We’ll see

This is perplexing. My website for my book, This is My Lemonade, is doing quite well, in my opinion. By that I mean that it is getting lots of hits. I look at Google Analytics and I’m impressed with the location of some of the origins of these hits. I’ve had them from all over the country as well as Russia, Kuwait, the Philippines, Ireland, Argentina and Canada. Yet all these hits are not generating sales. It makes me wonder, are these people who stumbled across the site and looked out of curiosity? If so, it would be difficult to encourage them to purchase my book. Are others people who actively sought the site and my book? If so, why wasn’t a purchase made.

There is a bigger issue at hand here–my sophistication, or lack thereof, in marketing in the age of social media. I keep thinking that old fashioned marketing will work, and I believe it still will help. I have opportunities on cable TV, talk radio and retail as well as speaking engagements and book signings. These will all help. It sure would be nice, though, to find a way for social media to help out.

I’ve been offered opportunities to have professionals review my work. I’m not embarrassed or frightened to have someone do this. However, the cost is substantial and if the review is subpar, then it was a waste of time because I won’t be able to use it in marketing and they won’t report it in their publications.

Yet, wouldn’t that be a good thing? Wouldn’t it be a net positive even if the review is less than stellar? It would show me where my weaknesses are. My understanding is that these are respected, talented reviewers who will not hang me out to dry. Their goal is to help nascent (and seasoned) writers in their endeavors. It’s a moot point anyway, right now because the deadline has passed for this year. I’d have to submit my book for 2014. We’ll see.

I am still looking for someone who has the ability to translate into Italian. I would LOVE to have this book translated and available by the time I hit Italy for Christmas. I’ve thought of how perfect it would be to get my family to contact a talk radio station in their area and for me to tell the story of how my father left the area after the ravages of WWII to make his fortune in Canada, only to have his girlfriend give away his child to a family in another country, to have that child seek him out and for that child to come back to the homeland. The long lost Italian son comes home. Wouldn’t that register in family-oriented Italy? Wouldn’t it be a perfect story for Christmas? Of course I’m biased, but I just think that people would fall all over themselves to know more.

We’ll see!

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Potpourri II

Well, my hope to possibly have the book translated into Italian before I head to Italy for Christmas probably won’t happen. I’ve got a couple of options, but let’s be real–translating an entire book is not done (properly) overnight. I want this to be flawless by the time I release it to the Italian market. Too, I still do not know how much these other options are going to cost. So far, I’ve been quoted $4-5000 (gulp). If that ends up being the going rate, then I will probably get this translated sometime around the Second Coming.

This past week I spoke to my cousin, Sergio, about my upcoming trip to Italy for Christmas. I wanted to find out his schedule for the holidays. My plan was to fly into Milan and hook up with him and his family in Turin, an hour west. We would then drive together to Ascoli Piceno for Christmas. I had figured he would drive back to Turin before the New Year. That assumption allowed me to plan for a train ride from Turin to Paris to ring in the New Year. I would then take the train back to Milan and fly back to the States.

Turns out Sergio’s job as V.P of HR for Fiat has him travelling about two weeks out of the month, mostly to Russia and Serbia. He never knows where he’s going to be. I probably won’t be able to buy my tickets until early December.

But that’s neither here nor there. In discussing my travel plans with Sergio, he seemed kind of disappointed and wanted to know why I wasn’t spending New Year’s with them in Ascoli (this puts the kibosh on New Year’s in Paris, I guess). I was flattered that he wanted me to spend as much time with them as possible.

In addition to that, my brother was sending ten gallon hints for me to spend the holidays with him in Dubai. Between the two of these encounters, I was feeling warm and fuzzy.

Now, there’s really no reason for me NOT to feel warm and fuzzy. However, I was told about one person’s observation last year when I brought five people with me to Italy. One person in particular commented that he did not see any substantial desire on the part of my family to see me. When I first heard this, I figured, “Good Lord, what a twit.”
I pretty much forgot about it, yet it kind of bothered me. After the two conversations from my brother and cousin, I realize that the comments from this acquaintance were those of a tragic person obsessed with envy. Isn’t it sad that some people are so consumed with adolescent envy that they have to destroy the joy of others?

Yet despite that, it seems that every time I need them, my family shows me that they are there–without knowing that they’re doing so or that I need such. Is it any wonder I want to live there?

I wonder, I wah, wah, wah, wah wonder

You know, sometimes I think that I obsess too much over this adoption thing. Yet, there’s still so much I want to know. And, rather than accept the fact that some things will never be known on this earth, I still strive.

I recently wrote about an epiphany I had regarding my biological father and his death. That realization has helped immensely in my healing process. Probably the biggest issue, though, has been my biological mother, Gwen.

When I think of Gwen, I truly feel like a superstar. I think of everything she did for me and how classy she was in the way she handled my adoption. I think of how her focus was on me and only me and the hoops she jumped through for the child she carried. This person she didn’t know, yet she was starting to bond with.

When she went to Oregon, what did she think when she crossed the USA-Canada border? Was she excited? Nervous? Anticipatory? When she drove up in front of the home of the people who would become my parents, what did she think when she first saw them?

