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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Story Worth Telling...


I want to share a book with you that greatly impacted my life. The book is, In the Absence of Angels by Elizabeth Glaser. It's the story of the Glaser family and their harrowing journey with AIDS. This book was first released in 1991, but I didn't find it until 1996, only a few weeks after my children and I had been diagnosed with AIDS. If you don't believe in angels... Well, maybe you should.

My world was collapsing in 1996. My children had AIDS, Alee'd had a stroke, and the medicines we'd just started taking were toxic. I was lost, in a deep state of sadness aimlessly wondering the aisles of a small rural library in Kentucky. I wasn't looking for any one book, just trying to avert my mind off my terrible situation. I found myself in the library's small biography section, my fingers tracing across a line of book spines, when I stopped. Right at eye-level was Elizabeth's book. I pulled it off the shelf, opened it to a random page and started reading. It was the chapter about Ariel's death at the age of seven. My Alee at the time was six. Overcome with emotion, I closed the book and somehow got through the check-out and to my car before bursting into tears.

Once safe in the privacy of my home I read the book in a matter of hours. Her words, her beautiful story, stay with me to this day. It also pointed me toward The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, an organization that has been like a steadfast rock in a bumpy sea for my family and I. For those of you who don't know, before Elizabeth passed away she, along with two of her closest friends, started The Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, an organization dedicated to stopping mother to infant transmission that's still going strong today.

The similarities between Elizabeth's story and mine are uncanny. We share the same birthday, both our husbands remained HIV-negative, we both had two children (girl first and a boy second), and we both unknowingly contracted HIV and passed the virus onto our children. Her story touched me in a way that no other can. I'm not the only person who Elizabeth's book has touched. I recently became acquainted with a wonderful young woman, Courtney Sheinmel, who is the author of a book titled, Positively, among others. Please take a moment to read how Elizabeth's book had a profound effect on Courtney, and how this author actually came to meet Elizabeth one life changing summer when she was just fourteen.

Elizabeth and Ariel aren't here today, and that hurts and always will, but everything they did in the short time they were here on this earth continues to blossom and that means something. I like to think that Elizabeth is my angel, and that somewhere, right now, she is smiling.

Elizabeth's book, In the Absence of Angels can be found on Amazon.com.

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Friday, July 9, 2010

Why I didn't appear on Oprah, not once, but twice! True Story.

Age 4...Cowgirl at Heart

I was asked to go on the Oprah show, not once, but twice! True story.
The day had started much like any other... I'm soaking in the tub, eyes closed, daydreaming when I get this flash of me, on the Oprah Show, wearing a pair of extremely HOT, as in awesome, pair of brown suede boots ( with a wrap around sweater dress–same fabulous color) and I'm saying something real clever–like, "I want to thank the academy for this incredible award!"

Then a crashing noise (one of the kids bounces a soccer ball against the bathroom door) brings me back to real life. Okay, hang tight with me–this story gets better. I put on my robe, pad down to the family room where Hubby is watching CNN. I say to Clay, "I just dreamt I was on Oprah...you should have seen my boots."

No kidding, two seconds later... PHONE RINGS! Caller ID says, Chicago. I panic. I reach for it. My hand freezes.
Clay says, "What's the matter? Answer it."
I say. "I can't. It's Oprah."
He gives me one of those "That's crazy, but you've said crazier" kind of looks. "Answer it," he says, again.
I shake my head. Answering machine picks up, "Leave a message at the beep....BEEEEP!"
Friendly voice, "Hello! This is so and so, from Harpo Studios. Could you give us a call back, please. We'd like to talk with you about being on The Oprah Show." Click, she hangs up and about this time I FAINT.
Now, Clay's really excited. "Call her back! Call her back!"

You have to know me...I do not particularly enjoy the limelight. I'm a writer. I don't even like to talk on the phone let alone appear on talk shows–unless it's for a REALLY good cause...

