Wednesday, May 28, 2014

That Day

This weekend I had my first book signing at Black Dog Books in Zionsville, IN. My story was chosen to be featured in the book Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer's & Other Dementias. The day was stressful and strange from the beginning. The thoughts - “Am I really signing books for people? Will people, other than family and friends, show up?” - crossed my mind many times. The answer to both questions is “Yes”, and that outcome will forever affect me.

After setting up this book signing, I quickly realized I had no idea what to do for a book signing. What was expected? What was protocol? Were there rules? (I am all about the rules.) Other than making sure I didn't stink, knowing that I should bring a pen with which to sign said books, and to pray that someone showed up, I had no idea what to do. I was a rookie. So, I did what anyone from 2014 might do - I Googled “What to do for a book signing.” Dorky yes, but helpful, too.

My search told me I should use a permanent archival quality pen that was not black, because this would make a statement and not ruin books. I learned to be sure that I sign the date, because signed books are worth more money the closer they were signed to the release date of the book. (I am sure that people will be fighting each other in 50 years for this book signed by me!). The article told me where to sign the book and warned me not to use my legal signature, as it might end up on the internet. You wouldn't want someone to be able to use your signature for identity theft. I needed to have something to drink, preferably water. I was not to serve candy, as that only attracts kids, and kids don't buy books. Finally, I was to practice my “new” professional signature and to make sure that I have some catch phrases ready to use for when I am signing books. You see, I might become overwhelmed with the sea of folks wanting my autograph and would need something catchy to write.

Off I went to Michael's to pick up two purple book signing worthy pens. My sweet husband helped me have bookmarks made up to include with the books. These included my blog site, Facebook page, and Twitter handle. I figured out my outfit, wrote down my catch phrases, practiced my signature, and waited for the big day.

Saturday came and my first responsibility was my daughter's soccer game. This happened to be her last game, so I didn't want to skip the game to get ready for the book signing. I got up early, got myself ready and fifteen minutes before we were supposed to leave to get her to her soccer game, I realized that my son and husband were downstairs hanging out, still in pajamas. My son had not been fed breakfast and my daughter was still in bed sleeping. All of a sudden a tornado of waking, feeding, and getting dressed swept through the house and somehow we managed to get to the game on time, although my blood pressure was sky high.

At half time, I decided to go home to freshen up, change my clothes, and gather everything I needed for the event. My husband called to say that he was running by Kinkos to pick up the bookmarks and that he had corrected the “mistake” that had been made on my Twitter account name. He is not on social media and did not realize, while trying to be helpful, that he had messed up my Twitter account name and, in turn, the bookmarks would all be printed wrong. Nerves already shaky, I hung up the phone, cried for about two minutes and then realized I had no time for tears. I had to leave soon to be there early enough to talk to the owner of the book store, to the Alzheimer's Association representative who would be there, and to get set up.

Off I went, a half hour before the signing, to make a quick trip into the Village of Zionsville, a drive that usually would have put me in the store five minutes later. I had somehow forgotten and not factored in the fact that the Brick Street Market Day event was going on in town and this meant limited parking. Twenty minutes later, after lots of circling, calling my husband (as if he could magically, over the phone, make a parking space appear), I found a place to park. I parked the “land barge,” ran blocks in my wedged heels and made it there just as I was being called on my phone because they were wondering where I was. Deep breaths and the zen, cozy feeling of Black Dog Books helped me calm down and focus on what was ahead.

I sat down in one of the red leather chairs in front of the fireplace, gave Sophie the “black dog” a few scratches, and got myself set up and ready. No sooner had I sat down than someone came in to buy the book. Whew, at least one person was buying a book, right?

The four hours that I spent at Black Dog Books went quickly. Friends, cousins, aunts, uncle, and in-laws all showed up to show their support and get their books signed. Tania, the owner of the bookstore, had lovingly made homemade chicken soup for the chilly day. The soup even yielded a heart-shaped bay leaf that seemed to be a sign to all of us. Taking care of my mom, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, writing our stories, sharing those stories with the world, all while people supported me throughout, was a journey that could not have succeeded without a courageous heart and a whole lot of love. Those moments of chaos that morning were of no matter, there was something bigger happening.

Among the familiar faces that came in that day were many I had not known, at least not before they came to the store. People I didn't know were buying three books at a time. They wanted them signed for sisters and brothers, for caretakers and parents, and for themselves. They had seen the article in the paper. Their friends had told them about my blog. I was being talked about and in a good way! While I was signing their books, I was also able to talk with them. I heard about the heartbreak they suffered because of the disease. They shared the guilt that ate away at them for not being in the same town as their loved one who suffers from Alzheimer's, and feeling as if they were not doing enough. They told me about their sadness and their worry for a parent who wouldn't give up any of the caretaker responsibilities. They asked questions. I listened and let them know I understood everything they were saying. I. Got. It.

Every story in the book, every story I heard that day, was familiar to me. Every single one. They were all relatable to our ongoing struggle, but it wasn't about the book. Today I got the bigger message. That day was not just about people supporting me, it was also about me supporting others. I give support through my stories, my blog, my words. People hear about my mom's journey with Alzheimer's disease and they can relate. Although all of our journeys, filled with stories of and struggles with this disease, are our own, there is something comforting in knowing that we are not on our own. All of us must work together to win the fight to remember.

If you would like to help the fight against Alzheimer's, please click on the following link. It will direct you to the two events that I will be participating in. Any little bit will help. Can you give up your Starbucks for a day and donate $5? Help me, help my mom.

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