And as she unpacked in her room and lay on her bed, was her mind swirling? Did she wonder what she had gotten herself into? As the weeks and months passed and she met the rest of the relatives, did she start to relax?

And as her pregnancy progressed, what did she think when she felt the rumblings? As I moved within her womb, did she wonder if I’d be a boy or a girl? As she gained weight, retained water and experienced back problems, did she bond with me?

And the night she went into labor, was she excited? Was she nervous? Was she anxious to see if she gave birth to a daughter or a son? As she held me for the first time, was there a twinge in her heart that I wasn’t going to be hers? Were there second thoughts?

And when she handed me over to my mom, was there a sense of trepidation? A sense of reluctance? As she watched Mom hold me with tears of gratitude to God for providing a baby, was Gwen thankful? Was she remorseful? Relieved? Or were her feelings all over the map?

And as she nursed me during the weeks leading up to my adoption, did she feel anything for me? Was it odd to nurse this baby that would belong to the woman standing in front of her? Was it surreal to suckle the child that soon would no longer be hers?

And when she stood in front of the judge and said with finality, “Yes, Your Honor, I am certain I want to give my baby up,” was there a part of her heart that wanted to scream “NO!”?

And when all the i’s were dotted and all the t’s were crossed and it came time to leave, did she want to stay a bit longer? As she drove away and looked out her rear view mirror at the little family she had helped complete, did comfort crowd out the sorrow? WAS there sorrow?

And when she returned to British Columbia to resume her life, when she married my father and produced another son, did she wonder if this was God’s way of blessing her for the one she had to give away? Did she remember my birthday? Did she wonder what I looked like? Did she wonder how I turned out?

And years later as she lay dying in her bed, did she think over those weeks and months when she was closest to me? Did she think of me at all? Did she regret that she would never see me, never see her two sons together? Did she wonder if I knew about her? Did she wish she could have at least lived long enough to see her firstborn son?

They say a mother never forgets her child. Especially the first one. I have to believe that. However, that awesome gulf of never knowing my biological mother is sometimes hard to navigate. Sometimes I truly feel that having never known her, only knowing the type of woman she was, is more than enough. Knowing that someone, a stranger yet not a stranger, went through so much for me, makes me feel like a superstar.

Bipolar disorder

I hate writing about this topic. I’ve waited several days before writing anything, debating on whether or not to discuss this issue. I kept putting off any writing for later, when I felt better, because I didn’t want to talk about this. But I really think that this topic should be deliberated even though it could negatively affect me in the future. After all, what happens on social media doesn’t stay on social media.

My bipolar disorder sometimes gets completely out of whack. I suppose my title for this posting gave away the topic, right?

Anyway, BPD can be an insidious disease. It robs you of your peace of mind, of your ability to think clearly. It destroys your self-worth and causes you to consider things you normally wouldn’t. It prevents you from functioning in your normal day to day activities.

Bipolar disorder is considered a “mental illness”. I still shudder at that term. I don’t like knowing I’m cursed with a mental illness. The term conjures up all sorts of images of people who shoot up schools or murder and dismember people with body parts in the freezer. It suggests a person who can’t keep it together. But that latter statement is completely true.

Fortunately, my BPD is easily controlled with lithium—and not a large dose. I was grateful to find out that I didn’t need a cocktail of drugs in order to function. But learning I had a mental illness was a bitter pill to swallow.

Yet, six years after the diagnosis, I still struggle. Sometimes I find myself in hellish lows, unable to extricate myself. If I miss a dosage, I sink within a few hours. But now I’m finding myself sinking even after taking my medication sometimes. And that frightens me. Will I need additional medication as I get older?

I really hate feeling like this. I hate being tainted with a mental illness. I’ve always had to be the strong one. Now I feel weak. I know, I know, I can’t help it. But it is frustrating. Especially when the demons attack. I’ve never lashed out to hurt anyone else. It’s not in me to harm another human being. The hurt has always been self-directed. But I have to admit that I harbor fantasies of hurting myself, you can guess what that means. Sometimes I can’t begin to fathom why I don’t. Sometimes it just seems like it would be so much easier. Fortunately, I always find myself reminding myself that I need to take my meds. Or I remind myself that I haven’t eaten and my blood sugar is low. But what will happen if the day comes when I’m not able to convince myself to do so anymore? What happens if I go beyond that point?

This is not a scare tactic. It is real. I’m just stating a truism in my life. Anyone who’s been involved in depression knows how horrific it is. I’ve struggled with depression since I was an adolescent. Indeed, my counselor said that BPD oftentimes starts in adolescence. Even though I knew I struggled, I had no idea where to turn and just dealt with it for thirty years while things around me spiraled out of control. Yet, somehow, I was able to wrest control back and protect myself and those I love. Does that reflect BPD? Does it reflect a benevolent God? Does it reflect my intestinal fortitude? Or all three?

