Strength and 3 Bookstores: Pink Hair and a Jinx

I have a longstanding relationship with bookstores, but this was my first visit to a bookstore from the other side of the publishing market. To introduce myself as a local author, to ask for a partnership in promoting books: this is the ultimate ‘friend request.’

I prayed in the car as I sat in the parking lot.

God, show me where to go, who to talk to. Go before me. Show me what to say and how to do this. You got me into this thing… show me what to do next.

I headed straight to the information desk at the Tattered Cover, as if I just had any old question at all. The woman behind the counter is soft and gray; she wears red glasses on a chain around her neck and she has a streak of pink through her silver hair. Her name is Jinx. And she adds, “But I’m not one.”

Note to self: I might want to be her when I am in my seventies.

“Good morning, my name is Tricia and I’m a local author. I just wanted to stop by and share an advanced copy with you, to see if you might like to carry it on your shelves.”

Jinx was as friendly and interested as if I were a first grader on her front porch selling chocolate bars for my school fundraiser. “Well, look at you! Let’s see what you have here.”

I handed her a copy of And Life Comes Back. She lifted her red glasses to her face and tipped her head back to read through her bifocals. She read the title, and then she lowered her glasses just as quickly and looked straight at me. The look on her face was a blend of recognition, instant friendship, sadness.

“Oh, honey. You lost your husband? My husband just died six weeks ago.” She reached across the counter and placed her hand on mine. She leaned in close. “Tell me, honey… am I going to make it?”

Our eyes mirrored each other. I placed my other hand over top of hers. “You will. You’ll make it. Even when you don’t want to, you’ll make it.”

She told me how she has just returned to work, how that has been the best thing for her. She told me that her husband was 81, and she had taken him to the ER because he was dehydrated. In the sea of tests, they found a blockage in his intestines that turned out to be a rare and agressive cancer, and he never came home again. Jinx just bought new living room furniture, petite and feminine to replace his overstuffed recliner, so she can somehow enter the living room again.

“You’re doing a beautiful job, Jinx. Look at all that strength,” I said, still holding her hands.

I would have applauded her if she had told me a very different journey of progress, one of sleeping all day and missing meals. I would have said, “And look at all that strength.” Because that’s what it is: it is strength to grieve and feel and live and sleep and eat and be.

She began writing down phone numbers for me, people I could call to talk about book orders, signings, and readings. She called to the other woman behind the counter, “Margaret, who handles our orders from Waterbrook?”

“Well, I do!” Margaret joined us at the counter and shook my hand. She wiggled the mouse on the computer and said, “Let’s see what we have here. And Life Comes Back… Yep. I’ve got it. I’ve placed orders for all three bookstores, and we can’t wait to get them in.”

(All three locations of the Tattered Cover, my favorite chain of bookstores in Denver, are already expecting my book and waiting for the order to arrive. Pinch me.)

“Oh, and Tricia, let me ask you this: would you say your book is more along the lines of grief and recovery and self help, or is it more of a Christian book study? The reason I ask is because – I mean, it’s okay if you talk about God in it – but sometimes people buy a book about chemotherapy, and they get home and discover it has a dozen Bible verses for them to look up. And that’s just not the book they thought they were buying. So I need to be careful to put Bible studies in the Christian/Religion section. You know?”

“I do know – I’m so glad you asked. It’s a memoir of grief and hope. It tells a story. God’s all over it, but it’s not a Bible study.”

“Oh, that’s good to know. Okay. Let me just change that here in that computer…” (click, click, click, type, type, type) “and there we go. I’ve changed it in the computer, and we can market it more broadly for you.”

Jinx told me to who I should call to schedule a reading at any of the locations, and then she said, “When you call Charles, tell him you met me. He’ll know how important that is to me. And please, ask him to let me be your hostess on the night when you come here. I would just love that. I mean, anyone will do a wonderful job hosting you, but I just really want to be the one. Can I hug you before you go?”

You can, Jinx. And you’re definitely not one.

God had led me straight to the woman who will host a reading, the buyer who orders books from my publisher, and a widow who is finding the ground beneath her feet. He even clarified and broadened my market as a cherry on top.

He arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.

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To Write It All Down

Seven years ago, when I started the blog, I wrote for myself. I wrote for the precious hour during naptime when I could think for a few minutes on my own. I wrote to think out loud, and I wrote to remember. I wrote to remember that I could think.

Why did I write about my children? Because they were my days and nights, my waking and sleeping, my happiness and my exhaustion.

I wrote about them because I was learning, from them and about them – and thereby so much about myself, and I think anything I learn is worth writing down, even if I’m the only one who reads it. (Sometimes, especially if I am the only one who reads it.)

Recently, I’ve been under scrutiny for writing about my kids.

