitiously following impluses until something motivates us to pull out of the cycle and move forward.

Perhaps the moment we decide to move into a divergent track is the moment God's timing becomes ours--the moment we discover how to sync our life with divine leadings that we missed while circling past.

Truly, when we wait on God's timing, what exactly are we waiting for?

Can following God's lead take us to the destination that is "waiting"? Does God ever lead us to the place of waiting? And if so, is that because God knows we have something active to do while waiting? My questions reveal my desire. I want waiting to have a higher purpose or, at a minimum, know that waiting helped me develop some component necessary for growth.

But, still, I wonder...

Perhaps I just need to follow God's lead and wait for an answer. ;-) Or maybe not. I think I'd rather keep asking questions until I find one that propels me forward, or--better yet--step onto a path I've yet to follow.

What about you? What are you waiting for?

Friday, September 28, 2007

Shipping Delay

Well...on Thursday, Sept. 27, the printing company said shipping would be delayed one day--to today: Friday.

Now guess what: Today they said the shipper's truck broke down and can't make the pick up until Monday, Oct. 1.

Good gravy!

I really need them here for the October book signings.

I'm not panicked yet. But check in with me on Thursday.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Rest of the Story

I began each school day in elementary basically the same. I woke before anyone else in my family--mom, dad, and sister--partly because I wanted to use our only bathroom first and partly because I was a an early riser. (Now my early rising has become a necessary family routine for reasons related to motherhood--and wanting to use the bathroom to myself. OK, some things don't change.)

As soon as my parents emerged from their bedroom, the kitchen radio began blaring whatever was airing on KOEL-AM. My morning routine followed the choreography of KOEL's morning show-- weather, farm market reports, school lunch menus, area announcements. Each element helped me time my daily preparations without the need to look at a clock. My morning clock was the same as the station's.

When it was time for the morning announcer to play a set of songs, I knew I needed to be eating breakfast. I also knew I needed to have my teeth brushed before the last song finished. That's when the station ID would play to mark the top of the hour and the start of Paul Harvey's five-minute show. I glided through my morning with little need to interact with other family members other than to move to one side of the bathroom sink if asked or to pass a cereal box upon request.

When I was hitting my marks on pace, I was able to finish in time to stand by our front door and listen to Paul Harvey's entire show, holding my school bag that I'd packed the night before and placed by the door. However, if I was running behind in my morning preparations, I knew I had those five-minutes to catch up. Either way, right at 8:05 a.m., Paul Harvey would bid me "Good Day!" and I'd start walking to school. Using his cue allowed me to arrive on time every day. And to me "on time" meant as soon as the elementary's doors opened. Whenever I arrived early enough to be part of the group waiting for the teacher who unlocked the front doors, I knew the day held great promise. It truly might be a "good day!"

When I was a young girl, the start to each of my days had a certain ritualistic poetry to it. Yet the end of those days--not so much. Or at least I can't remember the same type of beautifully steadfast ritual. I remember I liked to read books before falling asleep; and that sometimes I'd choose to turn off the lights, put on a favorite LP, set the volume to a nearly imperceptible sound level, and then attempt to drift into slumber before the fifth and final cut of Side One ended. Still, in elementary, the key to ending my days well seemed to be connected to a smooth transition into the next "good day."

I lived for the start of yet another "good day."

And they were--by and large--incredibly wonderful days with good starts and smooth finishes.

Involuntary Joy is off to a good start, I think. In fact in a literary sense, the book itself has a good start. I've always thought of the book's first section as almost a story unto itself. I'm still awe-filled when realizing this section--the first third of the book--only covers two weeks of my life. Then, as our story--my story--unfolds, the pace changes. As I interpret it, we find our footing as a family in the middle section, while I find my footing as a mom in the book's last section. Then the book's storyline ends.

Many kind people have shared positive feelings about Involuntary Joy and then expressed a desire for the story to continue. They want more. Trouble is: I'm living the more. The rest of the story isn't told yet. Not only that, it probably won't have the intensity (I hope not!) or the raw intimacy of those earliest days. Maybe people won't even find that part of my story the least bit interesting.

You see, here's the thing: Stross' birth was a good day. It truly was. Not anything like the morning-ritual good days of my past, but a good holy day. I don't think I'll ever feel as close to God as I did that day. Not in the same way, at least. Perhaps I believe that because I fear the circumstances that would bring that type of divine intimacy my way again. Or perhaps I simply want to reserve that level of intimacy for that holy moment alone--the moment I became someone's mother. Skye's day of birth came close to that day. But not fully. He wasn't my firstborn.

