Journey back in time…with journals

My co-author and I discuss our mutual use of journals in Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink. Mary JH has been journaling for most of her adult life. I, on the other hand, utilized daybooks from 1992-2012, with just enough room on the pages to make daily notes.

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I clearly remember choosing most of these; searching for one that spoke to me in some way. If I really loved the style, I’d order more than one. The Lucy Swindoll “Quite Honestly” and the “Fruit of Her Hands” came from a Christian book club I belonged to. I loved the Susan Branch Days style so much, I searched for more on eBay. Who knows why I chose the 2010 Retro Mama with a wine bottle on the front, when the only time I drink wine is on Christmas Eve? Clearance rack, perhaps? The 2009 large format Day Book was one of my favorites. The dark blue leather-bound was a splurge for 2012. Sadly, I stopped writing in it after my husband’s death in late March, but that was also when I began journaling in earnest, utilizing personalized journals I’d gotten free with coupon codes, and then stashed away, not sure what to do with them.

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In looking through my old daybooks this morning, I discovered just how much I managed to convey in them; It’s painfully obvious that I lamented my lack of time as a young mother. I can’t look too closely at the many times I scrawled notes like a woman crazed, desperate for some time alone. I wrote about this in Mary & Me:

Not long ago, I unearthed my old weekly engagement books dating back to 1990, when I was a thirty-year-old mother of four. Two things are evident from these abbreviated journals: I loved my children with all my heart, and being a mother was a difficult job most days. Parenting was particularly hard considering the intensity of my mothering style. In the span of twenty years’ worth of journals, I would add an additional four children to our fray. Those daybooks with their brief notations do a pretty fair job of chronicling what it was like to care for a large brood.

After several hours of reading them, my breath quickened and my heart raced. Before I succumbed to an anxiety attack, I shoved them back into the cupboard. I telephoned my daughter Elizabeth. When she picked up and said hello, I heard a screech in the background along with an ominous crash.

“How do you do it?” I asked without preamble. “How do you handle three children underfoot all day and not go crazy?”

“Who said I’m not crazy?” she retorted with a laugh.  (page 50)

This morning’s foray into the past netted some interesting tidbits of information. I’m surprised how much of my past would eventually become my future. In 1992, I listed my goals for the year. I wanted to #1) send out one article a week, #2) present the idea of a couponing/refunding class to Hawkeye community college, and #3) approach the Independence Bulletin Journal newspaper with an idea for a column. By March 3 of that year, I had a job with the Bulletin-Journal, one that included a once a month column. In May, a New York film company visited my house, filming for a video-tape about couponing. It wouldn’t be until November 2011 that I would conduct a couponing workshop for a community college. On May 7, I noted that my article on “letter-writing” had appeared in the newspaper. A  prelude to a future book on letter writing perhaps?

In October 1994, my book proposal for “Homeschooling From Scratch” was accepted, via a postcard through the mail. I signed the book contract (again by mail) on December 14. Advance copies of that first book arrived on my doorstep on June 13, 1996.

I wouldn’t remember these dates, if it weren’t for the engagement books.

In 1998, I noted that I was sending out a book proposal to potential publishers again, one for a book I planned to write that would be filled with hints and tips for large families. I advertised in Mary Pride’s “Big Happy Family” magazine for women to respond to my questionnaire, and had collected nearly 40 responses.

Eventually, I would throw out the entire file. It wasn’t the greatest idea for a book, particularly during an era when families were getting smaller. After reading my daybooks, the real reason behind it becomes obvious. I was desperate to know the secrets of those mothers who’d managed to find time for themselves. Peace and quiet. Contemplative silence. By researching and writing a book specifically for women like me, I was hoping to find some answers for myself. Those answers remained elusive, however. I was disappointed to discover that none of the women who filled out my questionnaire had free time.

Maybe because the secret was in not having a large family in the first place. When Mary JH and I met in 1986, the youngest of her three children was three years old. I was pregnant with my third, and would go on to have five more children in the ensuing years, while Mary stopped at three. During the years I was lamenting my lack of time, letters from her revealed she was experiencing what I yearned for. She could already see a difference in 1987:

“Later journal entries showed mothering was less intense as my children grew, reflecting that freedom by showing a less-stressed mother. More joys of parenting were chronicled, and a woman with better rest, more confidence in her mothering, and more free time emerged. Me time was still a precious commodity, don’t get me wrong, but it was easier to fit in than before. Looking back, I only wish I could’ve given that worn-out mother with the young children in the early 1980s even a smidge of the bountiful time I have now. That young mother would’ve devoured it. I know this because I remember her well.”- Mary Jedlicka Humston, “Mary & Me” page 59

It’s obvious through the notes in my engagement books that I did manage to find time for one thing during those years, and that was writing. Some days, I think it saved my sanity.

