“Ladies Home Journal” sent me an email last week to tell me that they did not select my essay. They had a reader’s essay contest. They received 4000 submissions. Mine was not chosen. So, I guess we all now know that the LHJ panelists are illiterate. Wait until I tell my Mom on them. They’ll be sorry.
I could tell right away that the email in my inbox was a rejection. You always can tell. I thought my feelings should be hurt, but they weren’t. I didn’t actually remember that I entered that contest, and I didn’t remember what I wrote.
I’ve entered as many contests, and have submitted as many articles as I could find time to submit in the last 6 months. There’s no calculated strategy involved with my submissions. I just search for opportunities that appear to be a decent match, crank something out, and hit send.
Given the scope of writers living on this planet right now, my writing skills are below average. Probably, less than below. I’m not being modest, or fishing for compliments. It’s true.
When I read a well written book, I think that those authors are gifted artists. The combination of words they use, and the way they are able to say things without saying them, is brilliant. It’s like those writers have access to more parts of their brain than I have. I don’t begrudge them their brilliance. I’m inspired by them.
Just because I’m not a brilliant author, doesn’t mean I can’t write. I love to write. I’ve been writing some nonsense or another my whole life. I’m going to keep searching for new opportunities. I think people are meant to develop and pursue the things they love doing.
Both my parents tried publishing a book at some point in their lives. Isn’t that awesome? I remember my Dad being bent over his typewriter for an entire summer. I love that memory.
My parents’ arsenal for success included a typewriter, white out and the postman. No wonder it never happened for them. They had no delete button, no blog, no on line submissions, and they had busy lives. The fact that they each put one book together, while working and raising 5 children, seems extraordinary to me.
I’m happy to carry the torch for my parents. I have a sister who writes too. I’ve always had a feeling that she will write a great book some day. It’s sort of a contest between her and me for our parent’s love and approval. I hope you’ll join me in praying that I beat her to it. Okay, don’t really do that. That’s mean. Just pray that she gets carpal tunnel syndrome. Nothing too painful. I’m always loyal.
When I die, I want my kids to remember that I tried to develop and pursue my God given talents and interests. I’m sure about that. If my kids know that I was rejected and discouraged, but kept doing what I thought I was meant to do anyway, that will make me even happier. Of course, I’ll be dead. So, happy in they way dead people are happy.
I found the article I wrote for LHJ. Now you can see for yourself what kind of nutbags run that operation. I don’t think organizing a boycott is going too far.
When our oldest son, Eddie, was born, he went “live” from the hospital. One day old and he had a microphone to his mouth. Eddie gurgled on cue, which was, of course, my first proof that he was advanced.
I worked at a radio station at the time in a small town in Iowa. I was a morning personality. There were likely a hundred or more people in the Hog County Capital of the world tuned into our musings every morning. I don’t mean to brag, but, you know; that’s a pretty big deal.
During my pregnancy, we held a county wide contest to see who could guess my baby’s due date. Now I look back and wonder if there is a chance I could have had an accident and hit my head some time after that period in my life. Did I hit my head so hard that I woke up a different person? The person I am today would not be okay with going live from my hospital room.
The “live from the hospital” scenario is not my only proof that I had a different brain in my 20’s than I have in my 40’s. I really DID think my son was advanced. I thought he was advanced the day he was born, and every day after that. I was so excited back then that I had invented child birth. I was sure I loved this chubby little creature in a way no mom had ever loved her child before; I just had to share, and share, and share. Yes, I was that mom. I’d like to apologize for that.
I was the Mom who was dazzled by her own life. I must say, my husband called it. One day he said, “You really think your kids are going to be perfect, don’t you?” No sarcasm, just a question based on the information he had gathered up to that point in our lives.
I said, “No. Of course I don’t.” I mean, what else are you going to say?
Eddie eventually started Kindergarten. After the first week, his teacher told me, “Eddie is the cutest, funniest little boy I have ever taught.” She had been teaching a long time. So, there you have it. I knew I had been right about him.
After Eddie’s first month of Kindergarten, his teacher called. She said, “Ah, we are having some problems with Eddie. He can be some trouble for me in the class room. He taught another boy how to spell a swear word.”
I lost a full night’s sleep after that conversation with Eddie’s Kindergarten teacher. First exposure to the real world is so harsh.
It wasn’t my fault. I blame my parents. They raised five daughters. I was the youngest. I spent 21 years in their house. That entire time they liked each other, they worked hard, were nice to other people, showed us affection, showed each other affection, and didn’t play favorites. That was a really mean thing for them to do. Because, then they just flung us out into the real world. I started my adult life with no real proof that the world would be anything but kind to me.