Any yet my story continues. And I do feel close to God even as I'm living what Paul Harvey would call "the rest of the story."

Who am I becoming now? I don't believe I can know until I'm there. And will my identity be as connected to Stross' as it was in the days and weeks and months closest to his birth? I'm eager to find out and maybe even write about it someday. Maybe.

I just wonder who will be interested.

In fact that might be the rest of the story.

Fascinating, isn't it? This inability to write what I can see unfolding before me. I think that's why people journal and blog. It's the closest we can get. Our own real life Tivo.

What I'm living continues to be the story of who Stross is becoming and, ultimately, who I became when I grew up. Probably a more interesting conclusion for a book, yet again, that part of the story's not finished. (But don't worry, I'm taking great notes!)

Now to those of you still traveling this journey with me, I want to thank you...and, of course, to wish you a...good day!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Exponential Thinking

I found out that the next 500 copies of "Involuntary Joy" will ship around Sept. 27. So, really, it's only a matter of days before I need to sharpen my focus on the business of selling books again. Let me clarify: The books are still selling; but when I get 500 more in stock, I'll want them to sell at a pace that allows me to climb out of the debt I incurred to print them. A pragmatically practical concern. (Interest rates are related to the concept of exponential growth too, but that's not what this blog is about.)

Back to the books: As it is, I'm down to less than 60 copies of the first 500. And that's a bit unreal, considering they arrived July 20--less than two months ago.

I've learned a bit about book selling and distribution these past six weeks. The most fascinating thing: How one book is read by multiple persons--usually by at least one other person, but sometimes as many as three to four others. Therefore, there may be 440 copies of "Involuntary Joy" circulating, but it's possible that more than 800 people have read it.

I'm still trying to grasp the scope of that. What does it mean--if anything--beyond learning that one person loaned (or gifted) his or her copy to another?

Please don't assume that my exponential musings are linked to grandiose concepts. More like anecdotes from childhood--like a hair care commercial from the 70s where a woman tells her friend about it, then she tells her friend, and so on and so on. I can still see the TV screen fill with two boxes, then four boxes, then eight, and so on--each showing smiley women with flowing hair. News of the product took off exponentially, growing in proportion to the hair product's fans.

Accompanying this commercialized memory is something more spiritual: A song from Bible school about love being like a magic penny. The lyrics went something like:

.. It's just like a magic penny--
.. hold it close and you won't have any.
.. Lend it, spend it, you'll have so many,
.. they'll roll all over the floor.

.. Love is nothing 'til you give it away,
.. give it away,
.. give it away.
.. Love is nothing 'til you give it away.
.. You end up having more.

I love that image.
Love spilling out all over the place.
Exponential love.

Now that's some kind of involuntary joy.
Amen. May it indeed be so.

Friday, August 31, 2007

A Quiet Place

When I was young--only old enough to be capable of reading children's books and deeply grateful I had the ability to read them at all--I discovered a book called "A Quiet Place." I read this small book to my four-years-younger sister until it became her favorite. Its lyrical cadence introduced both of us to a new life sound: the rhythm and rhyme of words. Soon "A Quiet Place" became more memory than script, and its familiarity brought union.

Tonight I feel its words creeping back from some distant place. Not because I want to find a place to hide so that I may play pretend and eat an imaginary biscuit while drinking imaginary tea like the young girl of the story; but because I am in such a place--a quiet place--and it has come with an even newer rhythm that's been none of my doing.

I'm quiet.


For the next order, for the next printing of books to arrive, for assurance that Involuntary Joy does, indeed, have a future beyond its life to this point.

And while I wait maybe I will find an actual quiet place...and have a cup of tea. And a biscuit. Or two.

And maybe, in this new rhythm of life, I'll feel the union of those living their own involuntary joys.

Friday, August 24, 2007

When & Where

I've been warmed and sustained by many generous comments since Involuntary Joy's release five weeks ago. Sometimes I feel I can sense people reading. Most likely the sensation comes from reflecting on what I've learned about how and when people are reading the book--and where. Hearing these things provides me with yet another brand of joy--a quiet, peaceful kind:

- one woman is forcing herself to read it only one chapter at a time because, "I don't want it to end."
- another woman decided to read it during her treadmill workout because, "I enjoy it so much, it makes the time fly."
- one couple (in their 80s) shared the experience as the wife read it aloud to her husband (who has cataracts) each night for a little more than a week;
- a daughter is reading it to her father in the evenings as he is recuperating from cancer treatments;
- a man (a nurse visiting Iowa relatives) bought the book and stayed up all night reading it; then, after he returned home to California, called my parents to say he thought it was "phenomenal."