I carried a notebook everywhere I went. If a child fell asleep in the back seat while I was driving, I’d pull over to the curb and frantically write before he or she woke up. I scribbled away on a legal pad as I sat on the toilet lid while toddlers bathed. I made notes on the back of grocery lists in the store. I eagerly welcomed my children’s desire to have me sit near them as they fell asleep, because I could write by the dim bulb of a nightlight.

When I teach beginning writing workshops now, I bring along a laminated 8 x 10 photo from that era. There I am in 1994, pecking away at a typewriter with baby Matthew in a backpack, peeking over my shoulder. This was my reality, the “glamorous life of a writer,” I tell those young mothers in my classes who lament their lack of writing time. –from “Mary & Me,” page 67

No matter how many children or how little time I had, that 1992 goal became a reality for me. Outside of a few arid months after the birth of each baby, I submitted something at least twice a month, sometimes once a week. If my work was rejected, which happened quite often, I’d tweak it, polish it up, and send it out again. The submissions, rejections, and acceptances are all noted in the daybooks. I managed to hit 100 acceptances by 1993. 1996 was particularly prolific. I stopped counting published clips by the time I hit 500.

I often wonder what I should do with my daybooks and journals. Mary JH has confided that she has wondered the same thing.

When I filled the first journal after David’s death, I knew I would leave it behind for the purpose of possibly helping one of my children (probably a daughter) through the inevitable loss of a spouse. It would have helped me to know how my mother handled the loss of Dad.  I lived more than an hour away from Mom and was busy raising young children when he died. She and I didn’t share a lot of conversations about her experience, but I still cherish the letters she wrote afterwards, where she shared little bits and pieces. Dad died in May. In June, my mother wrote about Father’s Day. It seemed as though she was thinking about her children’s loss more than her own:

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Four months later, she would write about a bereavement support group she attended:

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My children won’t need to wonder how widowhood was for me. They’ll have my journals and my book, “Refined By Fire: A Journey of Grief and Grace.”

But do they need to know that on November 4, 1994, I paid the bills and had only $85 left to get through the rest of the month?  Or that too many times to count in the year 2000 I wrote I would “go stark-raving mad” if I didn’t get some time to myself?

But then, maybe Michael would like to know we went to Show Biz Pizza on his 5th birthday, and Dan left on an airplane for Alaska on June 15, 1994, and a year later, on June 5, their dad and I opened a bookstore. That Matthew fell down the stairs on October 12, 1995, and while the ER doctor said it was just a bad sprain, three days later, our family doctor would discover his wrist was fractured. Would Emily like to know that in February 1996, when we discovered I was carrying a girl, we were considering naming her Sarah?

I guess I’ll hang onto those daybooks, after all.

Familius Book Sale

Our publisher is having a big super holiday sale you won’t want to miss if you have some readers on your Christmas list. Some wonderful books for less than $10~

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Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink is on sale for just $6. Now is the time to pick up a few copies for your girlfriends or your Book Club.

Book Review: Use Your Words

Because writing has been such a big part of both of our lives, an entire chapter of our co-written  Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink  is devoted to the topic of combining motherhood and writing. My first check for a published piece came in January 1989, a month after my fourth baby was born. I’ve never looked back. I’ve been writing ever since, with brief breaks after each of my next four children were born. I started my blog Mary Potter Kenyon in June 2009 as a “Housewife Writer blog,” and I’ve been teaching writing classes and workshops at community colleges, libraries, and writer’s conferences since 2011.

One thing I’ve heard repeatedly during these classes is the question “How do you find the time?” or the comment “I’ll write when the kids are older.”

That’s when I pull out this picture my husband snapped of me at my typewriter in early 1994.

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Yes, I wrote my way through much of those years of raising a large family. I wrote my way through caring for my husband during his cancer treatment in 2006, I wrote my way through mourning my mother in 2010, my husband in 2012, and my grandson in 2013. Because I intimately know the saving grace of the writing craft, I want to help other women (and men) discover it too. That’s the impetus behind my current writing project, a grief journal, and an expressive writing workshop I’ve put together.

