Monday, September 15, 2014

Book Release Recap!

What a week!
Tim and I stayed home from work Monday and grabbed some lunch together. We were both pretty weepy on this 3rd Crapiversary. We hadn't cried in a long time, and it felt okay.
Tuesday was release day for Rare Bird. Interesting juxtaposition, as Margaret would say, to use one of her new favorite words. It was exciting to see all of the great reviews coming in and have Facebook and Twitter blowing up with all of you sharing about the book! Thank you to each one of you who has taken the time to rate the book on Amazon and Goodreads.
Oprah had a new book come out the very same week, so I kind of thought she might call Tuesday morning and want to grab an Oprah Chai Tea Latte and discuss the writing life, so I kept my schedule open all day. Instead, Shadow and I bonded over some Earl Gray, and kept refreshing the computer to see how things were going on Amazon. Wow, thank you for ordering the book!
Thursday and Friday were much the same, but with my two book signings at night.

A HUGE thank you to all of the amazing people who came out on Thursday to One More Page Books in Arlington. I was nervous, but you put me at ease. Looking out and seeing blog friends, neighbors, high school and college friends, Monkees from Momastery, and my Bible study girls was so comforting. Here are some of my fabulous former students, all grown up!

We had Jack magnets and Bible verses to hand out as favors. I loved talking to the folks who had their books signed. One moment was extra special, and I hope to be able to share it with you at some point soon. 
Friday was the book release party at Vienna Presbyterian Church. Completely weird speaking in the sanctuary exactly 3 years to the day after I did at Jack's funeral. The crowd was loving and kind, and put me at ease right away. Lots of people there had known me since I was born! I thanked everyone for their support, spoke a bit about how the book came about, and then read a short chapter.
I also shared that I am not in the same place in my grief journey that I was 2 years ago when I started writing Rare Bird, or when I finished, one year ago. I also hope and assume I am not in exactly the same place today, that I will be tomorrow.

After that, we went into the Great Hall, which was decorated beautifully and had lovely food and drinks for everyone, and I signed books. Lots and Lots of books!

For old neighbors:
 Jack and Margaret's 1st grade teacher:
 Jack's dear friends from school and their parents:

Friends from the Internet:




And many, many other special people:

Even the younger set made it out. This little cutie was born at exactly 1 pound and 24 weeks. Jack and I prayed every night that she would be okay and would grow, and look at her now!

My college friends represented, for sure. Check out the adorable photo bomber in these pictures. I didn't even see her do this!

What a way to launch Rare Bird!

Thank you to One More Page Books and Grapevine Bookstore. May it soar exactly where it needs to! I hope if this book touches you, you will share it with others.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Three Years Today

Three years ago today, we weren't perfect, but we had a rhythm; the pieces of our family fit together so precisely, so genuine a complement, one to the other, that to imagine one of the pieces gone would have been an impossibility. 

We felt on the cusp of something good. Was it a great year ahead in school? Was it, with the grueling business of raising tiny ones behind us, that Tim and I could just be in wonder for a little while, really enjoying the neat people our kids had become? 
Instead, we lost Jack that September 8th.
The balance is gone from our family, our lives, but we move forward each day. We eat family dinners. We watch America's Got Talent and the Amazing Race, just as we always did. It has been three long years since we've seen our son, touched him, heard his perspective on things. If he was not a loud kid, why are things so quiet around here? Still, at least once a week, I'll think, "Wait until I tell Jack this!" or "What's Jack going to do while Tim, Margaret and I are at soccer?" as if he has just been in another room all along.
It would be hard to pinpoint what I miss most. Because in my mind's eye, Jack is no longer 12, but is now 15, so I also miss things that I don't even know how to recognize or name. Glimmers of a teenage boy and early manhood that were just an idea when we lost him.
I guess the thing I miss the very most is the way I could just grab him, whenever he walked by me and give him a hug or a kiss, and he'd let himself be pulled close, let his hair be ruffled. Perhaps he'd be balking at that by now, twisting away from my gentle grasp. But I don't know.
It gets easier. It does. One truly can have hope and joy and laughter and growth after such a loss. Tim, Margaret, and I are walking, living, breathing proof.
But that doesn't mean I don't still wonder sometimes if all of this has just been a bad dream.
We Love You. We Miss You. We'll Never Forget You.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Why I Stopped Sleeping with My Husband

Got to love an attention-grabbing headline, huh?