Each time I hear a story like those above, I'm reminded that I will never know all the people who have read Involuntary Joy -- when, how or why -- or even what reading it has meant to them. Nor should I. My story becomes theirs to take in. Its words mix with their experiences, enriching my life because it has privately--and very personally--enriched theirs.

What an honor -- then, now and everytime it happens -- whereever, whenever and however it happens.


Tuesday, August 21, 2007

An Epilogue Moment

I had an epilogue moment in the produce section of Bill's Family Foods after school today. I'd just left Stross at home. He was working with his respite worker on a homework assignment that he and I had begun together. It was the first day of school--the first day of homework as a junior--but very little had changed about the way homework happens. He needs me or someone making sure appropriate modifications happen and that he stays on task. Because Megan took over helping him--my respite--I was free to head to the grocery store to pick up items for supper.

Compared to the rigor of his homework assistance, shopping alone did feel like a respite. But in the produce section, my moment of mindful rest ended.

As I headed toward the bananas, I saw Heidi and Holden, twins who are classmates of Stross, shopping with their mom. I remembered how excited Stross had been to go to their birthday party in elementary school and how much he likes just being part of their class.

Just then another young man, also my son's age, called out to Heidi and they smiled and waved to each other--the kind of excited, attention demanding, shout out that says, "Hey, look at me. We know each other and life is fun." And they were having fun--first day of school, we are juniors, aren't we cool fun.

Then a seeping sadness crept in.

Everything I did next, I did mechanically. I chose some bananas, placed them in my cart, pushed my way through the rest of my shopping list and headed to the checkout counter where another of my son's classmates checked my groceries and yet another one bagged them for me.

I needed to get back home.

I needed to see how homework was going...and reassure myself that my junior had enjoyed an exciting, attention demanding, event filled day as well.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Invitation to Empathy

I hesitate to write anything here today, as I feel I have something developing that isn't fully formed. Still, I want to get this much into print: Involuntary Joy is an invitation to empathy.

The truly ironic fact is that in my earliest years, I was keenly aware that I lacked the capacity for empathy--not fully, but to any degree that aligns with virtuous qualities like mercy and compassion.

Now, however, I can empathize with a great many things. And I believe it's because of the way Stross ushered me into motherhood.

Based on feedback about Involuntary Joy's impact to readers, I think it's safe to say it recreates our family's experience in a way that conveys what it felt like to be me at that time. Readers empathize with my experience. Best of all, it seems those feelings live on, helping readers better connect to others who are persevering through unanticipated pain.

And I'm beginning to realize that's what I've wanted all along. I sorta knew. But I really like the affirmation. (Me like affirmation? Perhaps an understatement, yes?) :-)

But seriously, if someone can vicariously live our family's experiences, then perhaps they can better connect to how their sister or daughter or neice or friend might be feeling -- even how that person's life companion might be feeling. That can only bring good things, for empathy leads to a level of understanding that fosters compassion. And compassion moves everyone just a bit closer to love--the quiet, all-encompassing, can't-get-around-it, agape kind of love.

It's the love that sits quietly next to someone who is crying and doesn't feel the need to speak.

The love that draws near to someone simply because being separated by time and space seems wrong.

The love that cooks a meal and offers to run errands so someone else can simply sit and be.

The love that says, "I can't know exactly how you feel, but I hurt with you." (Not for you, but with you.)

And if Involuntary Joy helps somebody recognize opportunities to do that for someone else, I'm deeply, deeply pleased.

Amen. May it indeed be so.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

1st Newsletter

I'm in a quiet place where "Involuntary Joy" is concerned.

Let me clarify that: The need to market and develop a query are not part of this quiet place. I guess the quiet feeling has more to do with my sense of completion. "Involuntary Joy" is done. And after nearly 14 years of book talk, I'm basically talked out. I guess because I did it. I finally took the bits and pieces I'd been writing off and on since Stross' birth and created a book. Signed, printed, delivered--it's yours...that is if you want to read it.

Of course that doesn't mean I don't want to talk about the book. I love hearing from readers willing to share their feelings about what they read and about the types of conversations the book's content incited. (Or dare I say "inspired"?) That's what I hoped would happen. I wanted the book to get people talking. So, of course I want to be part of that!

I think my quiet place is a restful place.

