Thursday, September 21, 2006

Super Kids, Super Friends, Super Mom-Stepping Up and Stepping Out

There are a couple of things I'd like to discuss today. First of all, thanks so much to all who gave comments, both online and privately, about the job sitch (should I, or shouldn't I?). For now, I have put off a decision. I know it is a big step to take, particularly being so new to recovery, as some have mentioned. Still, the money is tempting. We'll see.

I am going to blog more extensively later about this, but as most of you know, my young son (age 9) has had Type 1 (Juvenile) Diabetes for the last two years. These two years have seen him endure over 7,000 blood sugar tests, thousands of insulin shots, and hundreds of insulin pump infusion site changes. And in the future he faces devastating complications, such as blindness, limb amputations, kidney failure, heart attack, stroke, and others.

Last year we walked as The O'Connor Lions to support the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation's search for the cure. We raised over $5,000 and I was really happy and grateful to everyone who was able to donate. Much love.

We're walking again this year and I WILL link up today (each page includes a personal story, and you can donate via ANY of the links below).

Donate to my son's walk
Donate to my daughter's walk
Donate to my husband's walk

Donate to my walk

But I'll wait till later in the week to post the "official" walk notice.

Thing is, I wanted to discuss something that my diabetes support group has been discussing. That is to discuss in a non-whining manner the people who do donate, the people who don't, and why.

We're fortunate in that most, if not all, of our family members understand how vital this issue is to us. Last year we got many donations and I hope to meet or exceed our goal this year. One thing I tend to get now that this is our second year of walking for the cure is "why are you doing this all over again?"

Because there is not a cure yet. My son's life is still in danger. That's why.

We've just started our fundraising and I'm hopeful we'll have a big response, even though it seems a bit slow to get started. However, many people's family and friends just don't seem to get it. They ignore emails or hem and haw about donating. And don't get me wrong, these people aren't strapped. These people COULD donate if they chose to. They just don't. Rather than whingeing and complaining about it, we are all trying to figure out why. Maybe they need to be approached differently. What do you think? Comments are MOST welcome.
Here are a few examples. One man's own brother (who is working a well paying job, takes his family on expensive vacations, etc.) told him he simply "wouldn't be able to support" the team this year, even with a small donation, because he is busy the day of the walk helping someone move. (???) Another woman's brother said he refused to donate because her daughter (with diabetes) wrote the walk letter and did not personalize each and every letter (out of hundreds, I'll bet). His response? "I'll donate when you see fit to send me a personal letter." (!!!!)
And of course, there are the people who just ignore you, don't answer the emails, or whatever. It's their prerogative not to donate, sure. They can spend their money on a pair of Jimmy Choos, or a week's worth of Starbucks, or a new hardcover, or whatever. Free country, right? We parents are NOT resentful, just confused. It just makes us all... wonder. Why stand by at such a crucial time? There is some disconnect here. And we have to figure out a way to get around it, because everyone's donations will suffer. And as a result, all our kids will suffer. What can we do to reach these people?

The consensus among us parents seems to be that many people just DO NOT GET IT. They don't get the seriousness of this disease. They don't realize that insulin is not a cure. They don't get that this is not just a Girl Scout cookie fundraiser, or a wrapping paper sale for school. THIS IS A MATTER OF OUR CHILDREN'S LIVES.

On average, our children's lives will be cut short by FIFTEEN YEARS because of this dreadful disease.
What could you do with fifteen years? How many books could you write? Sunsets could you see? How many symphonies could you hear, children could you push on a swing? How many saxophone solos could you play? With your fifteen years, would you take longer walks?

Fifteen years.

"I'll donate when you see fit to send me a personal letter."
Fifteen years.

"We already donated to your daughter's Girl Scout cookie sale."
Fifteen years.

"Didn't I give to this last year?"
Fifteen years.
What could you do with fifteen years?

Maybe that's the way you need to frame it to people. But I don't know. All our letters are pretty strong. I've read so many. They all break my heart. So where are we going wrong? Why aren't we getting through?
Some people in my support group are quite hurt by the reactions they've received. But how are you going to explain the importance of this issue to people? I think it's hard to know what it's like to live with this disease every day unless you really do it.
Even so, I'm shocked when people's own siblings will not donate, even if they can't build their own walk team. I'm always thrilled when I hear of people building teams of their own to support nieces, nephews, grandchildren, brothers, sisters... Last year my own sister did a Ride for the Cure. That really thrilled me and we were all quite moved.