You’re exploiting them. You’re disrespectful.
We grieve for the day they learn what you have said.
You don’t understand who they will be when they are teenagers, how they will likely never forgive you.

(One of my long standing hopes is that women will share the mutual respect that we’re all doing our best, that there’s no room for judgment, and the more we know about each other offers the greater support we can claim for ourselves.)

I don’t think I actually need to explain this to anyone but my children, but I’ll say it anyway. We have a system of rules in our home, and a series of them apply to the things we say or do not say outside our home. There are things we don’t say to neighbors or classmates or even Grandma and Poppa. There are things I don’t write on Facebook or the blogosphere or in a book manuscript. And there is a question we ask each other mutually and often: “CanI talk about this? Or should I keep this private and in our family?” And if any single one of us says no, or even hesitates to say yes, then we have our collective answer.

I continue to write, about them and us and life and happiness and exhaustion. The first two years of our life without Robb would be gone – completely and forever – from my memory, if I had not written it down. I can’t remember those days. The life of those days exists only in the words I wrote when I was writing to breathe. Everything else has fallen into the abyss of memories the mind tries to erase.

Why do I write about my children? For my own sake. So that someday I can tell my children that I did the best I could. I write about them as the most tangible way I can learn what I am made of, to learn who is this fierce woman who has been struck down but not destroyed, who lives only because she loves.

Someday, they will say, “Mom, what was it like after Dad died? What was it like when we were small? Was it hard for you? What did depression look like and feel like? How did we process it all? What did we say? How did you help us? How did you even know what to do?”

And I will say, “Here, baby. I wrote it all down for you.”

 

***

 

 

When we journal, we go for a stroll, without purpose or direction.  We start one day and walk for a while, write for a while, and then stop.  What we have is a fragment, a record of our awareness.  The next day we do it again.  And perhaps the next.  And the next.  Soon we have many fragments – of ourselves, or our awareness of the world.

Sometimes it seems as if one thing has nothing to do with another thing, but it does.  The trick is to write it down.  Not to figure it out.  To write it down, one vision at a time.

~ Burghild Nina Holzer

 

 

What Should I Avoid While Taking Ambien?

 Ambien may impair your thinking or reactions.  You may still feel sleepy the morning after taking this medicine, especially if you are a woman.  Wait until you are fully awake before you drive, operate machinery, pilot an airplane, or do anything that requires you to be awake and alert.  Amnesia is common if you do not get a full 7-8 hours of sleep after taking Ambien.

 ***

 I would also add this:

 

Since the above paragraph suggests you may have impaired judgment, you may not be alert, and you may experience amnesia if you wake during the expected 7-8 hours of sleep,

stay off the freaking phone while you are under the effects of Ambien.

Specifically, do not talk for three hours to someone with whom you’ve especially decided not to define a relationship.

Your lack of judgment will remove all filters of sensibility.

You will say more than any self-respecting girl would say.

And you will not remember.

(If you are lucky, he will be gracious to tell you what you said and carefully help you step off the ledge of freaking out.)

But seriously.  Just.  Don’t.

 

 

 

This, I am learning, is Life.

“It’s not until the hearing turns into doing that believing leads to blessing.”

 ~ Beth Moore

We deceive ourselves when we settle for appreciation instead of application. They are not the same thing.  This reminds me of my days in Bible college, when I began to surround myself with words and quotes and verses that resonated with me.

I kept a list of them in the back of my Bible, on those blank pages tipped in gold.  These were the words that had made me say, “Hmmm.  Wow.”  Or  “Mmmm.  yes.”

I seem to ‘hmm’ and ‘mmm’ a lot when I’m listening intently, waiting for a nugget.

So I wrote these down.  And I think I believed, in my 18-year-old spirit, in my knee-length skirt and my white collared shirt, that writing them down was enough.  That writing was permeating.

It can be.  “Deep calls to deep,” the psalmist says.  Sometimes the hearing alone can resonate.

But the blessing is in the doing.  It’s when the inscription meets my actions, when my thoughts match the words.  This is when there is blessing and power in the words: when I do them.

When I remember them, when I lean on the power in them,

when I repeat them to myself in the darkest hour of the night,

when I speak these words over my children,

though they know not yet what they mean,

the words fill the space around them and the word of God does not return void.

It is not enough to appreciate the words.  If all I can do is appreciate them, then I’m missing their power, their blessing, their strength in my life.

The joy of the Lord is my strength.

O Lord, my fortress and my loving God, I wait for you.

I will find you when I search for you with all my heart.

You are the strength of my heart.

I can be strong and courageous,

for the Lord – My God – is with me wherever I go.

 

It’s not just ‘mm’ or ‘hmm,’ as I write this in the blank pages of my Bible.

This, I am learning, is life.