Because I have a passion for encouraging young mothers to write, I was thrilled to discover this wonderful book, Use Your Words: A Writing Guide for Mothers, by Kate Hopper.

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Each chapter focuses on an element of the writing craft and includes published essays or poems from other women writers, along with writing exercises that serve as jumping-off points for the readers’ own writing. Use Your Words is a book for both beginning mother writers and more advanced writers who want to improve their writing ability as they process the gritty, mundane, humorous, and sometimes heartbreaking nature of motherhood.

When Hopper’s daughter was born prematurely, she withdrew from graduate school, where she was pursuing an MFA, to care for her daughter. Her baby was five months old when she escaped to a coffee shop and began writing what would eventually become her first book, Ready for Air: A Journey Through Premature Motherhood

“And for the first time since my daughter was born, the world felt a little bigger, and I felt a little less alone. Just getting those memories down on paper made me feel lighter. In the following weeks, I continued to write about Stella’s birth and hospitalization, and with each passing month, I felt healthier and more grounded; I was doing the only thing I knew how to do to make sense of what happened to me, to us- I was writing again.”

Yes. I know just what Hopper means. If you can’t take one of Hopper’s classes, offered online or at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, then the writing exercises after each chapter are sure to jump-start your writing.

You can read more about Kate Hopper HERE.

 

Book Review: Walking on Water

Madeleine L’Engle has long been one of my favorite authors, but not for the book her name is most associated with; A Wrinkle in Time. I was in my late 30’s when I read A Circle of Quiet, identifying with the writer who was also a mother, a woman who “escaped” the cacophony of a noisy household to burn garbage in the back yard. I often did the same. Like Madeleine on her 40th birthday, I was at a point in my life where I sometimes wondered if I was wasting my time by choosing to write every morning, when my husband worked so hard to pay bills and I wasn’t making any money with my writing, outside of the small checks I was getting for some freelance work  I did for a local newspaper. Mostly, I identified with her need to write. I couldn’t imagine a life without writing. I still can’t.

A few years later, I would pick up The Irrational Season. I read her Two-Part Invention during my husband David’s cancer treatment in 2006. I vividly remember sobbing on the couch as I read about her husband’s death. Two-Part Invention was one of the first books I read after David died in 2012. Glimpses of Grace and Reflections on a Writing Life, written with Carole Chase, are prominently displayed on a shelf in my bedroom.

And it was L’Engle’s Friends for the Journey, written with her dear friend Luci Shaw, that served as inspiration for our Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink. (NOTE: available for a special holiday price of just $6 through the publisher right now. Click on the title for more information)

Madeleine L’Engle’s words touched my heart and soul so deeply, I mentioned her several times in my book  Refined By Fire; A Journey of Grief and Grace. Her granddaughter Lena Roy, was kind enough to endorse it.

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For all these reasons, I was especially thrilled to get my hands on a new edition of Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith & Art, by Madeleine, originally published in 1980, the year I gave birth to my first child. It was only when reading it, I realized Lena was the granddaughter of Madeleine’s that had been hit by a truck when she was a young child!

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On page 2, I was instantly enthralled, reading these words;

“I sit on my favourite rock, looking over the brook, to take time away from busyness, time to be. I’ve long since stopped feeling guilty about taking being time; it’s something we all need for our spiritual health, and often we don’t take enough of it.”

And this:

“And then there is the time in which to be, simply to be, that time in which God quietly tells us who we are and who he wants us to be. It is then that God can take out emptiness and fill it up with what he wants and drain away the business with which we inevitably get involved in the dailiness of human living.” (page 162)

I’ve so rarely allowed myself that special time of just being, particularly during those years of raising young children. There was no quiet in a house full of babies and toddlers, much less time to just sit and be.  Yet, despite a distinct lack of time, I wrote. Now, my youngest is eight years old, and while I enjoy more quiet, reflective time, I also have an office to go to every weekday.

I’m working on the manuscript for a grief journal that will include my short essays along with quotes from other authors who have walked down the path of grief, including L’Engle. I was slightly dismayed when I found myself admitting in one of the essays that I occasionally missed the slow paced days of those early months of grieving, and the quiet stillness of mornings when I didn’t have to be anywhere or go anyplace. I wrote my way through much of those mornings.