Yesterday I received a personal letter from an author from one of the writer groups I approached for a donation. She wrote to tell me she couldn't donate... because she was sponsoring her husband's mega-bike ride for the cure. Her sister died at age 40 from complications of Type 1 Diabetes.

Reading her message, I began to cry. I wrote back and told her how grateful I was that she reached out to me. She truly understands the importance of a cure.

Her sister lost around 30 years of a wonderful life due to this dreadful disease. These days, the years of life our children lose are down to 15.

But that's still too many.
What would YOU do with fifteen years?

Then there are the people who really step up to the plate and surprise you. Someone on our list mentioned that her local realtor gave a huge check, even when her close friends didn't donate at all. Thank God for these people.

One such person in our lives has been thriller author Lee Child. Even though I have never met Lee in person, and he does not know our son, he came through with an extremely generous donation.

Why? I don't know because I am not him, but I think Lee understands that this is not just another cookie sale for an arts program, or lemonade stand for extra books for a school library. This is a matter of life and death. Perhaps Lee, as an author, is unusally empathetic and able to put himself in another person's shoes. I don't really know. I'm grateful, either way. MANY big thank yous to Lee and to the people like him in all our lives.
Anyway, I would love to hear from my readers in the comments section. How do you reach out to those who for whatever reason do not seem to be responding to your appeals for a cure?

And now, onto my Girlfriends Cyber Circuit entry!
This entry is about a book that's newly in paperback. It's titled CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM and it's by my friend, author Melanie Lynne Hauser. What impresses me about Melanie is not just her generosity. (She has been a great supporter of our Walks and our son's situation in general. A true Super Mom!) But also, Melanie cares about getting her research right. When she decided to write about Type 2 Diabetes, she decided to contact me to find out what the differences are between Type 1 and Type 2. There are too many writers and reporters out there who just don't care to get the facts right. I really appreciated Melanie's efforts on that.


"Every superhero has an Origin. To tell the truth, it's a little embarrassing. I wasn't put into a rocket and sent to Earth by my parents just as my home planet exploded. I wasn't given a special ring by visiting aliens. I wasn't bitten by a radioactive spider. No, it wasn't anything nearly so glamorous; my beginnings are quite humble. I was merely the innocent victim of a Horrible Swiffer Accident."

Meet Birdie Lee, clerk at Marvel Fine Food and Beverages and an average, middle-aged single mother of two teenagers. Until one ordinary morning when, on the floor of her bathroom, Birdie discovers a Stain of Unknown Origin--a stain so intense that nothing can remove it. When all her attempts fail, Birdie does the unthinkable: She loads her Swiffer with every cleanser she owns, aims, and shoots. Suddenly, Birdie becomes endowed with extraordinary powers. Now Birdie must somehow balance it all--her smug ex and his overachieving new wife; two teenagers and a string of PTA meetings; her own budding romance; and her beloved town of Astro Park, whose very existence is threatened by a mysterious force sneaking its way into every household. A delightful, well-earned escape, Confessions of Super Mom is an amusing vindication of the overlooked everyday heroism that is a woman's life.


Hailing from the Hoosier state (where she grew up in the shadow of the Indianapolis 500 racetrack), Melanie Lynne Hauser is a late bloomer who is just now figuring out what she wants to be when she grows up. Having tried her hand at telemarketing, candy striping for a nursing home (where it was suggested she not return, after she mistook the men's plastic urinals for water bottles and put ice in them) and acting under her maiden name, Melanie Miller (Most Academy Award-Worthy Performance: The title role, complete with bear costume, in the gut-wrenching exploration of good touch/bad touch entitled "What's the Matter, Little Bear?"), she put everything on hold in order to marry, have two children, and spend her time making sure they didn't stick their fingers in electrical sockets. (Both the husband, and the children.)

However, the children grew up. (Although occasionally she still has to make sure they don't stick their fingers in electrical sockets. They are, after all, boys.) After moving to the Chicago area, Melanie put in a brave couple of years with the PTA. She drove her sons to soccer practices, track meets, music lessons and orthodontist appointments. In short, she was in training to become Super Mom.

