Newsletters from authors are essentially birth announcements. They come out occasionally over the course of a year and are reminders to potential readers letting them know that a new book is about to hit the shelves. And that’s what this one is. For all my paperback readers out there—a very important segment of my readership—the most recent Joanna Brady book, Missing and Endangered, goes on sale in mass market September 28.
Blogs, on the other hand, are written and posted on a weekly basis every Friday morning on both my Facebook author page and my website. They consist of essays that reflect what’s going on in my life at that point in time—a window on my world, as it were. Sometimes they’re about the goings on when I’m off on a book tour. Sometimes they’re about the process of writing itself. Sometimes they’re simply recollections of and reflections on my life and times.
Occasionally, like today, they are one and the same, and there’s a reason for that. Some people who have subscribed to the newsletter never get it. I don’t know if the email hangs up in their spam file or if something else is going on, but the newsletters simply don’t come through. So on weeks when books are due out, the newsletter and blog are one and the same. And if you regard receiving the newsletter as an annoyance, feel free to hit the unsubscribe button. We are careful to remove those each and every time.
But this week, I had a problem. Last week, without remembering Missing and Endangered was about to make an appearance, I promised my blog readers the third installment of a difficult chapter in my history and the people of faith who came along to give me a helping hand. So newsletter-only readers may choose to quit reading here. Or, if they decide they’d like to catch up, they’re welcome to go to www.jajance.com/blog and read the last two postings.
As last week’s installment ended it was 1981, and a children’s sermon at church finally booted me out of self-imposed limbo and set me on a path to a new life. After months of nothing happening, my house sold. The kids and I packed our worldly goods into a U-Haul trailer, hooked it on the back of my Oldsmobile Cutlass, and headed north to Seattle. Did I mention I was scared to death? I had never pulled a trailer before. I only cried when both kids were asleep. I was a single divorced mother, heading off to a new city where, other than my older sister and my nephews, I knew no one. I had a job selling life insurance, but I had no contacts. My lifelong dream of becoming a writer was little more than a distant memory.
As we drove into Seattle from the south on I-5, I remember driving past the then-unfinished overpass to I-90 and wondering what would have happened if I had missed a turn and ended up on that. We arrived in Seattle early in July of 1981. On our first Sunday morning at the condo in the Denny Regrade, I told my sister the kids and I were going to go looking for a church. And we did, setting out walking. I remembered seeing a church on the far side of Denny as we drove by. It turns out there were two. The first one was a Korean church. We kept walking and ended up at Unity.
During the service, the minister announced that youth summer camp was scheduled for the Hood Canal the following week, and it was fully booked. After the service, on the way out, I introduced myself to both the minister and his wife. I told them that I was new to town and that I had two children. I gave Judy, the wife, my phone number and asked her to call me if there were any openings for the camp. She called that afternoon, and my kids went to the Hood Canal church camp the following week.
A few weeks later, as a thank you, I took Judy to lunch. I spent most of the meal crying on her shoulder and telling her how my life had come to pieces, necessitating my leaving Arizona and all my friends there behind. She was an excellent listener. A number of months later, we went to lunch again. Unfortunately, I was still stuck in pool of self pity and bewailing the loss of all my Arizona friends. When I finished my latest boohooing episode, Judy Sherman looked me in the eye and said, “You know there are people here who are willing to be your friend.”
Whap! Sometimes that’s what it takes to get someone’s undivided attention—a good slap along side the head. Judy Sherman became friend numero uno, and she still is. Four years later, in 1985, Bill and I met and married. By then, Judy had put herself through seminary and was a minister herself as opposed to the minister’s wife. She was the one who officiated at our wedding. Like my friend from Vancouver, Mary Ann Swenson, Judy is someone’s whose faith shines through her face as she shares it with others.
A few months after my second conversation with Judy, I finally gave myself permission to try my hand at writing. Bill and I met at a widowed retreat the week before my first book was published in June of 1985. In August of 1986, six months after we married, we traveled to Arizona to celebrate my parents’ fiftieth wedding anniversary. While there, I took him by the office in Phoenix where I had worked during those three very tough years because I wanted to introduce him to the people I had worked with there, but here’s the interesting thing. None of them recognized me. They had never seen me smile, and they had never heard me laugh.
So whenever I drive into Seattle from the south or fly into town, whenever I catch that first glimpse of Seattle’s distinctive skyline, a profound sense of gratitude floods through me because Seattle is where I found my new life. It’s the city that gave me a second chance to find love and happiness. It gave me back my smile and my laughter. It allowed me to follow my dream and write books. It gave me a new life, a new husband, kids, grandkids, and even great grandkids, to say nothing of very my loyal readership.
Reverend McKinley was absolutely right all those years ago All I had to do was open my hand and let go of that one, because there wasn’t just a ten dollar bill out there waiting for me. There were blessings beyond measure.
As Paul Harvey would say, “That’s the rest of the story.”