This post isn't about amorous activities or the lack thereof. It's about my shoulders. Again. Turns out I have a torn labrum on one side from a fall on black ice last winter. I still have the frozen shoulder on the other side which I told you about earlier, but it's hurting less now. I guess you would refer to it as "partially thawed."

After months of physical therapy but worsening pain in my left shoulder, I got an MRI and found out about the tear.  It's good to finally know what's going on, but I don't plan on making any decisions about surgery or other next steps for a few weeks.

As most people with shoulder injuries know, nighttime is the worst. I haven't had a full night's sleep since last November. Parents of babies and toddlers are probably saying, "Yeah, well I haven't either!" but at least there's the possibility that those precious nocturnal bed-hogs will care for you in your old age. My shoulder just underscores the fact that I'm hurtling toward mine.

So, in addition to my PT and an orthopedist, I sought the counsel of someone in the know about aches and pains-- my friend's charming 70 year old dad. He told me the best way to get a good night's sleep with a shoulder injury is to sleep in a recliner. We chit chatted about this over the 4th of July weekend, and I tucked his advice away, certain it couldn't apply to me. A recliner? As a visual aid,  his two green recliners sat right there in his den, but I tried to ignore them.

I wasn't about to adapt my long-held standards. See, I have always adhered to a strict NO RECLINER rule in our house.  Yeah, yeah Brooke Shields has made La-Z-Boy more attractive. but I've always been a little stuck in my ways. It's just one of those things. I still call Costco "Price Club," I don't wear white shoes after Labor Day, and I'd rather sit on an uncomfortable but attractive chair than in a recliner.

Or so I thought. After almost two additional months of wakeful nights, I caved. Last week I put out a plea on Facebook, and within a few hours, Tim was dragging Big Blue into our house. Big Blue is a supple leather recliner once owned by my friend's grandpa. That first night I settled into Big Blue with my eye shades, a good book, and my reading glasses (!!!!), and I haven't looked back. Sleep still comes and goes, but I'm a lot more comfortable.

My worldview has shifted, and now I'm a RECLINER LOVER! I can't believe we never had one growing up! How have I lasted 44 years without one, subjecting my family to chair after shabby chic chair that I'd rescued from the side of the road based solely on looks and never on comfort? For me, it was all about the decor. Well, d├ęcor no more!

After we return Big Blue, I wonder if I will take this new-found love to the next level. Maybe a massage chair? With cupholders, perhaps? They do make slip covers for these things, right?

In the meantime, I will be asking my friend Heather if I can borrow the wedge bed pillow her husband used following his rotator cuff surgery.

Because much as I have embraced the recliner life,  I don't want Tim to get too used to having the bed all to himself.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Goings-on, Musings, and How to Help Launch Rare Bird

My goodness, last Wednesday was a big day with a feature article in The Washington Post's Style section! Considering I've read Style over my cereal almost every morning since I was 11, this was a surreal experience.

If you haven't had a chance to read it, HERE YOU GO.

And if the article brought you here for the first time, WELCOME to An Inch of Gray! So glad you are here!

I was honored to have a chance to talk about Rare Bird and grief with Washington Post writer Nora Krug. She spent a lot of time with me and was thorough and kind. The photographer was delightful, and she took a variety of photos.

I know they wanted the photos to match up with the somber nature of the story, but I would have loved for them to choose a few of us smiling.

For one thing, if someone who reads the article is in early grief, I want him or her to see a smile and think, "Maybe I'll smile again someday." I want people to see laughter and realize that you can laugh even in the hardest times. I know we do! And, if you have met me in person, you know that I love to laugh and I smile a lot, if only to keep my jowls at bay, or because I have a really bad case of "Angry Resting Face."

In all, the article did a wonderful job of introducing people to our story, and to the upcoming book, and I'm so grateful.

Thank to all of the readers who signed up for the Thunderclap campaign last week.

Below, I've listed some additional suggestions of how YOU can help launch Rare Bird: A Memoir of Loss and Love. Please do only what you feel comfortable with. I don't want this to be stressful for you, and if I find out my Aunt Betty is trying to figure out "The Twitter" for my sake, I'll feel terrible.

1) Pre-order the book online or through your local bookstore.

2) Share this video trailer with your friends :

3) "Like" the An Inch of Gray Facebook Page so you won't miss out on launch events/news.

4) If you are on Goodreads, mark Rare Bird as "To Read"

5) Ask your local library and/or church to order the book.

6) Once you have read the book, PLEASE leave a review on Amazon and/or Goodreads.