At an age when many women throw themselves back into their careers after raising their children, Melanie looked around and realized she never had one in the first place. After deciding she wasn't creative enough to start her own business (like all those women on Oprah), she turned to the one thing she did know: Books. A bookworm from the time she was able to form words, Melanie realized that what she really wanted to do was write books. So she wrote one. It stank. She buried it out in her backyard, next to the compost heap. She wrote another book. It didn't stink quite so much; in fact it got her not one, but two literary agents. Still, nobody wanted to publish it. She wrote another book. It stank the least of all, and led her to her current, wonderful literary agent, but still it went unpublished. Then she wrote CONFESSIONS OF SUPER MOM. So far, nobody has said that it stinks. In fact, so many people like it that the sequel, SUPER MOM SAVES THE WORLD will published by NAL in early 2007. And finally, at long last, Melanie has a career. (And old men in nursing homes everywhere breathe a huge sigh of relief.)

"Like its title character, this debut novel has a secret's unexpectedly poignant and packs an emotional punch despite the cheery veneer..."
-- Publishers Weekly
"…fun twist on the superhero tale comes packaged with a socially responsible message…" -- Booklist


1. How did you get this idea for this book? Please describe how the book grew from a glimmer of an idea into a whole novel.
I'd written three previous novels; the first one stank, although since it was my first attempt, I cherish it for that. Then I wrote two other novels; they stank less (in fact, both got me literary representation and almost sold, making it to the marketing committee level at major publishers). That was a frustrating time, for sure; so close, yet so far. But I listened to what editors were saying; my books were too quiet, I needed to find that elusive "high concept" needed to break in. So I decided that if they wanted high concept, I'd give them high concept; I'd find a way to write about the issues that were still important to me as a woman and a mother, only I'd write about them somehow larger than life. That kind of thinking - "How far away from 'quiet' can I get?" led me to think about writing women's fiction from a superhero's perspective, and from there it was just one more step to creating Super Mom, giving my protagonist all the powers I really wish that I, as a not-so-super mom, had. Once I got the idea, the book was written fairly quickly; my agent read it, submitted it, and....more rejection. Three months' more, actually (not that I was keeping count!) until I had two offers in one week. Dutton bought the book, in a two-book deal; the sequel, SUPER MOM SAVES THE WORLD, will be out in March.

2. Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?

Don't spend too much time on one project; if you're not getting very far with one manuscript, put it away and move on to the next one. When I hear of authors spending years trying to get that first novel published, my heart just breaks; most published authors' "first novels" are anything but, and I don't think people want to hear about that, frankly. And too - if you want to have a career you have got to have more than one novel in you. So you have to learn when to let go of projects and move on to the next one.

3. What's your writing day like? Any tips or tricks for getting organized?

I think that in the beginning it's important to keep to a set schedule; mine was from 12-3, every day. I never told myself how many words I had to write; that was too daunting. But I did tell myself I had to write SOMETHING every day. But then, at least for me, once you've been doing this for a while you find that you can jump right into the writing whenever, wherever, and the schedule isn't so regimented. But I think I only got to this point by training myself, in a way, by writing to that precise schedule, early on.

4. What's been the most exciting thing about publishing? The most frustrating?

Oh, definitely - the first time I held a copy of my hardcover. That was magical, and I cried a little, and I remember my editor suggesting that I take that first copy and write in it how I felt when I saw it. (I wish I'd taken her advice! But alas, I didn't.) Frustrating? Well, I think the discovery that I didn't really get to make the decision as to how & when I moved on to the next project. I knew I'd have very little control over the decisions related to the books under contract; I didn't know that I wouldn't be able to submit new work when it suited ME; that there are a lot of other considerations to take into account, from now on.

5. Do you think you might write a follow-up to this book? If not, what else is in the works?
The sequel, called SUPER MOM SAVES THE WORLD, will be published by NAL/Penguin in March 2007. It pickes up about 4 months after the first book ends, and continues the story of Birdie, Carl, the kids - and of course a new menace to the children of Astro Park, this time in the form of organized sports, specifically - Little League Baseball.

And last week I just mailed my next manuscript to my agent; it's a wonderful, magical novel about miracles, Vaudeville and George Burns - with a comatose rock star thrown in for good measure - that I absolutely love! (Of course I love all my novels, but the one that I'm working on is always the one I love best.) And I have an idea for something else brewing in the back of my busy brain.
Congratulations on all the success, Melanie! Look for Melanie's book at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or your local indy, always the best choice.