When I signed a contract for this journal, I was well aware that this would be the first book-length project I would be working on without the luxury of the morning writing hours I had counted on for more than 25 years. So I’ve learned to utilize my weekend mornings and snatched moments here and there, just like I did as a mother with young children. I’d sit on the lid of the toilet to write while toddlers splashed in the bathtub, pull over to the curb and write when an infant fell asleep in the car seat. As was true back then, I don’t have hours of uninterrupted time to write. I have to find the time.

“To work on a book is for me very much the same thing as to pray. Both involve discipline. If the artist works only when he feels like it, he’s not apt to build up much of a body of work. Inspiration far more often comes during the work than before it, because the largest part of the job of the artist is to listen to the work and to go where it tells him to go. Ultimately, when you are writing, you stop thinking and write what you hear.” (page 140)
L’Engle shares these words of Rilke’s from his “Letters to a Young Poet” that she’d jotted down in her journal:

“You are looking outward, and that above all you should not do now. Nobody can counsel and help you, nobody. There is only one single way. Go into yourself. Search for the reason that bids you to write; find out whether if is spreading out its roots in the deepest places of your heart, acknowledge to yourself whether you would have to die if it were denied you to write. This above all- ask yourself in the stillest hour of your night: Must I write? Delve into yourself for a deep answer. And if this should be affirmative, if you may meet this earnest question with a strong and simple ‘I must,’ then build your life according to this necessity; your life even into its most indifferent and slightest hour must be a sign of this urge and testimony to it.”

Must I write?

In this wonderful book, L’Engle says she would answer in the affirmative.

Just another thing L’Engle and I have in common. Me too.

NOTE: I am excited to report that Lena Roy and her sister, Charlotte, are working on a biography of their grandmother. Read more about that by clicking HERE.

Book Review: Nobody’s Cuter Than You

Nobody’s Cuter Than You: A Memoir About the Beauty of Friendship was released in April 2015, weeks after Mary & I had submitted our completed manuscript for the September-released Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink.

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Had we been aware of this book, we would have added it to our resource chapter. Had we read it, I would have wondered if my friend Mary had unconsciously picked up a phrase from it.

On page 16 of our book, Mary Jedlicka Humston looked back on our first meeting:

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On page 3 of Shankle’s book, she said much the same about her first meeting with her friend Gulley.

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I read Shankle’s wonderful book in one sitting, marveling at how much like the other Mary she was; forming female friendships with such ease. She was Mary JH, but with more money! Yes, I found myself wondering as I read her book what my life would have been like in elementary school if I’d had the wardrobe Shankle had. Is it easier to make friends with the right clothes, the hip hairstyle, and keys to a car handed to you on your 16th birthday?  It made me think of our Book Club discussion questions at the back of our book.

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Certainly having parents pay for college and access to Dad’s credit card made Shankle’s college days more fun than the years at UNI for either of the Marys, who had to pay their own way. I was a married woman my second year of college, had my first baby and worked part-time around my husband’s college classes and part-time job. There were no nights of partying, no groups of female friends. By the time I graduated college, I was the mother of four children, with four more to follow. When would I have had time for weekend road trips in which to bond with fellow females?  I found myself getting a little, um…jealous, and if you’ve read our book, you know that is a very uncomfortable feeling for me. I was even envious of Shankle’s fourth grade summer camp and the resulting turning point in her faith in Christ. I had to wait until age 51, and the loss of my mother for my own turning point in faith.

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Surprisingly, Shankle tackles the topic of jealousy in her book, too. Maybe one can’t discuss female friendship without broaching the subject. Perhaps everyone deals with envy at some point in their life.

The similarities between our books doesn’t end there. The author obviously shares a love of epigraphs with me. (the quotes of others at the beginning of each chapter). She also touches on loss, and the importance of being there for a friend.  Readers of Mary & Me know intimately of how my friendship with Mary deepened after I faced the loss of my husband.

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After reading Melanie Shankle’s memoir, I want to read her other books. I’m now a follower of her Big Mama blog. I want Melanie and her Gulley to sit down at a table with Mary and me to share a cup of tea (or coffee~ it is not clear which beverage this author prefers) and talk into the night about friendship, faith, jealousy, and what it means to be a Christian woman.

Readers will have a chance to win a copy of this book in the giveaway that I will be posting on our blog tomorrow.  Not only will we be giving away several books, a journal, and stationery, but a Barnes & Noble gift card is involved~  The giveaway drawing will be held next Sunday, September 18, which just happens to be National Women’s Friendship Day.