Now, however, I sometimes feel that there is nothing left. I feel I’ve done everything I came to do and that I have no constitution. Everyone is dead, there’s no one to care for, no problems to address. My counselor suggested that, perhaps my efforts to help everyone else was an excuse not to claim my life. Interesting.

I wonder if my losses mentioned above are leading to an increase in my BPD? Without that “constitution”, it’s like I don’t have a reason to get up in the morning. Yes, I have this new career path to pursue and this book to promote and I have several wonderful things ready to pop. Yet, this is for ME. And I’m not accustomed to doing anything for ME. It’s always been for someone else. I’m uncomfortable.

OK, so that was an epiphany right there. Perhaps I have to change my thinking and understand that it’s truly ok to do something for me. Something like, oh, I don’t know—HAVE MY LIFE?? It will take a change in attitude and thought. By doing so, perhaps I can regain that constitution. Perhaps I can even revel in that sense of responsibility for MY benefit, for that sense of belonging—and understand that it is alright to finally, blessedly be selfish.

The bastard child

I’ve had an epiphany. In my relentless search for answers during this adoption journey I realized something tonight. It’s something that several people have told me. Yet it didn’t sink in until tonight when I was taking a long walk on the beach around midnight.

I realized this: I got what I wanted. For years I pushed and searched and whored myself to get some sort of absolution, validation, acceptance from my biological brother and my biological father. With my brother, I’ve pretty much received it—not on the level I want, but it’s there. Do we ever get things exactly as we want them?

Yet, with my bio father I realized I got it, too. And I got it right before he died.

During the drive up to B.C. for the Barbra Streisand concert, my father’s in-home caregiver, Brenda sent me a text telling me my father was hospitalized yet again for fluid on the lungs—a recurring malady. She had told my father, “Bob’s coming.” I had wanted it to be a surprise so I was a little irked but didn’t make a big deal out of it.

When I saw my father the next day in the hospital, he looked worse than I’d ever seen him. He kept widening his eyes when he looked at me as if he were trying to get me into focus. When I stroked his hair, he leaned his head back and relaxed. And at one point, he said, “Bob, please put flowers on my grave.”

I stayed with him for about ninety minutes before telling him I was going to the mall to get a bite to eat, but that I would be back. He seemed to understand and approve. After I had finished eating at the mall, the nurse called to tell me he was fading fast. He died before I got back and I was only five minutes away.

Now, this is the epiphany I received, with a little help from my friends:

My father waited for me to arrive before he let go. I’ve heard many times of people who were terminal who waited for someone to arrive. And then they let go. They felt they could go, that it was alright.

And I think my father waited until I left the hospital because he did not want me to witness his death. He was not a maudlin character. He wanted to die on his own terms. So many times he talked about wanting it “to be over”. One of his sons got to see him and he got to have family around. He didn’t die alone. And he waited until I was there to make sure I knew he wanted flowers on his grave—the same way I always placed them on my mother’s grave for years.

This revelation has been therapeutic for me. I feel I got the acceptance I was seeking, however nebulous. It took me awhile to figure it out because we seldom acknowledge when a prayer has been answered. I really believe this is true because many times answers arrive in a differently wrapped package than what we are expecting. But I do believe that he waited for me. And the irony is that I always knew I would be the last one to see him alive. I always knew that I would be the one who would consistently be checking on him and visiting him to help out.

The bastard child.

Start me up

Well, it’s started. The nascent ascent of my writing career into the stratosphere. How do I know? Read on, my children.

Last night a friend sent me a Facebook message. It seems he was on a flight from Los Angeles to Portland. Sitting in first class, he was reading my book. The woman next to him asked if the book was good. She was curious because she had heard about it! My friend’s comment reflected excitement on his part; his posting was peppered with exclamation marks.

To say I was flabbergasted would be an understatement. Strangers are now hearing about my book from other strangers??? I never would have deigned to assume that this early in the progression of my book I would be experiencing something so monumental.

Whether or not this woman purchases the book is beside the point, although I believe she will. Her two experiences with my book, I believe, will be enough prompting for her to buy. The primary point is that my book is already making headway beyond my support system. It is small steps (baby steps???) like these that create interest, even excitement. A groundswell of support.

This validates my decision to provide a free copy to those who have clout and influence. It also supports my decision to provide a free copy to the Sylvia Beach Hotel as well as a copy to the bookstore across the street. Both will appeal to a discerning demographic. And if this demographic sees it in two places in close proximity it will further cement the book in their mind.

Now I know I can’t rest on these embryonic experiences. I have to move product! (God, I sound like Walmart). But it’s true. No writer wants his work to appeal only to narcissistic aesthetes because there’s so few around! You have to market to the bourgeoisie—the middle class. And that is what I’ll do.

This weekend is turning into something I couldn’t imagine. I’m impressed and motivated by the little things because they propel me towards something bigger. I can’t truly expect to start at the top. And I wouldn’t want to do so because it’s only downhill from there.

No, I want the joy, the excitement, the exhilaration of watching my creation take off and knowing that I, with God’s blessing, caused it to do so. And as much as I adore the glories of the Oregon Coast, Monday can’t come soon enough.