7) Read the book with your book club, Sunday School, or grief group (Discussion guide is coming) soon)

8) Hold loosely to your copy of Rare Bird-- keep an eye open for opportunities to give it away to someone who would benefit from it.

9) Let me know if your organization would like to learn about Rare Bird or have me come speak.

10) If you refer to Rare Bird on Social Media, use the hastag #rarebird (BTW, my twitter handle is @aninchofgray)

Thank you so much for your help!

You make me feel smiley:

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

How (NOT) to Save on School Supplies

So Margaret needs a fancy-pants calculator for math this year.

This weekend we headed off to Target to do our school supply shopping and found the one we needed for $129.99.  Holy moly.

She chose the pink one, which I was happy about, because I remember from my teaching days that calculators like this tend to get stolen. I figured a bright pink one might be easier to keep track of than a black one.  We got out of Target for $199 plus change. Yes, we purchased most of her school supplies, but we also found some comfy sweats, blank t-shirts for tie-dying, an 18 pack of colorful pens that I just had to have, and a couple boxes of Special K. Target is a dangerous place.

Later that day, we learned that Staples had the same calculator on sale for $89.99! Except it wasn't really on sale; it just qualified for $5 off with a coupon plus a $35 rebate. Still, $40 bucks is $40 bucks, right? So Margaret and I planned another outing to go get a second calculator and return the first one to Target another day. Tim did a little online research and determined the same calculator, only in black, was $99 at Amazon, with free shipping. He posited: "Would it be worth the extra $10 and the color change to just stay home?"

Nah, Silly Man! We've got this shopping thing covered.

So we headed out to Staples. We took the toll road, which cost $2.00, but we were saving $40, so who really cared? Once we got to Staples, we easily found what we needed...and then some.

Yep, the pink calculator was there, but so was a wall calendar for me, and the binders Margaret still needed at $11 a pop. Eleven Dollars. Eleven. Oh for the days when I got the kids their binders at the thrift store for .69 each. I considered trying to slip some "vintage" binders by her later in the week, but these ELEVEN DOLLAR binders were in our hand, not in the bush, so we bought them.

We also loaded up on some spiral notebooks for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. At the register, several other items mysteriously materialized in our cart: Burt's Bees lip balm, a bag of sour candy because our blood sugar was plummeting, and another jumbo pack of pens for me.

Staples Haul: $200 before $35 rebate. Oh, and what happened to the $5 off coupon? It was on Tim's desk at home, left there during his stint as an internet researcher.

Anyhooo, I am none too impressed with Margaret's and my shopping skills right now, and will tremble with fear until I unload the first calculator at Target AND get my rebate from Staples. Then there's the problem that I'll probably be tempted by other shiny objects at Target when I go. Or what if they have a sale on Boyfriend T's, cardigans, or miscellaneous plastic items?  How much is this calculator going to cost us????

So I guess what I'm saying is, I think Tim was right.

But you don't need to say anything to him. And certainly DO NOT tell him we ended up at TJ Maxx after Staples. It was right next door, and we really needed that pina colada scented candle and those mugs.

Update: Just dug through my purse for the Target receipt and it turns out the calculator was on sale for $90.00. Yep, all of this to save .01 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Help Launch Rare Bird!

NOTE FROM ANNA: Even though we are now over 100 people on the sign up, PLEASE take part anyway! More people=more people hearing about Rare Bird!

Hey amazing people! We're gearing up behind the scenes getting everything ready for the launch of Rare Bird on September 9th! There are several ways you can help get the word out about the book. I'm putting those together in a list for you that I'll share in a few days, but the first way to help is ready right here, right now.

Sign up for Thunderclap!

For those of you not familiar with how a Thunderclap works, here are the details:
1. If we get 100 people to sign up, a one-time, pre-written tweet or Facebook status will go out at a scheduled time on the day the book releases, September 9th. It's basically a social media blitz, and it's super easy to join.
2. All you have to do is click on the link below and choose to tweet and/or FB the pre-written promotion. Feel free to add your own comment describing the book for Facebook updates. Also, don't forget to use the share option after you sign up, where you can notify your followers you joined and that they can too! The beauty is that once you sign up, it's a done deal. Nothing to remember on Sept 9!
Questions? Ask away in the comments below! And as always, THANK YOU for your love and support!!!
Oh, and as an extra THANK YOU for signing up, please enjoy this picture of my dear husband nerding out in a brown jumpsuit. I have no words: