In the past twelve hours, I’ve received gifts that didn’t wait for later in the month. These gifts lifted my spirit.
There were so welcome after the past of days of my melancholy attitude. It started with a phone call that left me disappointed in someone and then morphed into a giant of oppressing sadness. I couldn’t shake the “poor me” thoughts that pounded at me.
Until the gifts from yesterday…
First, I spent part of the afternoon with people, which always lifts my mood. Yes, I’m an EXTRAVERT. I get my energy from people. The past twelve hours recharged me and changed my attitude. I needed a major gratitude adjustment.
First I sat next to a friend as I watched a Jr. High Basketball game. I hadn’t expected to see her there, so we chatted and caught up with each other’s lives. Pure gift.
From there I went to a holiday party with my local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) chapter. I spent the evening with friends I’ve known for years, and the new ones I met as I taught a twelve-week class, Family to Family, this fall. The best part of the evening came as I heard about the successes of their loved ones. I rejoice as I hear the words, “doing well,” “has a job,” “great relationship between us.” So many times I’ve heard, “The class changed my life. It was the best thing I’ve ever done for my loved one and me.” What a gift!
This morning when I checked social media, I approved the tag for this Facebook post, Free the Strange by Andrea Berns. This courageous woman shared her journey to wellness. Her talents shined through her words, as well as her determination to work towards recovery. She asked me to write the forward for her chapbook. What an honor! Congratulations to Andrea, and to all the success stories that we need to tell and celebrate with them.
Gifts come in all shapes, sizes, and look different to everyone. I received good news all around me yesterday, and I am grateful for them.
Twas the morning of Black Friday, and all through the house,
Not a creature was stirring, except for the mouse…
Okay, not really true, because I’m up, but the mouse part is close to the truth. The little critters must think we offer free rent in our house, so I’ve declared war, as I do every year. But anyway, back to my gratitude reflection…
I hope my readers had a relaxed day yesterday. I know, I did. I ate turkey, which for me, is an annual treat that I dream about in anticipation for weeks. Why? My body reacts to foods that others can eat without any issues. Turkey, chicken, eggs, chocolate, and wine trigger migraines for me.
I can eat tiny amounts (of poultry, not chocolate) once in a while without problems, so once a year, my taste buds rejoice as I savor a helping of dark, turkey meat. I enjoy the homemade dressing and gravy, along with the sweet potatoes, squash casserole, and of course, the green bean casserole. I finished the meal with a slice of pumpkin pie and a cup of coffee. My mouth remains in a state of contentment this morning.
Yesterday, my family surrounded me – our three sons, three daughters-in-law, our daughter, and three of our four grandchildren. Our fourth grandchild made it to his eternal home over eleven years ago. He’s with us in spirit for every event. I call us the “Even Dozen Club,” but in reality, we are probably a bit odd.
We have fun together. We compete like Olympians as we play games, work together, and of course, tease each other. I’m certain I will hear about the year I forgot the sugar in the pumpkin pie for the rest of my life. And if I know my family, they’ll share the story at my funeral.
Oh, we do love to laugh at our mistakes.
After all, life is too important to take it seriously. I laugh at the silly things I do wrong, and revel in the things that go right.
My devotional readings this morning remind me to stay grateful.
I’m thankful for my life, and that I don’t feel the need to fight the crowds today to shop. I plan to write a few chapters for my first-ever novel. And eat another piece of pumpkin pie with my coffee.
Today is a repost from a previous gratitude post. I believe in saying “Thank you.”
What’s a mentor?
I looked it up on the Merriam-Webster dictionary website and found:
A: a trusted counselor or guide
B: tutor, coach
Next, I looked up tutor: a person charged with the instruction and guidance of another
I’m glad I found the definitions, but mostly I’m glad I found my mentors.
This wonderful group of people guided me as I learned about writing. I entered my first writers workshop with no knowledge about the craft or the skill needed to put my thoughts to paper (actually to the computer screen.) The first pieces I shared with them had lots of mistakes. My mentors gave gentle, yet constructive criticism. I considered myself an infant in the life of an author. They took my hand as I grew through the toddler stage, entered “school” and worked my way through the lessons they provided.
Within the confines of a supportive community of trusted guides, tutors and coaches, I gained confidence and learned from them the correct procedure to submit the things I’d written. When it came time to write my first book query, and then my book proposal, experienced eyes found my weak areas and offered me suggestions for improvement.
