Saturday, September 13, 2008


Summertime has come and gone, taking with it plans to post at least once a month. And to think in June I was promising to wax on about all the stuff at the center of life.

So what shifted my focus this summer? Stuff at the center of life.

The boys had daily schedules full of sports, junior theatre, and spending time with friends. Mark and I began shooting video for a college recruitment video, only to stop production after the college hired me as an internal consultant for marketing. Essentially that meant that I became the person we reported to regarding plans to finish the production. Recognizing the conflict, I halted production so I could have time to assess if the video would even be needed. Or if it would serve the college better if I reassessed how to assemble the footage we'd shot. Basically I became the boss of me.

I sounds as messy and confusing as it is.

And that's not the whole of it. Since July 14, I've been working full time again. And it was pretty jarring for all of us at first. Skye had never known me as a mom who worked from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (and many days more than that because I was brought in to help manage an imminent crisis: People losing jobs. Not fun.). And Stross was on the brink of his senior year (in fact, he's in the thick of it now with his senior photo session behind him). Which brings me to Mark: He took on the full brunt of the change with an emotional wakeup call. "I'm going to need to become a bit of Mr. Mom again, aren't I?" Well...yes...

The week of July 14 found us in a familiar, albeit complicated place: Mark feeling life spin out of control, drenching rain flooding parts of Iowa in catastrophic ways, the Winnebago-Itasca Rally running full throttle, us on the brink of a vacation with my parents, and me enjoying the adrenaline rush that comes when a career move answers a vocational call. And it was the same institution causing the upheaval again.

Should any of you reading this be wondering if we ever flashed back to the end of Involuntary Joy's Part 2. Yes. But we were smarter this time. And Mark got better, faster because we were. Am I leaving things out intentionally? Yes. But if you've read the book, you know.

Let's see...what else.

On July 11 a wonderful woman named Thuy came from California with her two beautiful children to meet our family and share what the book has meant to her. Her visit touched me deeply, motivating me to resend a letter to the literary agent in New York. He responded near the end of August, declining representation but saying mildly encouraging things like "you are a good writer" and " was a difficult decision" and even "I've been proven wrong before." He encouraged me to look for an agent that would connect more emotionally to the book's content than he did. Which is wonderful advice, except now I've co-opted my time to an institution. That, too, just like 15 years ago.

What's up with that?

And then there is the vacation with my parents. Our grand plans for a 10-day excursion to Yellowstone turned into a five-day expedition to the Wisconsin Dells after my grandmother died the day before we were to depart. We still created cherished memories. Just not the kind we'd already fashioned in our minds. And my grandmother...whenever I think of her now, I imagine her happy and content. She'd been missing my grandfather for seven years. And at nearly 92, life can be a lonely existence. I hope hers wasn't. But I think a lot of days it was.

She missed her 92nd birthday by a month. And her birthday has always been exactly one week before mine. I wasn't as reflective as I normally am on the anniversary of my birth. Yet I was reflective. And tired. But that's to be expected. I'm working full-time again. With a department to establish, three search committees to manage for three positions that each have human resource complications, a fall marketing campaign to create with little to no budget and various personality quirks to navigate among people who've never known the Joy who really kicks ass at organizational communications.

Oh, yeah. I've started swearing a bit. It began in my head the moment the college president told me about his conversation with the Board of Regents and why he wanted me to consider taking a position he planned to create so I could step in to help. That day the words ringing in my head were: Oh, shit! (or OS) And they -- honestly -- seemed to come from a holy place -- as bizarre as that sounds. Maybe the need for me to respond affirmatively came from holy place and my resistance took the form of swearing. Anyway, I've had many OS moments since then. And always in the context of: "OS! You mean I have to deal with that too, God?" The answer comes as a silent: "Yes, Joy. Face into the wind and keep moving."

So that's what I've been doing. And will continue to do. And maybe somewhere along the line I'll make time to query another agent. Either that or offer myself as a VP choice for Obama should Biden need to step down. Apparently the country has a thing for 44-year-old, former pageant finalists who have a journalism degree, a child with disabilities and a husband who's comfortable being Mr. Mom. Also, I've not held a broadcast television position but I've taught students how to be on air from a PR standpoint (and done that myself), and I've even held a job where I facilitated the training of mayors if never having been a mayor myself. What's more, while I don't have my NRA card, my father and uncle did teach me how to shoot a variety of guns.

So yeah...if some president-wanna-be calls me in for a job, I'll probably be crazy enough to take on that responsibility too!

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