A Book Club Visit

by Mary Jedlicka Humston

Imagine receiving a large envelope in the mail and finding several handwritten thank you notes inside. Talk about a treasure! While sitting in my queen chair in the front room, I smiled while opening and reading each one.

Those of you who follow this blog and know that Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink is about Mary’s and my 30-year friendship linked by thousands and thousands of letters will know why these thank yous thrilled me.

des moines book club notes

The Walnut Hills Women’s Book Group and I spent a lovely evening together last month in Des Moines. We met at Panera and talked about the book as if we’d been lifelong friends. I felt such warmth from these wonderful women and was blessed by our discussion and the sharing of numerous friendship stories.

So, thanks, Walnut Hill Women’s Book Group, for providing this unique opportunity for me to meet you all. And, thanks for the thank you cards. Your kindness deeply touched me.

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If your book club would like one, or both of us, if possible, to come and talk to your group, let us know. One of our joys is to hear how Mary & Me has touched others. We also hope it promotes friendship: both ones of longevity and those that are brand new, for each and every friendship possesses the potential to change lives and to create wonderful, rich legacies.

We designed our book to be utilized by book clubs, with a discussion guide at the back of it. You can see the discussion questions on our publisher’s website by clicking here.

The Support We Need When a Soulmate Dies

I read a lot of grief books.  That’s obvious from my Goodreads profile. What might seem an unhealthy obsession to some, could be explained as research for the book proposal I’ve been working on, or as part of my training in bereavement to help others. I’ll be teaching an expressive writing through healing seminar at a Heal Your Grief retreat I’m coordinating in Dubuque for October. So reading about journaling and other ways of healing just makes sense.

My latest read was Alan D. Wolfelt‘s When Your Soulmate Dies: A Guide to Healing Through Heroic Mourning. When I read this, I thought of my friend Mary:

“To be truly helpful, the people in your support system must appreciate the impact this death has had on you. They must understand that in order to heal, you must be allowed-even encouraged- to mourn long after the death. And they must encourage you to see mourning not as an enemy to be vanquished but as a necessity to be experienced as a result of having loved.” (page 126)

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Mary has been that support. Mary is the friend who visited once a month, every month, for eighteen months, treated me to lunch, and sat and listened, asking questions no one else dared ask. She has written countless letters of understanding, never complaining about my need to vent in my return letters.

I would have loved to have read this book shortly after David died. I think it would have been a tremendous help. Of course, if I was reading it then, my comments wouldn’t be included in it, would they?

Soulmate page

I’ve notice that about one-third of the people in our lives are capable of showing up with a loving heart and a ministry of presence. Another third can’t really help in this way but don’t hurt us either. And the final third are often toxic and harmful to our healing. They may tell us to quit mourning or declare that we’re doing it wrong.” page 84 of Wolfelt’s book

I count Mary in that first group of people. Unfortunately, I’ve also had experience with those who fall in that third group. Wolfelt’s wise advice is to steer clear of them.

Wolfelt discovered that it isn’t just spouses that can be soulmates. Some of the people he interviewed had lost a child, mother, sibling, or friend that was a “soul mate.” Yes, a friend. If we are lucky, we have experienced the kind of friendship that means our very souls have connected. We feel it immediately. For those who have read our book, you will know that for most of my adult life I didn’t experience many friendships outside of sisters and Mary. Almost as if loss broke my heart wide open, I have since accumulated many female (and male) friends, and there have been those I’ve connected with on a soul level. I can hardly wait until the group of people I have hand-picked for the “Heal Your Grief” retreat are in one room together, because each of them is that kind of friend. What happens when we all congregate under one roof, these chosen people? Do sparks crackle in the air above our heads? Angels sing? I can hardly wait to find out.

I am well aware that in the process of learning what it is to establish friendships, I have also opened myself up for further grief.

“I’m scared to get too close to him,” I confided. “Because of his age.”

I didn’t have to say any more. Mary knew what I meant. I didn’t want to face the possibility of a friend dying. The death of my husband was too recent, and I was raw with grief.

But it was too late. I already loved Cecil Murphey. The fact that I can admit as much shows just how far I have come in the friendship department. I love Shelly Beach, Wanda Sanchez, and dozens of other women I have met through Christian Writers conferences. Then there’s my Bible-study family. I love each and every one of them.

“I think that must be what heaven is like,” my daughter Elizabeth commented after one of our more animated studies when we’d laughed until we were nearly in tears.”- from “Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink,” page 124.

I don’t want to lose any of my friends. They are all too dear to me. Despite how much I love them, I don’t expect the grief to be the same as that when I lost David.
Have I dared to contemplate what it would be like to lose Mary? As briefly as possible. From our book,on page 184.

“Mary is more like me than I realized,” I told my daughter Elizabeth on the phone.

“Maybe if Jim dies someday, you and Mary could live together,” was her reply.

Without thinking, I’d blurted out in horror, “Oh, no, she’d drive me crazy!” Mary laughed when I confessed this transgression one day at my brother’s house.

“We’re too much alike,” she agreed.

“Can you even imagine not writing each other?” I asked then. I saw tears well up in her eyes.

Later on the way home, I let myself briefly consider a life without Mary’s letters.

I couldn’t bear it.

Choose Joy

Mary and I have been writing letters for nearly thirty years, which means I have written through many ups and downs; early days of mothering infants and toddlers, balancing freelance writing and part-time jobs while parenting, an emergency C-section, David’s job loss and subsequent financial struggles, the beginning of a bookstore business and its eventual demise, David’s cancer and the celebration of his survivorship five years later, the loss of my mother, a grandson’s cancer diagnosis, David’s death, and my eventual need for a job outside the home. Mary has been privy to much celebration in my life, along with an equal amount of complaining and venting in the thousands of letters I’ve written her. But in the past few months she had seen more than her share of complaints as I attempted to find balance (my chosen word for the year) in my life. Several days ago, I was once again lamenting the quiet, contemplative morning time I have lost when I began a new job.

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For more than 20 years, writing has served as my therapy. Even as a mother with young children, it was how I jump-started the day, whether it was a letter to Mary, an article or essay. After David’s death, morning (mourning) writing became a crucial part of my healing. I began each and every day with journal entries, prayer, and reading from inspirational books and devotionals.  For eighteen months after his death, I wrote like a mad woman, completing book manuscripts, essays, and blog postings. Even after I got an afternoon job as director of a library, my mornings were mine. And they were delicious.

Suddenly, with a new job, I found myself in an office every weekday morning. What could be better for a writer than being paid to write every day, right? And yet, I discovered I’d lost something in the process; quiet, contemplative time, and free hours to write whatever I wanted to write; essays and blog posts, and journal entries. For the first time in five years, I’m not working on a book. And yes, my letter-writing has decreased. It had to. Something had to give.

But all along, I was determined that “something” would not be my public speaking. When it came to speaking to the hearts of those who grieve, I’ve felt no angst, no hesitation to add to my commitments, particularly when it was an evening event, or like the October grief retreat I’ve been planning with two other women, something I feel strongly led to organize. I’ve also planned vacation days around a Christian writing workshop in June that I’ve looked forward to ever since the last one ended. The women and men I’ve met at this conference have become dear friends, and the spiritual sustenance I receive during those days is food for my soul.

But other things? Like the letter-writing workshops Mary and I had begun doing last fall in conjunction with our book release? I found myself balking, filled with anxiety. Could I really rationalize filling my Saturdays as I had before getting this job? I agonized about saying no to such fun events. Yet I found myself giddy with happiness each time I faced a free Saturday morning.

Of course, I shared these unaccustomed feelings with Mary in letters and phone calls. We prayed. We pondered. We had two big events already on the roster in March; a letter-writing workshop and a speech in front of lovely group of women. I enjoyed both of them immensely. We’ve made the decision to face future co-speaking event requests on a case-by-case basis, with prayerful discernment.

I did not send the letter I’d begun that day. If I was tired of my own complaining, I was certain Mary did not want to see more of it.

Instead, I picked up this book, Choose Joy: Finding Hope and Purpose When Life Hurts, by Sara Frankl and Mary Carver.

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Sara’s story of pain and loss touched me deeply. It also made me ashamed. If Sara could consciously choose joy every single day of her too-short and pain-filled life, then with all the blessings in my life, I could certainly choose joy each day. If God brought me to this new job, and I’m certain that he did, then he would lead me to find the balance I have so desired.

When I find myself lamenting the loss of my husband and the struggles of single parenthood, I can look at these words from Sara’s book:

Life isn’t fair. But it wasn’t meant to be. What we tend to forget is that we created the idea of fair. God didn’t. He never told us we deserve a perfect existence. He never told us life would be simple if we were faithful. He just told us to be faithful, and that He would be too. I embraced that concept and realized that as long as I stay focused on Him, and what he needs from me, rather than what I want for me, my life will be full and balanced.” (page 111)

A full and balanced life.