I recently attended the conference that I feel gave me a solid start, the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop. On my way to the first day of the three-day conference, I stopped at the post office to pick up my mail. I marveled about God’s timing. For you see, my recently won award plaque had just arrived – the 2017 Selah Award for memoir writing. From an “infant” to “I’m not even sure what grade I’m in these days” in six years!
I remember May 24, 2017 – the night the awards were announced through a live Twitter feed. I sat in my home, alone as the words, “Virginia Pillars winner of the Selah Award for Memoir” appeared on my screen. I covered my face and cried – “I never thought it would be me.” May 24 is also National Schizophrenia Awareness Day. My book, Broken Brain, Fortified Faith tells the story of our family’s experience with schizophrenia. I still tell others to pinch me – wake me up from this dream I didn’t know I had.
I want to say, “thank you” to those who helped me. If you follow me, you may know that I write under a pseudonym at the request of my family. They fear stigma will re-enter our daughter’s life, so I honor them by keeping them out of social media. I don’t publish photographs of me, or my family for this reason, but I can share the photos of my mentors. Through them, I learned to write, publish and speak about my story through schizophrenia with my child.
I’ve asked them to hold my award, for I believe some of the credit belongs to them, too. I couldn’t have done it without them.
Mary Potter Kenyon writes and speaks on the subjects of grief, cancer, friendship, the word of coupons, and writing for publication. She is currently working on her fifth book.
Shelly Beach is an award-winning author, founder of the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop, author of six books and frequent speaker on PTSD.
Jolene Philo has a passion for those with special needs, especially our youth. She’s written many books and speaks extensively on the subject.
Wanda Sanchez and Shelly Beach work together in the field of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.) As co-authors of an award-winning book, Love Letters from the Edge, they speak nationwide. Reach them at PTSD Perspectives.
Missing from the line-up is Jocelyn Green. I can still remember her critique on my first piece, “Show not tell.” She taught me how to accomplish this with her gentle guidance. I wish I had her photo to share with you, my readers.
And last, but not least, these are some of the group who meet regularly and have taught me, challenged me as we shared our writings, and heaped out large scoops of encouragement. If I overlooked someone, it is not my intent. I appreciate each and every person I’ve met along the way.
I’m still a work in progress. To all my mentors, past, present, and furture, I say, “THANK YOU!”
I spoke last night with a group in a local library. The more I share our story, the more I understand the statistic that one in four families deals with mental illness. I meet many of them.
I hear the heartache that accompanies them on their journey.
I witness the deep love they have for their family member.
I see the pride they have when their loved one manages it with success.
I see the hope that fills them when they see baby steps of improvement.
I witness courage, both in the families and those who are affected.
These families inspire me to continue to spread the word that mental illness is a brain disorder, not a character flaw. I want to share that recovery is an option. I want to share that it’s hard for the families and those who are affected.
I dream of a day when mental illness is discussed the way we talk about diabetes, or cancer.
I dream of a day when our culture reacts to mental illness with the same compassion and support that happens when a family deals with cancer or other traumatic events.
I dream of a day when a blood test reveals the exact medication needed for the brain to function properly.
I dream of a day when we have adequate doctors, therapists, and counselors to assist those who need their expertise.
I dream of a day when every family I meets shares a success story with me.
Until then, I stay grateful for the health of my daughter.
I’m grateful the doctors found the correct cocktail of medication that allows her to overcome the symptoms of schizophrenia. She works full-time, and I know she makes a difference in the lives of the people around her.
I’m grateful that she understands her brain disorder and that she knows how to take care of her own health.
I’m grateful to have my daughter back. Twelve years ago I feared the worst. I remember crying out, “I just want my daughter back.” I’ve met too many families whose loved one lost the battle, and I weep with them.
I’m grateful for her recovery. Therefore, I want to shout it from the mountaintop – I want the world to know. The Lord walked beside me through our journey because I invited Him in to my day to day world. He helped me cope.
I live in gratitude.
I’m grateful for the people who come to my presentations on mental illness.
I’m grateful for those who support my work with a book purchase.
I’m grateful for the people who share the book with their friends and families. It helps bring undertanding to those not affected.
I’m grateful for those who take time to write a review. It helps keep our story in front of others.
Last, but not least, I’m grateful to the publisher, Familius, for the publication of Broken Brain, Fortified Faith and offering it right now for at half-price for those who wish to share our journey.
Yesterday, as I searched the junk drawer in my kitchen – the place where everything that needs a home lands – I found a slip of paper from a fortune cookie from who knows when..
I smiled. What timing!
On November 1, I took the NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) challenge to write a 50,000 word novel during the month of November, my first attempt at fiction.
I’ve had the idea rolling around in my head since 2015. I decided the time is now to bring the characters to life.
After only four days I wondered if I could do it? Can I stick with the writing schedule I gave myself? Write 1700 or more words each day?
Discouragement set in.
And then I found a reminder on how to enjoy the process: “Keep your ideas flexible and don’t ignore details.”
This told me: Lighten up; just let the ideas flow. Let my creative side go free, without censor. And don’t forget to add details to keep it interesting, but make sure to stay consistent with facts. Above all – have fun with it.
All this because of an open drawer, a long-forgotten fortune, and a resolve to stay the course. Simple things that melded into motivation. This reminds me stay alert for signs to guide my way – to watch at all times for these things I call God winks. And for that I’m grateful.
When the world around me feels like a hurricane, or when I’m feeling a bit lonely, or just too tired to do one more thing, I know I can find another world and escape. Even if it’s only for an hour or two, I can join someone else in their world and forget my troubles.
When I look at it that way, it does seem bizarre. Leave my own problems only to immerse myself in a different one? The difference is – mine are real, but I can escape into a world created in the imagination of someone else. I can walk to my bookshelf and find a book, and relax.
As far back as I can remember, I’ve loved books. Mom took my brothers and me to the library in a near-by town almost every week. I always checked out a stack of books. I devoured them, often by the light of the lamp beside my bed. In the morning, I didn’t want to get out of bed, so I often skipped breakfast and dashed out the door just in touch to catch the bus. Read. School. Repeat.
Today, I’m grateful for the world of books that have surrounded me since I can remember, and the authors who wrote them. As a young girl, I solved mysteries with Trixie Belden, Nancy Drew, and Encyclopedia Brown. I went to the circus with Toby Tyler, plus I had an eclectic collection of other adventures. As I grew, so did my interests. I found biographies, and autobiographies. I felt inspired by the qualities exhibited through the lives of strong-willed people.
As a young mom, with four small children, I had a little time to read, except stories to the children. Once they all went to school, I carved out time in January and February to “indulge” in my passion. I took a “stay-cation” with my books long before someone coined the phrase.
I’ve had a friendship with books throughout my entire life. Today, I’m grateful to all the authors who’ve accompanied me through the years. Now, I collect books signed by the authors. These books feel extra special. I hope to continue to meet new friends and books as I move forward. My list of “Want to Read” books grows taller by the day.
Broken Brain, Fortified Faith released a little over a year ago. I intended to write this post that day, but life happened. Today, almost two months later, it still feels amazing.
I remember how I felt on September 5, 2016, the day before it’s official release. The anticipation seemed like that of little kid on Christmas Eve. I knew the tree had a package under it with my name on it. But, I didn’t know what it contained. I hadn’t asked for anything, not really. I just knew that the gift held something wonderful.
I began the release date of September 6, 2016, at Mass in a neighboring parish. I had invited my friends and family to join me. My heart swelled as many of them surrounded me to worship together. Gratitude overflowed. I didn’t expect such a brief journey from inexperienced writer to published author. It took one book query, one book proposal, and one publisher to propel me from “I want to write a book” to” I’m a published author.” For that, I thank my author friends along the way who mentored me.
After Mass, we gathered around my table to share coffee and homemade muffins. I felt loved. And excited.
Fast forward. On the anniversary date of the book’s publication, I went to Mass, again in a neighboring parish. Not the same one as last year, but one close by. I spent the rest of the day at home. But I reflected on the things that occurred over the past year. Again, my heart filled with gratitude.
I’ve had some amazing experiences, met wonderful people, listened to the heartbreaking stories of others, and I hope, brought awareness to mental illness and the effect it has on families.
I remember when Amber lived in our home and still very ill with the symptoms of schizophrenia. I didn’t think she’d ever work full-time again. She worked hard to move into recovery and has stayed there for eight years! I’m so proud of her. I love it when I’m wrong.
Is it easy? No, absolutely not. But, she pushes forward in spite of setbacks and frustrations.
Last month, I celebrated the anniversary of the book publication, but I mostly I celebrate my daughter and my faith in God. I feel he walks beside me. I just need to stay focused on what is important to me – my faith, my family, and my friends.
In the past year, our story received the Selah Award for Best Memoir and the CWG Seal of Approval. What a thrill both awards gave me! Me, an inexperienced writer, who through the grace of God, wrote a book and published it. Again, I’m overcome with gratitude.
Here’s a link to the reviews that have posted on blogs since it’s publication.