Monday, April 30, 2018

The Things we Carry

If you follow An Inch of Gray on Facebook, you know Andrew had a little adventure last week. 

We'd had a great day of puddle jumping, hair cutting, and general toddler fun. I had a chicken in the oven, and we were in the home stretch heading toward dinner and bedtime. As I stood in the kitchen, pouring myself a cup of tea, Andrew walked up and showed me his hand. He had taken the lid off a tiki torch canister and lodged a chubby finer in the hole where the wick is supposed to go. I picked him up and slathered dish soap all over it hoping it would slide right off. Next I tried a tub of butter. The more I tried, the more swollen his finger got, and then it started to bleed. He went from thinking he was awfully clever to crying and really wishing the lid would come off.

If Tim had been home, I probably would have googled, "How to dislodge a finger from a tiki torch lid," and we would have worked together to get it off. Perhaps we would have gone down to the basement to see if we had any tin snips to cut right through the lid. 

Instead, as Andrew wailed, and his finger grew more and more purple, I called 911. I figured they would have a tool to free his finger, and they could get there faster than if I put Andrew in the car to drive to the ER during rush hour. 

As soon as he heard that an ambulance was coming, Andrew stopped crying and was super happy. Bubbly, in fact. And that's when my second-guessing set in. He was obviously not in that much pain, and I was using valuable county resources for something minor. But in the back of my mind, I wondered if he could lose the use of his finger if I'd waited. 

The EMT's came and looked at it, as he happily marveled at their cool ride. Instead of snipping the lid off, as I'd assumed they would, they said we need to go to the ER. While the EMT’s had a tool that could cut rings off easily, it wasn’t the right fit for the lid. Oops. I’d figured that if these guys had the Jaws of Life to extract people from cars, a toddler finger would be easy-peasy. 

Within minutes, we were in an ambulance heading to a nearby hospital. Andrew thoroughly enjoyed the ride from the comfort of my lap, pointing out the motorcycle, trash truck, and numerous cars he saw through the rear doors.

Once at the ER, a doctor and 2 nurses worked together to remove the lid. Their tool of choice? A new shoelace, threaded through the opening. They were able to wind it around his finger to control the swelling and pull the lid off. We were finished within minutes— Andrew's cut so minor he needed just some Neosporin and a bandaid.

It was a happy ending to a stressful situation. Getting the ER bill will be a bit more stressful, but that story is not today's story.

For as we rode in the ambulance, I was able to relax a bit, breathe, and consider my actions and motivations. 

I realized that in the moment Andrew came to me, I entered crisis mode and was taken back to 2011 and Jack's accident. Of course I didn't think Andrew would DIE because of his minor injury, but I no longer trusted my judgment to gauge the situation. I wanted the help of professionals because I was no longer confident I could make the right decisions for my kids.  

You see, when I’d reached the scene of Jack's accident, just seconds after he somehow ended up in the raging water, I tried to take care of the situation myself. Instead of calling 911, I got in my car to drive to a spot where my heart told me he would be, exactly where his body was found a few hours later. This wasted time. 

So last week, I didn't trust my judgment. My relatively calm demeanor and desire to not make a fuss had failed my children in small ways over the years, and had failed Jack in the biggest way possible. 

I know I am forgiven. I know it in my heart and in my head. Jack has graciously let me know in his own way that I should not beat myself up for those precious seconds, yet I guess they still inform my actions. 

I saw that last week. 

Margaret was home. She is almost 17 now. She could have driven us to the hospital while I comforted Andrew in the back seat of the car. But in those frantic moments, I could only see her as a frightened 10 year old again, whose brother was in crisis.  As the adrenaline rushed through my body, I wanted to spare her pain and assure her everything was okay, and I wanted her to know that this time, the professionals, not MOM, would help us.

People always ask me if I’m overprotective because of what happened to Jack, and I’ve been able to answer truthfully, NO. In fact I live with a degree of freedom that most people don’t have, in understanding that I’m not really in control of very much.