The very idea brings me joy.

 

I complete this blog post on the morning of what is the fourth anniversary of my husband’s death. And today, I choose joy for the years I had with my husband, for the eight children, two children of my heart spouses of my children, one soon-to-be son-in-law, and three healthy grandchildren I will spend my day with. I choose joy.

 

Learn more about Sara and her daily struggle through this video:

A Pile of Memories

mary letters

I don’t know when, or why, Mary and I decided not to keep each other’s letters, or if we even discussed it. The decision may have been made for us around the time we reached 3000 letters between us. Because where exactly does one store 1500 letters?

We sometimes regretted that decision, especially when we began writing Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink. Those letters would have come in handy for remembering dates and details of our friendship.

Alas, the letters were gone. We would have to rely on our memories, Mary’s journals, and my daybooks.
That is why it was so exciting when Mary unearthed a stack of my letters a few months ago. She re-read them before handing them over to me.

While Mary had said all along that we’d seriously discussed writing a book together years ago, I honestly couldn’t remember having done so, beyond the casual “We should write a book together.” These letters, dated between 2001 to early 2003 proved Mary right.  I had, indeed, discussed writing a book with Mary, more than ten years before it became a reality~

mary book idea envelope mary book idea letter 2 mary book idea letter 30005 mary book idea letter 4

 

 

 

 

Yes, “our” book idea was hurriedly scrawled on the outside of an envelope before it was dropped into the mailbox enroute to Mary.

 

Seems fitting for a book on friendship and letter-writing, don’t you think?

 

“Mary & Me” Looking Back at 2015 and Forward to 2016

by Mary Jedlicka Humston

“I loved the book Mary & Me. In fact, I bought 5 copies for gifts. Bravo!!” Kathy S. from MT

“My Hospice patient is loving your book. It is stimulating a lot of good memories for her.” Jeri B. from IA

One of the many excitements of 2015 has, obviously, been the publishing of Mary & Me: A Lasting Link Through Ink. A dream come true, actually. But one of the most pleasant surprises for me has been the many positive comments we Marys have heard and received since our book’s release on Sept. 8. Each word has become a treasure stored in our hearts and souls. Yes, I know that sounds corny and sentimental, but it’s true, true, true.
The two comments above came included in my Christmas cards, but they aren’t the only ones this holiday season. However, they are the only ones I could easily find. NOTE TO READERS: I send out about 240 Christmas cards each year, and I love both the sending and receiving. I consider it a daily gift to myself when the mail arrives. I sit in my “Queen” chair (see pg. 175 of Mary & Me for further description of my chair), often with a cup of hot tea, and I savor opening each and every envelope and reading the messages on the cards, personal notes, and newsletters that accompany them. Oh, did I mention that we Marys both send Christmas newsletters? Surprised? Nah, I bet not.
All along we felt Mary & Me would resonate with our readers and help rekindle friendships, encourage women to make time for each other, or maybe even give a little push to initiate new relationships. I love the old song: “Make new friends, but keep the old. Some are silver and the others gold.” Gold, silver, or bronze? Every friendship is a gift. We pray our book stimulated some special action in 2015 among those special gifts, your friends.
The other hope? That Mary & Me would nudge readers in 2015 to pick up pen and paper to send out a letter or card. Or, wildest dream of all? To perhaps, send out many, many of them. At our “Letter Writing 101” workshops, we joke that we’re out to save the world “one piece of stationery at a time.” In essence, though, we’re not kidding. We know what impact letter writing has had on our friendship, and we desire that, or a semblance of it, for everyone.
What do we wish for our readers now as we say hello to 2016? We pray this is the year that even more memories will be created with your friends. Just imagine the ripple effect if each reader reaches out to one friend who then reaches out to another friend who then does the same. Love and friendship would abound in unimaginable experiences and countless quantities.
In fact, in 2016, we invite you share your special stories on this blog. Tell us what you do, where you’ve gone, how long the friendship is, when you met. Include ideas of special events you’ve experienced so others might partake in similar fashion.
Spreading friendship in 2016. Now doesn’t that have a special ring to it as we ring in the New Year? Yes, it sure does.
God’s Blessings and Happy 2016 to one and all from the Marys!

Bellevue event (1)