A hat trick week for Dancing in Heaven

I want to thank all of you who followed me around the blogosphere this week. First I had the kind invitation from Arlee Bird to guest post at Wrote by Rote. Then my dear blogging friend, Marion Driessen, from the Netherlands posted her amazing review of Dancing in Heaven on Figments of  a Dutchess. And now to end this incredible week, Kaity-Jane has posted a book-showcasing of Dancing in Heaven and a short interview at Reviews by Jane. If you can spare a minute today I hope you’ll stop over there.

A big thank you to Arlee, Marion, and Kaity-Jane. It’s been a great week.


Dancing in Heaven receives glowing first international review

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Those of you who regularly follow my blog will know that I recently sent a copy of Annie’s story dancing across the ocean to the small country of the Netherlands where my blogging friend Marion waited with open arms.

This morning I sat at my computer intent on posting a blog I had written yesterday about motherhood, but first I checked my email. That’s where I found out that Marion has finished Dancing in Heaven and written an absolutely heart-breaking review of the book. It continues to both surprise and validate me when readers are able to put into words what I had hoped to write. Marion has done this.

I hope you have a minute to stop over and read the conclusion to our ongoing series about Dancing in Heaven‘s trip to the Netherlands.

Dancing in Heaven

Posted on June 7, 2012 by Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess

“As I turned the last page, tears were streaming down my face. Happy that sweet little Annie was finally able to dance in heaven, no longer hampered by the prison that her body had been for her sparkling and merry mind. Sad that her radiant smile was now only a memory.” Continue

Photo courtesy of Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess June 7, 2012

This was a fun and rewarding adventure for me and Annie’s story. If you missed any of the posts you can find them below.

Thank you Marion. You’re a terrific writer and friend.


Why we write our stories — a guest post at Wrote by Rote

I’d like to thank Arlee Bird at Wrote by Rote for the invitation to write a guest post on his blog about memoir writing. Why we write our stories, is a post I wrote about writing stories in general and Dancing in Heaven in particular. I hope you’ll stop by and read it there today or sometime through next week.

In addition to Wrote by Rote, Arlee is the author of  Tossing it Out (his main blog), A Few Words (a Sunday contemplation), and A Faraway View (about dreams). Arlee also initiated  April’s A to Z challenge.

Thank you, Arlee, for your interest in Dancing in Heaven, and your invitation to guest blog.

A bouquet of wildflowers to you.


Unmined memories

I woke up with a new memory of Annie running through my head. It will probably be running through my head the rest of the day.

Annie, Annie, bo banny

Banana fanna fo fanny

Me mi mo manny

Annie.

The Name Game written and recorded by Shirley Ellis was first released in 1964. Annie loved it when we sang it to her. I had forgotten. And I might wish later today that I’d never remembered.

In case you can’t recall the tune, here’s the video. Click it at your own risk.

 I decided to give away three books in honor of Annie’s birthday. I drew the winner’s names this morning and will be posting them on my Christine M Grote Facebook page once I have confirmation from the winners. (If you didn’t get a message from me on Facebook today, it probably means you didn’t win.) If you haven’t yet “liked” my Facebook author page, it would be great if you could spare a minute and go over there to click the “Like” button on the top of the page. I make shorter announcements and may have other contests over there later on.


I’ll not forget you

This week’s photo challenge is “blue.” And although I haven’t been participating lately, I decided I couldn’t pass this one up when I went outside and saw these little blue wildflowers peeking at me from our woods.

I’m not sure what they are, but they remind me of Forget-Me-Nots, which would be very appropriate. Today is my sister Annie‘s birthday. She would have been 54 years old. She loved it when we lit the birthday candles on a cake and sang to her, or anyone else for that matter. I’ll not forget her.

In honor of Annie’s birthday, I’m doing a little book giveaway. If you would like to enter to win a signed copy of Dancing in Heaven, just visit my Facebook author page Christine M. Grote. There is a “like” button at the top. If you click it I will enter you in the Giveaway. If you have already liked my page, just leave me a message over there and I will add your name to the hat. I’ll be drawing a winner at the end of the month.