It's not that I don't have more to say. Because I do. I even have more essays tucked away that just didn't fit into the arc of "Involuntary Joy's" story. But it's time to be quiet--to rest. It's time for others to talk. And I'm ready for that.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Audience Hunt

I'm beginning to see more clearly the audience for "Involuntary Joy." I had an audience in mind, but I now have the opportunity to see if who I was writing for matches the people who are actually reading it. I had always hoped "Involuntary Joy" wouldn't get labeled "a religious book for parents of disabled children," and I don't think it is. Of course I hope parents and others who have a family member with a disability are part of the book's audience! But I don't believe they are the only audience. If so, I've failed them.

I'll venture only so far in my speculations: I'm reassured that "Involuntary Joy" isn't being positioned as a faith book. In fact, I'll say that "Involuntary Joy" is no more a religious book about faith than Martha Beck's book "Expecting Adam" is. (If you've read both books, you'll know what I mean.)

I hesitate to type in this space what I believe the message of "Involuntary Joy" is or who I believe is finding/receiving the message. Right now I only know who is buying early copies of the book. What's more, I have no idea who they are passing their copies on to or if they are referring the book to others. Therefore, I'm content to continue waiting just a bit more. (And because I'm really bad at waiting, that's a big deal.) This is too important. I want to see and hear the message reflected back before I allow myself the satisfaction of affirmation.

But if you are reading this and if you have read "Involuntary Joy," please let me know what you think. We are in this together.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Books In Hand

Well…I promise to get better at blogging. So for any of you who have been checking this spot (and according to my web sources, some of you have been checking), please forgive me.

I’m obviously a novice blogger. Seasoned bloggers understand that blogging requires commitment and attention. I do get that. And I do appreciate the art of blogging. That’s why I’m committed to getting better. It seems that blogging is a skill you learn by doing. So I guess I’m no further behind than anyone else who took a leap one day and decided to launch a blogspot.

And it’s not that I’ve been without news to share. Copies of my book, “Involuntary Joy,” arrived on a huge transport truck last Friday (much bigger than necessary because my books were simply accompanying one of 3Ms’ shipments). We took delivery at 2 p.m., and I was at the post office just after 4 p.m. mailing complimentary copies to friends and relatives who have lived through the writing and self-publishing process with me.

I’d have to describe the ensuing days as hectic—but exciting. They have been filled with calls to independent bookstores, drives to make book deliveries, orders via the Internet, trips to the post office, and both informal and formal book signings.

I honestly can’t describe what it feels like to have the book in printed form in a way I can share with others. Fulfilling? Yes. But not I’m not as over-the-top-elated as someone might think. Instead there is a pervasive peace underscoring everything that is happening. It all feels so: natural. It’s as if part of me is saying: “Why, of course, this is happening. Haven’t we always known it would?”

I don’t know who the “we” is. It's just that I don’t feel alone in any way. A full team of friends helped get me to this point, and our whole family continues to be in this together—Mark, Stross, Skye. Best of all, the events of this past week have felt natural to each one of us. It's as if we feel we are being led somewhere (I think only literally, and not figuratively), and it’s an honor to be on the trip—and deeply satisfying.

Once I know where we are headed, I’ll let you know. I’m being encouraged to find a way to share my book on a broader scale. And I’m very open to that. I know that—just like the way this book finally made it to print—I won’t be able to accomplish that goal (dream?) alone. For those of you who've read the book, I believe I’ll have to find the current that can carry me that direction, and then prepare to enjoy the ride.

Thank you to all who have been so kind and supportive. I’m deeply touched; I’m humbled. You are numbered among my many involuntary joys.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Adventure Begins

After more than a decade of talking about it, I finally did it. I published a book. A memoir even. And soon others will have a chance to read what I've been holding inside.

I think the book might even be described as "a good book." But I'm the author. Authors don't get to decide. It will only be a good book if those who read it want others to read it too. And, a few weeks from now, I may begin to find out if that's what has happened.

Until then I continue to wait.

My waiting has not been unproductive, however. I've spent the time thinking some pretty incredible thoughts (if I do say so myself). The thoughts are more like answers to private questions, or the collective outcome of my personal contemplations. In particular, I've been revisiting a question I first entertained nearly 16 years ago: "What did I hope to accomplish by writing a book anyway?"

No matter when I ask myself the question or how I pose the question to myself, I return to a single answer: I want to get conversations started.

And that probably doesn't surprise anyone who knows me.

So...I'm growing more eager with every passing day. I can't wait to see how the conversation begins.