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‘Quit Your Bitching’

June 6, 2008

Usually the topic for my blog doesn’t make itself known to me until the day before I have to post it. This month it was a rhyming phrase with a bit of profanity in it and it came to me when I was inside a church. Plus, it came FIVE days before I had to post, and has literally followed me around and given me no rest. I’m hoping sitting here writing it out will deliver me.

Here’s how it came: I walked into the social hall of Watkinsville First Methodist a few minutes till 9:00 A.M. last Monday. Now, I must confess I arrived there carrying a good bit of personal baggage: my ten-year-old had left the house kicking and screaming that he didn’t want to go to VBS (Vacation Bible School) and that he hated me and would never talk to me again for making him go, I’d had to move heaven and earth to awaken my 17-year-old to drive us there (I don’t drive due to a head injury), and, now this is the one that was “consuming” me; I’d recently found myself with the need to find a new agent and was immersed in that overwhelming, ego-squashing job of researching and sending out query letters. I was distracted, fretting over everything from Bookscan numbers to websites I needed to visit when I got home.

I’d barely had time to strap on my volunteer nametag and make my way to a table surrounded by third graders before I was assaulted. Another human body slammed into me, wrapped itself around me, and literally claimed me with a breath-squeezing hug.

Startled, I looked down and this dark face tilted up; the forehead laced with scars, snot bubbling out of the nostrils, and the body below it dressed in hand-me-down-down-downs. A smile spread across that face so big the eyes turned into slits. “Mrs. Lady,” he said, “which one’s your car? I want to see your car!” I motioned out the big window at a 1987 Honda Accord. His eyes opened wide. He looked back at me with admiration and that was when my blog topic made itself known. “Quit your bitching,” a clear voice said to me.

Now I am not wealthy compared to most people. But to Franklin I am unfathomably rich. Over the next few days I learned a lot about my new friend. Franklin lives with 21 “brothers and sisters”, he rides to VBS and home on a bus, he wants to know where to find a Bible verse that assures him that when birds die they go to Heaven, and he is scared of robbers.

There were 17 kids in my group of squirming 9 and 10 year-olds, but Franklin picked me to be his constant pal. He literally attaches to me like a barnacle every morning – either by constant hugging or sitting in my lap. No matter what activities we engage in; art, music, science, etc. . . he is holding my hand, whispering in my ear. I sense that what Franklin wants most is for someone to simply pay attention to him, to love him. I do. This may sound like I am doing him a favor, but oh, no. Franklin has given me much more than the A-ha moment that led to this blog. That kid is so full of love it literally splashes out of him. I need those hugs, kisses, the playful joking.

My Daddy likes to say I am hard-headed, stubborn. Well, I always deny that, but this morning, when I got up to check my e-mails before leaving for VBS, I found one from Kristy Barrett (she agreed to let me use her real name). Kristy found me while reading this blog. She asked if I’d send her an autographed copy of The Romance Readers’ Book Club. She promised to write a review for my trouble. Kristy freelances for three newspapers in Kentucky, and she’s getting ready to launch a book blog.

Now, of course I plan to send a book to Kristy. It will be a great career move. But that is not what struck me about her. Reading on down the note Kristy sent I found that she illustrates what I’m trying to say here.

I’m going to quote a bit from her note: “I would be over the moon with joy and gratitude….books could literally, but joyfully, bankrupt me…. I was born with Cerebral Palsy and in my twenties 4 other illnesses crept in to make things truly interesting….this means I am chronically, sometimes critically ill, and I spend 85-90 percent of my time in bed devouring books. I’ve almost left the planet 5 times in 16 years. I would rather read than eat!! …. If you choose to send anything my way, I would be blessed beyond measure. I’ve only very recently started contacting authors and publishers for my upcoming blog and the experience has been beyond my wildest dreams. Unabashed book joy is wonderful medicine for me. Blessings Always.”

I am in awe of Kristy. I believe her story reflects joy despite the valleys. She knows that bitching can ruin a person’s day. She’s so grateful to have the joy, the escape of books! I believe that gratitude keeps her balanced. Franklin and Kristy make me see that it can keep me balanced, too, so I’m going to try and make gratitude a habit. I may be hard-headed, but I’m going to try and recognize all that I have to be thankful for and quit my bitching.

My ten-year-old will most likely forgive me for forcing him to go to VBS, my 17-year-old will one day grow out of the need to sleep until 2:00 P.M., and God willing, I will find a new agent. Anyway, if I stop fussing long enough to listen to a couple of author friends who went down this same road a while back, it may well be the best thing that ever happened to my writing career.

Truly, Julie

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