Well, it so happens that AIDS and raising awareness falls into the REALLY good cause category so long story short, I swallowed my fear, called the lady back and ultimately agreed to go on the show. I was told that there would be four or five other women, all of whom, like me, were HIV positive. There was very little time to prepare, less than a week. So, naturally, my first stop was straight to the mall in search of an Oprah worthy dress and those brown suede boots I'd imagined myself wearing in my dream. Two-hours and one drained pocket-book later, I'd found an outfit of sorts, although nothing like what I'd envisioned, and no boots, but I was as ready as it was going to get.

Now for the crasher: Two days before the show, nice producer lady phones. It seemed there had been some last minute changes to the focus of the show and I no longer fit. The show's focus would now be more on young positive women and the dating scene. I was married and too old. She didn't say it in those exact words, but....whatever the case, I was O-U-T, out. Actually, I breathed a big sigh of relief.

Was I secretly hoping for a couple tickets to go see the show? I was...Your typical latchkey kid, I started watching The Oprah Show way back in the eighties. I was only twelve, but loved her! While my mom worked eleven-hour, sometimes sixteen-hour days to support us, much of my time was spent cooped up in a small apartment in Pocatello, Idaho. Everyday, from 4-5 Oprah became sort of like my surrogate mom. I never missed a show! While my mom may have been the one to put food on the table, the Oprah Show, in essence, fed my soul; Her shows and guests were often inspiring as was Oprah herself. I especially enjoyed the shows that talked about living your best life and spiritual connections. So, yeah, I guess you could say I'm a true fan. Unfortunately, the tickets never showed.

The second time (yes, there was a second time) I was asked to go on the O show, it was to help promote a writer friend's memoir, but the details were fairly vague. We didn't know the what, when or where and although I'd have liked to have been able to say yes, I was getting my girl ready to head off to college and the timing just wasn't right.

So, as most of you know, Oprah is ending the show in late 2011. My chances of ever being on the show or sitting in the audience, or even perhaps having her praise my novel in front of millions are growing dim. *Big melodramatic sigh*

But seriously, as much as I love Oprah and as nice as it would be to have my novel propped in her hands, most new authors (self included) will never get that chance. Does that mean your book won't be a best seller? No, it does not. What it means is that we, as writers, have one responsibility and that's to write a book that people want to read. That's the number one requirement toward success in the writing business. I've read an awfully lot of books lately that have been chuck full of hype–the next BIG American novel (supposedly) and I've been sorely dissapointed. I'm not giving up though. With my new IBook feature I can get all sorts of sample pages to read before I commit to buy. But honestly, I think the best tried-and-true way to find a good book is by word of mouth. It's been working for ages! So friends, if you've read a really good book lately ... please do tell us about it!


Monday, July 5, 2010

Things You'll Only Find in Kentucky

A "distillery" in your Uncle Buddy's backyard. 
Or a little fine dining on the side of the road. 
There are some things that you will only find here in the South... An antique "distillery" in your Uncle Buddy's shed...a "HeeHaw shack serving up "grub" on the side of the road,  or how about a coin operating laundrymat/tan while-U-wait called the Suds and Bronze?  You know I couldn't possibly make these things up ; ) 

A California girl at heart, I will always be a little in awe of Kentucky. It's got a "flavor" and character like no other place I've lived, and the people are some of the nicest that you'll ever meet. It's been a great place to live these last fifteen years, I must say. 

And what a beautiful day it is today; one of those especially rare mornings, not often seen in July, where the temps are still below eighty, and here it is at almost 10 AM! From the sounds of the racket outside, the cicadas (a large homopterous insect with bulging red eyes and long wings) are restless and so am I. It's days like this that put me in the mood to go exploring. So, after a near non-stop writing debauch yesterday (Somebody, please pull me away from the computer keys!) followed by a hair-raising night of illegal fireworks exploding over my head today I'm taking a little hiatus. So, off we go–the kids, the hubby, and I–for a little scenic drive, and who knows? Maybe if we're lucky we'll run into a little "Hee-Haw" shack somewhere along the side of the road that's offering up some interesting fair. Enjoy the rest of your weekend, friends...and y'all come back now, ya here ; ) 

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