Happy birthday little sister angel.


Waiting for miracles

I debated whether or not to post this. It came to me like a flash a few days ago. That often means there’s a revelation or message for me in it. I realize now that this is more about Annie miracles than book miracles. It’s a journey I’m on. Growing up with Annie had a profound effect on me; I’ve never denied it. As I mention in Dancing in Heaven, a lot of things got buried out of various needs: not to be a problem for my parents, not to feel guilty about my abilities—there’s probably a whole laundry list of things that happen in a child with a disabled sibling.

I debated because I don’t want everyone to think I’ve given up on Dancing in Heaven. I feel more at peace with its publication than ever. I hang on to the words of one of my faithful readers, William, who commented, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.” I think I’m off the starting blocks and well into the race. I’ve worked out the early kinks and pains, and am settling into a comfort zone in this particular marathon. I intend to continue to take advantage of opportunities that present themselves. And I’ve got an idea or two that I hope to try. I’m just going to enjoy the view as I run, or in my particular case, walk.

(You might enjoy these humorous posts from William at Speak of the Devil: for dog-lovers—A day in the life of a dog, and for those who prefer feline friends—A day in the life of a cat. I promise you will at least smile and likely laugh. I did.)

~~~~~~~

I join the ranks of all the other writers I’ve read about who want to write, want to publish, but do not want to do the work necessary to promote their books.

Maybe it’s Annie’s story. Maybe it’s because it’s history, and family, and love. Maybe it’s because we always treated her gently and held her close. Even though talking about Annie’s story with others is rewarding, sending out press releases, holding book launch parties, and drumming up business at bookstores has never felt right.

Maybe if I wrote fiction, a fantasy or suspense. . .maybe then I would feel justified in beating the bushes and announcing to the world at every opportunity that I had a book to sell. Maybe I could approach it in the more professional manner I am continually encouraged to do in publishing-and-promotion-self-help posts and articles I read.

Maybe deep back in the dark recesses of my mind I always thought a miracle might happen for Annie’s story. Just like I grew up hoping for a miracle to happen for Annie. But miracles for Annie didn’t happen then. Why should the miracle of her story happen now?

Books from unknown authors, particularly self-published authors, don’t sell without people knowing about them. Promotion is required.

I see now that I may not be able to adequately promote that which is closest to my heart.

So I’ll wait for a miracle. That’s nothing new. I’m used to waiting for miracles.

R.I.P. Annie.


The Netherlands, a little country in big water

Since Dancing in Heaven is now in the Netherlands, or Holland, (Can someone explain the name to me?) I thought you might like to learn a little bit more about the country from an insider.

Here are two former posts from Marion on Figments of a Dutchess. They give interesting information about Holland.

The first is from February of this year. Marion writes, “Here in Holland, a century old fever is starting to rise. If first appeared in 1909, a fever that grows more severe with every frosty day. The colder it gets, the higher the Dutch fever flares. It is called the Elfstedentocht-fever. . .” read more.

The second is from January and speaks to the precarious geography the inhabits of Holland find themselves in, and makes me wonder if perhaps I should have put Dancing in Heaven in a waterproof container. . .

Marion writes, “Last week, Holland was in a high state of alert: due to a storm and onshore winds, the dikes of the northern provinces were about to be breached by the rough seas. The water relentlessly pushed towards the shores, so the excess water could not be pumped back to keep our feet dry. Animals had to be taken to safety, houses flooded and things looked grim for a while. . .read more.

I think you’ll find these two short posts informative and interesting—offering another perspective of life in a distant country. The second one contains a little international surprise (not particularly pleasant) at the end for my American friends. At least it surprised me.

For more information on Holland you can check out http://www.government.nl/ — the main English-language news site for the Dutch government, including a daily E-zine.


Dancing in Heaven arrives!

I can’t wait until morning. It’s 2:45 p.m. here in Ohio and 8:45 p.m. in the Netherlands.

If you never click on another link I post, I do hope you’ll click on this one now.

Dancing in Heaven is dancing in Holland

Gosh, after reading her post, I think I might cry.

I sent my copy of Dancing in Heaven to Marion at Figments of a Dutchess almost exactly one week ago. The US Post Office, and other international postal services, came through. I’ll be posting more about the Netherlands later so we can all see where Dancing in Heaven has found a new home.

Hooray!

Photo courtesy of Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess.

Thank you, Marion, for reading Annie’s story.

Your friend across the ocean,

Christine.


Marion waits for Dancing in Heaven in the Netherlands

 I wrote in yesterday’s post that Marion in the Netherlands is eagerly awaiting the arrival of Dancing in Heaven, as you can see from her blog post today “A book dancing across the ocean” at Figments of a Dutchess. I hope you’ll visit her over there in the Netherlands, but if you don’t make it to Marion’s blog, here is a short excerpt:

“The love Christine has for her sister is present in every word, and those words reach out to others, to me. So when Christine asked me if I wanted to receive a copy of Dancing in Heaven, I was delighted. She wrote about what happened next in the humorous post Dancing in Heaven dances across the ocean. Dancing in Heaven needs to be read – to be heard – throughout the world. And its first journey across the ocean will end in the tiny Netherlands. Awesome!

So now I’m in my hallway, keeping an eye on the front door. Waiting for Dancing in Heaven to land in my hands.”

Photo by Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess

Marion is probably going to have to wait from 7 to 13 days including weekends, for my book to get into her hands. I hope she has a chair.

I wondered how exactly my book will travel to get there. So I did a little online research.

I googled: “What happens to my package when I send it overseas?

Google replied with several choices that included:

The US Post Office official site

The US Post Office FAQs

How to find a lost package.

How to recover a package lost in the mail.

How to fill out the US Post Office customs form.

What happens if the post office lost my package?

All this talk about lost packages was starting to make me nervous. So I changed tactics.

I googled: “Sending a package to the Netherlands

Google responded with:

USPS  – Country conditions for mailing.

I looked into this link and found the following interesting information (there was more information that wasn’t so interesting):

Restrictions:

Articles sent for commercial purposes will not be admitted unless the addressee has obtained an import permit

Cigarettes or tobacco products will be admitted only if they are sent from one private individual to another without any compensation or payment and if the package contains no more than 800 cigarettes, 400 cigars, or 1 kilogram (approximately 2.2 lbs.) of shag or cigarette tobacco.

Meat or meat products (including poultry and wild game) and milk or milk products cannot exceed 1 kilogram (approximately 2.2 lbs.), and any such products must be accompanied by a veterinary certificate issued by the responsible official authority from the country of origin.

Value Limit:

The maximum value of a GXG shipment to this country is $2,499 or a lesser amount if limited by content or value

Size Limits:

The surface area of the address side of the item to be mailed
must be large enough to completely contain the Global
Express Guaranteed Air Waybill/Shipping Invoice (shipping
label), postage, endorsement, and any applicable markings.
The shipping label is approximately 5.5 inches high and
9.5 inches long.

Maximum length: 46 inches
Maximum width: 35 inches
Maximum height: 46 inches
Maximum length and girth combined: 108 inches

(Source of this information: http://pe.usps.com/text/imm/mo_022.htm Restrictions)

I realized I was off on a tangent, so I pulled it back together and googled: “USPS Package Handling.”

I got a YouTube link as a response.

Not a confidence builder.

Somewhere in my wild goose chase, I found a link to Netherlands Mailing address formats . . ., a worldwide -parcel services company from the UK sending parcels to the Netherlands, and a site comparing Shipito, My US and BongoUs rates, none of which I have any familiarity with, but perhaps should look into. Especially in light of the abundance of USPS lost package links.

I gave up trying to find helpful information about exactly what path my book would travel to get to the Netherlands, and decided to figure it out myself.  I found this world map online (from the University of Texas, reportedly created by the CIA).

You might think that would be easy. But no. The image was a PDF. I opened it in Adobe Acrobat and exported as a jpeg, saving it to my desktop. I opened the jpeg with PhotoShop (Perhaps I could have opened the PDF with PhotoShop? Don’t know. And at this point, don’t care.) Anyway I eventually got it cropped, resized, transferred to Illustrator where I could draw little circles on it. (Again, perhaps I could have done this in PhotoShop?)

And here it is. My first (and possibly last) installment of Dancing in Heaven’s journey across the sea.

Map showing Cincinnati and the Netherlands

I was told it will take 6 to 10 business days for Dancing in Heaven to get from Cincinnati to Marion in the Netherlands. I figure it probably will fly to somewhere on the east coast, perhaps New York City. That flight takes 2 hours and 11 minutes. Then it will fly overseas from there to Amsterdam. The flight from NYC to Amsterdam takes 7 hours and 10 minutes. I don’t know how long it will take to get from Amsterdam to the city where Marion lives. But since the Netherlands is only about half the size of South Carolina, it can’t possibly take that long.

But perhaps there isn’t all that much mail traveling to the Netherlands from the US. So maybe Dancing in Heaven will make a stop in the UK, or France, or Hong Kong for all I know. Without tracking information, I’ll never know. Or maybe Greenland. Greenland is right up there between our two countries.

Regardless, the way I figure it, Dancing in Heaven is going to be spending a lot of time being sorted, traveling in a vehicle from one post office to another, waiting in mail bins, more sorting, waiting at the airport, flying, more sorting, more waiting, etc., until it finally reaches Marion.

Sorry I got a little technical, Marion. Sometimes that engineering side of me won’t be held down.

. . .Just another post, that took way more time than it was worth, from Christine M. Grote who does have better things to do but doesn’t realize it.


Readers continue to amaze, surprise, inspire, and uplift me

In April, I’ve had three speaking events about Dancing in Heaven. I wanted to share a few of my experiences with you.

A gathering of women

This morning I’m being true to my initial conception of Random Thoughts from Midlife and am blogging about what was on my mind and in my heart when I first woke up this morning.

I was still experiencing the love and care from a group of women gathered at the home of a friend I knew in high school and with whom I’ve been recently re-acquainted. I met Nancy Henry the summer before my freshman year of high school. She was a close friend of one of my sister Carol’s friends and the two of them got the two of us together. My memories of Nancy from all those years ago include Pot-O-Gloss, hot steam electric curlers, walks at night, papers read aloud in English class, and a trip to Florida. As often happens, we drifted apart and lost track of each other until her daughter and my youngest son brought us both together at an Arts Works opening day. We sat together in the balcony of a small auditorium. I met her husband there and learned her name is now Nancy Chadwick. Recently we’ve shared lunches together and an evening out with husbands. I am thrilled to have her, with all her intelligence, wit, and compassion, back in my life again.

The fabulous food Nancy prepared for the gathering.

Nancy is a writer waiting to begin. I am a writer who compelled myself to finish. Nancy has been a tremendous supporter of my efforts. Last night she hosted an event at her home for her book club and other friends to discuss Dancing in Heaven. As has been the case, it was an uplifting and emotionally draining experience for me to talk about Annie’s story. But the women were awesome. It’s an incredible experience to sit in a room filled with women who have read the words from my heart, yet want to know more. Who, in some cases, have shed a tear over my written words, yet still listen intently for more.

One woman said, “I was reading Dancing in Heaven at an athletic event, and it made me cry. I had to stop reading it until I got someplace private.”

Her friend standing beside her said, “She called me and told me not to read it in public.”

The first women who arrived at Nancy’s last night were a mother and daughter. They were family members of a young man named Michael who had been born with cerebral palsy. “Your book was like reading our story,” they said. “We related to so much of it.” Since they were talking about Michael in the past tense I asked if he was gone now and found out that he died over 20 years ago at the age of 21.  Michael’s sister said, “The obituary at the end of the book said it all for me.” She said, “You expressed exactly how I felt. I didn’t know there was someone who really understood our experience.”

