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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of Marion Driessen at Figments of a Dutchess.
Thank you, Marion, for reading Annie’s story.
Your friend across the ocean,
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.”
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):
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.
The maximum value of a GXG shipment to this country is $2,499 or a lesser amount if limited by content or value
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.
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.
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.
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.
Cincinnati Authors class
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
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.
I dreamed about Annie last night. We were in an old house, not old in a decrepit way necessarily, but old in a quaint way— the kind of house that has the wide dark woodwork, thick plaster walls and large doorways. Annie was lying on the floor. I noticed a long gray bug with wings crawling across the floor. Then I noticed another and another. Then seven and ten. I looked up and saw that one of the small square tiles in the ceiling was partially falling out exposing the empty space above.
All at once a swarm of these bugs poured out of that space the tile provided.
My first instinct was to flee, but then I remembered Annie. So I went back and picked her up and tried to barricade us in a room with a rug stuffed under the door.
Maybe some things last a lifetime.
If you haven’t already gotten a copy or read Dancing in Heaven, you might want to enter to win a free book at Goodreads on St. Patrick’s Day. Tell your friends.
I’ve been telling anyone who’ll listen all month that I don’t want to have to promote my book. I’ve talked about this before. But I think it really started getting to me when the first 10 days of the month went by and I’d only sold 1 book. D-press-ing.
I understand that people can’t buy the book if they don’t know about it. And I understand that the way they get to know about it is through promotion. I just don’t like doing it.
This is such a roller coaster ride. Five days I’m down and one day I’m up. I’m up today.
Two interviews with me and a review of Dancing in Heaven were posted online within the last 24 hours.
Ann Carbine Best wrote a beautiful review of Dancing in Heaven and posted it on her blog. I first met Ann on Twitter (@AnnBest71) where her byline reads: “Debut author, at age 71, of In the Mirror: A Memoir of Shattered Secrets.” How could I not respond to that? At the age of 54, I sometimes feel that life has passed me by. Ann’s little byline alone gave me a renewed reason to hope. And that is Ann in a nutshell. Even through all the trials and tribulations she’s experienced in her life, and that she shares in her memoir In the Mirror, Ann remains optimistic and full of hope. She’s one of those people who can just lift your spirits by association. Ann has a brain-injured daughter following a tragic accident, so I knew all along there would be things about Dancing in Heaven that Ann could closely relate to. Her review of Dancing in Heaven brought tears to my eyes. I hope you’ll take a minute and read it.
Kathy Reinhart of Ink Drop Interviews posted a nice interview she conducted with me through e-mail where I talk about why I wrote Dancing in Heaven; my writing habits; and the challenges of memoir-writing, among other things. I think you’ll enjoy it.
And RED! contributing writer, Elizabeth Bryant’s, recent interview was posted online at RED!webzine with a very nice introduction by editor Jeffrey S. Hillard, and a photo of my visit to Jeff’s class in the fall that you might not have seen.
So if you have a minute to click around, I’m sure my supporters who’ve written about me and Dancing in Heaven would appreciate your visit.
I had a thought Tuesday morning while I was sitting in my rocker-recliner in the study looking out the window and watching the birds visit the feeder hanging from the porch ceiling.
Then I was reminded of that same thought again when I read a comment on my Self-Publishing Update from Patti who writes A New Day Dawns. Patti wrote, “Most people know an Annie, or know someone else who is living your story. . .”
And she’s right. I hear it all the time from people who’ve read Dancing in Heaven: “Annie reminds me of my neighbor,” or “My sister-in-law has a child who has a serious condition that requires a lot of care,” and so on. In my own life I’ve encountered people who are not only disabled in some way but who remind me closely of Annie, on a walk around the park, waiting in my car behind a school bus for the handicapped, at a special Christmas concert.
While I was gazing out my window, I wondered, what happens to the birds that are born with a disability, or the squirrels, or the deer? Surely human beings aren’t the only creatures for whom something goes awry during the procreation and gestation process. Surely there exist in the animal kingdom births of the blind, the lame, the brain injured. I think that’s probably true.
And then I realized one more thing that makes human beings so special. We take care of others who are challenged in some way to make it on their own. We not only take care of them, as a human society we strive to find better ways and means of enabling independence by inventing all sorts of speech, hearing, mobility, and just basic life sustenance aids.
I don’t know what happens to the unfortunate bird that is born unable to fly, the squirrel that can’t walk, or the deer that can’t see. But I have a pretty good idea.
So when Patti says, “Most people know an Annie,” let’s see it as the great tribute to human nature, or perhaps human nurture, that it is.