The Ripple Effect

Jonathan Evison and me at his book-signing for Liberty Bay Books

Last night, I had an experience of abundant living after catastrophe, and its positive, ripple-effect in a community. Liberty Bay Books hosted New York Times best-selling author Jonathan Evison (you can also read about him here) at The Loft at Latitude 47.7 reading from his new book, “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving,” and I had the privilege of attending.

Though we live in a small town (population:  less than 10,000) and next to a town (well, an island) with a population under 24,000, each community is served by a superb bookstore: our friend Suzanne’s Liberty Bay Books here in Poulsbo, and Eagle Harbor Book Co. on Bainbridge Island. We also have the gift of the Field’s End writer’s community, co-founded by author David Guterson of “Snow Falling on Cedars” fame, which offers a variety of stimulating (mostly free) workshops for aspiring and experienced writers alike.

All of this put together amounts to regular stimulus for a bibliophiles, encouragement and enrichment in the writing, reading and intellectual life, and a blossoming, diverse dialogue within our community – for free!

I first heard of Jonathan Evison when I attended the Field’s End conference last spring (I wrote about that here). Mr. Evison led us in a writing prompt, and impressed me with his humor, quick wit and humility. The next time I heard news of him was on my friend Robin’s blog, Grief & Gratitude, when she reviewed this latest book; it’s worth taking time to read her beautifully-written piece.

The part that jumped out at me was when she quoted this:

“Listen to me: everything you think you know, every relationship you’ve ever taken for granted, every plan or possibility you’ve ever hatched, every conceit or endeavor you’ve ever concocted, can be stripped from you in an instant. Sooner or later, it will happen. So prepare yourself. Be ready not to be ready. Be ready to be brought to your knees and beaten to dust. Because no stable foundation, no act of will, no force of cautious habit will save you from this fact: nothing is indestructible.”

From “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving:” A Novel by Jonathan Evison

To quote Robin, “this is a book that he’s been carrying around with him since his 16-year-old sister died in an automobile crash years ago. He spoke about the grief that tore into his family, and I, of course, leaned in even more. And while the story is not about his sister, it is about what that most unimaginable of losses–the loss of a child–does to a family.”

Now she had my full attention; Jonathan Evison the author has survived, and is living abundantly, after his own family’s catastrophe!

So last night, when he gave a reading in our town, I just had to go and hear him. It was such a privilege to hear the author read his own book, in his own voice. The book has deep themes, but it is also hilarious. It was encouraging to me to hear Mr. Evison talk about the numerous rejections of his first books, three which he buried (literally, in the ground), and the years of work which preceded his becoming a New York Times best-selling author.

I loved hearing him talk about the way in which writing calms the constant conversation which is always taking place in his mind, the fact that he reads voraciously – all kinds of material – and that he has no formal training beyond reading and writing-writing-writing. He told us that he writes because he can’t NOT write; he writes for his own pleasure, as well as to hone his craft. Hearing all of this affirmed the things in me which are similar to what he described. He was generous, open, funny, witty and thoughtful.

It was nice to have a brief chat with him as he signed two of his books for me. How blessed we are to live in a community which values and highlights good writing, supports authors, and which is open to all – readers, aspiring writers and experienced, best-selling authors!  This sharing is an abundant gift, enriching all of our lives from the inside out.

You can buy “The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving” by clicking on this picture of it (below), at your own local independent bookstore, or online. I am reading it now, and loving it.

What Would You Tell Yourself, Back Then?

My talented friend Elizabeth Aquino, author of the blog “A Moon, Worn as if it Had Been a Shell”,  invited her readers to take part in a video that she was making.

Elizabeth is the mother of Sophie, Henry and Oliver, the wife of Michael, and an elegant writer, an activist and pastry chef. Feeling intimidated yet? But there is no need – she is also one of the warmest, most supportive, empathetic, sharing and inclusive persons I’ve met in the blogisphere. Having a full life of her own, Elizabeth still takes the time and makes regular efforts to care – and participate in meaningful ways – in the lives of others. Hence her membership in the Hopeful Parents community, and her making of the video.

Hopeful Parents was founded by the mother of a son with special needs as an online community providing “grassroots support for parents of kids with special needs.” I was invited to become a regular columnist there after Katie passed away.

At first, I wondered if I should do it; my daughter had already died, and I wondered what I would have to contribute to this community of parents who were navigating the medical, emotional and social world with their children living with disability. Yet Christina, the founder, felt there was value in speaking to the issues of parenting a grieving sibling, as well as the difficulties surrounding pediatric cancer treatment and life after the death of a child.

I never thought of Katie as disabled. I expected her to regain her strength and to get her life back after she recovered from cancer. Yet Katie was disabled by her cancer treatment; she was weakened physically, needed to use a wheelchair, had a nasogastric tube and an IV line for many months, and was in severe emotional distress, at times. She never regained her appetite, had an enormous abdominal scar, had had major organs removed, and was on an oral chemotherapy follow-up protocol until shortly before her death.

Bearing all of that in mind, I trusted that I would find something to write about that would be of benefit to the community, and I was blessed by writing regularly (& reading) there.

Many parents of children with disabilities are practicing living abundantly, though their lives have taken a turn they didn’t anticipate through their children’s needs. Their lives are not easy, but their lives are rich, as you will be able to see from their words in the video.

The question Elizabeth asked is,  

What would you tell yourself, if you could go back to the day of your child’s diagnosis?
I invite you to watch, and leave a comment about it  for Elizabeth, or leave one on her blog (or mine). Here is the link: Elizabeth’s VIDEO .

Thank you, Elizabeth, for asking such a good (and deep) question, for listening to the responses, and for sharing them with the world.