Yet I carry that day in my mind, and in my body. In my quiet moments and my more frenzied ones. It wasn’t until last week, with Andrew’s little finger, that I realized I carry that day in a way I’d never even considered before. 

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Book Release Party

George Atkisson's book release party was a huge hit!

Friends, neighbors, and family members gathered to celebrate his enormous accomplishment of publishing The Chalice and the Stirrup Cup at age 94. He had a wonderful time telling us some of the backstory on the novel and signing copies.

It has been so fun to share this story with you. If you haven't checked out George's book yet-- available on Kindle, softcover, or hardcover-- please do.

He is enjoying all of the feedback.

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Man Next Door, Part 3

George and I talked about his goals of finding an agent, shopping the manuscript to New York publishers, and how long that might take. I wasn't trying to be snarky about his age, which is one of the neatest things about this story, but I also didn't want to discount it. After losing my mom when she was 46 and my son at 12, I've come to realize that tomorrow is never promised.

I asked him if he wanted to invest years and possibly not ever get published, or whether he would consider self-publishing in order to make make his dream come true. I could tell he'd need to wrap his brain around the idea, so I let him know that I am self-publishing my upcoming children's book, and that it could be a faster way to get his book in the hands of readers.

Savvy as ever, George asked whether, if after self-publishing, he could still have his book traditionally published if someone showed interest in it. Yep. I explained that freeing it from the cardboard box in his bedroom could be a good first step in that direction. 

I reached out to a local friend who had already done research about self-publishing  and asked if she would be willing to edit George's book and shepherd him through the process. I knew she was not only a fantastic editor but a great conversationalist who would be awesome company for him as they worked through the process. The value of human contact is no small thing. I had no idea if they would develop a friendship, but I sure hoped they would.

I told him I felt bad I didn't have the time to be the one to get his book to print, but he made me feel better by saying, "Well, you are going to write about it on your blog, right?"

Do you love him, or what?

So here I am, spreading the news of the man next door, an amazing debut author, who at the young age of 94 (95 in June!) never gave up on his dream. Through work, family life and retirement. Through losing his beloved wife of 69 years. Through being housebound. George Atkisson did not let any of that stop him, and I know my life is richer for having witnessed this.

George holding his book for the first time

George and his editor, Michelle Layer Rahal

When we handed him his book for the first-time, he was speechless. It was a moment more than 40 years in the making.

For years I avoided getting to know my neighbor. How grateful I am to have not missed the chance to make a new friend and immerse myself in George's characters and the world he created.

Next week we are having a small book launch party at George's house for The Chalice and the Stirrup Cup, and now I'd like to introduce it to you!

The Chalice and the Stirrup Cup is a wonderful coming of age novel that begins shortly after World War I. This book has romance, history, theology, and characters you will root for. Here's a quick description:

"Only three things matter to Billie: her horse, her writings, and JD. But JD, the strong and introspective farm boy growing up in the shadow of his alcoholic father, has yet to determine what he wants out of life, and no one seems to expect much out of him, especially Billie's wealthy parents. It appears that JD is set to run with the hounds until an unexpected benefactor steps up to redirect his route. Though bound together by their love for each other, poetry, and the great outdoors, it is their opposing views on God that ultimately influence the choices JD and Billie will make. For Billie, trying to understand God is like describing a rose to a blind person. If she can succeed in this task, perhaps she would believe. Set in rural Virginia in the aftermaths of World Wars I and II, The Chalice and the Stirrup Cup chronicles the escapades of two unlikely friends as they grow and mature in this coming-of-age story. Their friendship sustains them through the darkest times, but it is their search for God that ultimately impacts how they live and love."

Please celebrate George Atkisson's enormous accomplishment from wherever you live.

Purchase his book (available in hardcover, softcover, and kindle) and/or leave an encouraging comment for him.

Please contact me if you have a local book club that would like to read George's book and connect with him.

And if you are a publisher looking for a new author, I have a special one in mind!

(affiliate links included)