I guess I also have to blame my DNA. As adults, one of my sisters, who is also my best friend, has told me that there was something that really annoyed her about living with me all those years. When she told me what it was, I didn’t really dwell on it. She can be crabby sometimes. But, then my husband told me the same thing. They both told me that it is annoying that I wake up happy, and that I stay happy; especially that I wake up happy.
My husband and I have had this conversation more than once in our house in the morning. We are moving around well before sunrise. He’s very quiet. Too quiet. I say, “What’s wrong?”
He answers, “It’s 5:30 in the morning. That is what’s wrong.” He doesn’t sound very friendly.
One time my husband tried giving me a more scientific explanation of our issues. He said, “Listen Honey, we’re all different. Not everyone is born whistling ‘Dixie’ out of their behind when they get out of bed every morning. Some of us have to work harder at being happy.”
I can’t help it. I was born excited about life. I have always been genuinely optimistic that life is good, and fun, and full of interesting adventures. Between my pesky optimism and my dysfunctional, happy childhood, I had no real preparation or expectation that life would not go exactly as I envisioned.
I was so distressed over those calls from Eddie’s Kindergarten teacher, but I adapted. I began to predict what the teacher was going to tell me each year. Every conference was the same. The teacher would soften the blow by giving you the good stuff first. They would tell us Eddie is funny, smart and nice. One teacher even told us Eddie was going to be the next Jerry Seinfeld.
Just when we were feeling good about things, maybe even a little proud, the teacher would deliver the blow. “Eddie needs to pay attention. Eddie needs to be more organized. Eddie needs to stop distracting the other students. Eddie needs to stop stapling his fingers. Eddie needs to stop eating wood chips.”
I asked myself, “What are these people running here, a military school?”
So, Eddie was not going to be a model student. I learned to accept it. I even started to own it. After all, Eddie’s teacher did say he was going to be the next Jerry Seinfeld, right? Optimism.
Then, Eddie got sick. In second grade he had Strep Throat. He didn’t get better. He didn’t get better the next year either, or the next. He’s 17 now, and he’s still sick. He’s had fevers, infections, neurological issues and digestive issues. In seventh grade he started vomiting. He is a sophomore now, and the vomiting has not stopped. He’s missed most of each year of school, and his 8th grade year completely.
It started with Lyme Disease. The Lyme disease was treated, and treated and treated. After hundreds of appointments with Medical Doctors and Alternative Doctors, a 4 week stay at a fancy clinic in Wichita, KS that our community helped pay for, a trip to a respected Children’s Hospital and hours upon hours of our own research later, we know a lot of things we did not used to know. Eddie is still sick.
We’ve had periods of relief. Oh, what sweet, awesome relief it has been too. One year we rid our diet of grains, sugar, artificial sweeteners and preservatives of any kind (a really good thing we learned, and are still doing). That provided us the longest reprieve yet. Enough time for Eddie to break school records and place at State in Wrestling as a freshman in high school. Towards the end of the wrestling season though, Eddie was functioning on determination alone. Determination can only substitute as an immune system for so long. When the wrestling season was over, Eddie crashed. He crashed hard.
Over the years I have grieved. I grieve the loss of the life I had imagined for our family as a young mother. I grieve for the loss of all the things I wanted for Eddie. Sometimes you hear really mature people who have struggled with a crisis in their life say that if they had to do it over again, they would. Well, I wouldn’t. Given the choice, I would go right back to the world I made up for myself 20 years ago and live there. That was a really nice place.
But, no one is giving me that choice. So, I have learned to accommodate grief in my life. I have evolved into an optimistic, grief-stricken person. It’s conflicting.
When you have someone you love experiencing chronic illness, you have to learn how to carry grief with you every day. I’m so much better at this than I used to be. Even though I would not choose this path for our family, I can say with sincerity that this experience has given me new eyes and a brain that I like better than the one I had before. Sometimes optimism looks like arrogance; I think I needed to know that.
I’m glad I can now talk to someone who appears flat, and not assume something unkind. Now, I assume they must have troubles of their own. I’m glad that I have seen just how generous and supportive a community and friends can be to someone in need. I’m glad I have seen the importance of support and love from your family. I’m glad I have seen how faith gives hope. I’m glad I have seen and now know new ways to keep the rest of our family healthy and strong. And, I’m mostly glad that Eddie is our son.
Eddie’s life has caused me to learn a multitude of lessons I didn’t want to learn, but am glad I know. I look forward to the day when his body is completely healthy and strong. He’ll be fully grown and so wise from all the hard lessons he has learned. I just know he will be the best President of the United States our country has ever had. Optimism.