From the beginning I have felt that readers validated me and my family’s experience with their comments, reviews, and questions. Last night I felt the great wonder of validating the experience of someone else.

I know I’ve had my ups and downs with the whole self-publishing journey, but nights like last night make it all so worth while.

Nancy Henry Chadwick has my unending gratitude.

Nancy and Me - April 18, 2012

Cincinnati Authors class

Jeffrey Hillard

On April 5th I visited Jeff Hillard’s Cincinnati Authors class at the College of Mount St. Joseph. This was the second time I’d done that and both were easy, fun, and rewarding experiences for me. Jeff likes me to speak a little about why I wrote the book, my writing and publishing process, and the aftermath. The students are extremely well-prepared. Since Jeff uses the book as part of the coursework, the students have read it, discussed it in small groups, written personal responses, and generated questions before I ever step foot inside the door.

Afterwards, a non-traditional student came up to me and told me he has a child with cerebral palsy, but who is highly functioning. I think he said his child was even married. He said he felt bad or a little guilty that our family had had it so rough compared to his. And he wondered if I ever resented other people whose disabilities weren’t as severe as Annie’s. The question really surprised me. I said, “When I see someone who is disabled, I see the abilities they have. I focus on that. And I celebrate and rejoice in that. I don’t resent them for being able to do whatever it is they are able to do. It makes me happy to see it.” This is my truth.

I hope Jeff realizes how much I appreciate his past and continued support.

Friends of the Library at Kettering College

Teresa Hutson Simmons

One day last month I answered the phone and it was a high school classmate who I hadn’t spoken to in years, except through messages here and there on Facebook. I remember Teresa Hutson as being a quiet student in the honors classes with me. I never knew her outside the classroom, but always liked her. Teresa falls in the category of those people I would make the effort to get to know better if I had a chance (not that I would want the chance) to do high school all over again. A missed opportunity. There are others.

Now her name is Teresa Hutson Simmons and she is a librarian at Kettering College of Medical Arts in Dayton, Ohio. Teresa has been following my blog and, in particular, my self-publishing journey. Over the phone she told me she had the privilege of putting Dancing in Heaven in the international book catalog (I’m sure she used other terminology, but this is the best my memory-failing brain can do this morning). She invited me to come and speak to the Friends of the Library group and students from two of the members’ classes.

Last Wednesday I did that. It was a different experience from my two previous classroom experiences at the Mount because these students had not had the opportunity to read the book, although several members of the FOL had read part or all of it.

I started with my usual two opening comments. “I want to tell you that I am not a public speaker and it makes me nervous,” I said. “I usually calm down eventually.” I got out my little travel pack of tissues and placed it on the table. “The other thing you need to know is that I cry easily. This is an emotional  topic for me. I’m not likely to get out of here without shedding a tear or two.” I said. “I’m okay with it if you are.”

The students were from psychology and sociology classes, so I tried to tell the story and select readings that might be of interest to them. I spent pretty much time talking and reading. Then we opened it up for questions. I was pleasantly surprised at how many thoughtful and good questions came out of the group of students with so little advance preparation. These are people who will be working in the medical field. When Teresa asked me to come she said, “We are trying to teach our students how to be compassionate professionals. Your book addresses that from a family’s perspective.”

Sometimes the things that make me cry surprise me and everyone else. Teresa had explained that we were in the Honors classes together throughout high school, and that I was a cheerleader. One of the students asked why I thought I was able to succeed or do well, or why I didn’t act out for attention given my family circumstances. “I never wanted to make my parents worry about me,” I said, and I got all choked up and could barely finish. “They had enough to worry about.”

Thank you, Teresa, for the opportunity to speak to future medical care-givers. It was a wonderful experience and you’ve been a great supporter.


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