Beauty for Ashes

This is it! No more waiting and wondering… Finding HER Stuff is now available! Follow the link, or for any local folks, book launch details will be released soon.

It is no surprise to my faithful Finding 52’ers, that this is both a huge relief and celebration of many, many, MANY months of painstaking details, edits, timelines and deadlines. WHEW! I never thought the word ‘finished’ would feel so good. There was a point in my final edit when I could not decide whether to actually go through with it ‒ as in ‒ do I read through the ninth edit or just return it blindly without checking the edits for accuracy? I mean, I have enjoyed working on my book, but carefully reading it nine times? It’s not that awesome!

And… it isn’t be perfect. I was told the common percentage for errors in any literature is under 5%, so if the book has a few minor mistakes, it is still well within the industry standard.

Hmmmm… pretty sure I was looking for absolute perfection ‒ with the book and in other areas of my personal life that are not meeting my performance expectations recently. If this challenge of perfectionism is popping up to get my attention, it may be a good time for a story…

I knew the book order had arrived on our doorstep, as my phone pinged with the alert that a delivery had been made. How could I finish the rest of my workday knowing the thing that had been consuming my focus for 18 months, was finally going to be placed in my hands. I took a deep breath. I guess 4 or 5 more hours won’t end me. Then the call came from hubby.

6 boxes! That’s a lot of books.

6His mother was hospitalized for a tumble she took on the stairs. I was the only one available to attend and support, so I asked permission to leave work and spent the rest of the day ensuring she was comfortable and hearing every word the physicians were uttering regarding her care.  I put the Christmas-like packages that were waiting out of my mind and concentrated on this lovely lady who had become a special part of my life.

The night had already ascended when my 7 hour vigil at the hospital seemed like it could conclude. As I made my way home, I visualized opening the first box holding the long awaited cargo but suddenly remembered plans made with girlfriends that evening. I had not seen these gals all summer, so of course, I headed over to meet up and catch up. What’s another 3 hours of waiting after enduring 18 months?

It was wa-aa-ay past my bedtime when I finally lifted the boxes from the front step to the living room and felt the heaviness of each container. Was this the resulting tiredness from an emotionally full day or the impact of what this moment meant for the fulfillment of my writing goals?

The boxes were taped up tight. Wound and bound, to secure their safe arrival to the one who had woven her love, blood and tears into every page. I was afraid to hope for a perfect looking book, preparing myself to be quietly disappointed if they looked mediocre, but there was no need to worry ‒ they looked lovely and perfectly wonderful!

Note: Mum is in the background frame… can you spot her?

Good. Very good. Mum would stamp her approval. I went to sleep that night feeling accomplished, planning my acceptance speech for a Nobel Peace Prize in Literature, and ready to take on the world.

The next day rolled out just like normal. I went to work, put my uniform on one pant leg at a time, performed my professional duties, chatted with colleagues, and then arrived home to make supper and connect with family for a few moments before going to bed.

Wait… is my life exactly the same as before the books arrived? Am I responsible for the same tasks ‒ accountable to the same people ‒ doing the same routine because the paparazzi is not chasing down my every move? Yes. I am the same. Life is the same.


That is the sound of my reality check bubble being burst. I smirk at myself for the wild and fanciful images that exist in my head, and then make my way to the hospital during rush hour traffic. Family comes first. There are many steps left in my book publishing agenda, but my mind must be elsewhere until mother-in-law feels better.

Turns out, writing a book and marketing it, are two very different challenges to face. Even with self-publishing guidelines to help sort out where to start and how to organize a retail campaign, I feel a powerful resistance to ever hone these skills. If perfection is my standard in this arena, the road is looking bleak. In fact, it is starting to feel like High School math class, all over again.

ARGHHHH! Why ‒ oh why ‒ oh why is this the mountain I need to climb now? It requires technology skill, social media savvy, disciplined time management, and a strategic implementation of multiple marketing phases (insert wasted tears here). For lack of a better description or label, I am going to call this overwhelming condition a perfection paralysis. It is a flood of information and decisions that paralyze my mind from knowing what step to take first or what direction to go next, fearing that whichever I choose, will end in failure.

It looks like the reward after conquering 18 hard months of editing and avoiding cliffs of second-guessing, is staring at the foot of another mountain to climb. Figures. It is like wandering through a series of connected mountain ranges; not able to see summits ‒ promisingly smooth plateaus ending quickly ‒ unforgiving rocky crevices devouring missteps. The only way to make it back to civilization (if that be the goal) is to keep finding a way.

Keep plodding along? Is that the reward for accomplishing one of the hardest goals in my life?! Where’s my hero badge or royal citation? At least give me a bit more time to relish making it up this last ascent; to rest at this peak, to marvel at the view and reflect on where I must now go.

But there is no time for rest. Between the demands of a life chosen to be full, I am preparing a new workshop for audiences that work with victims of violence. I have publicly shared my personal story before, in training environments or for groups within my professional circle, but never as a published author. This is ground breaking, right? Now that I have written a book, I will certainly need to talk smarter, act wiser, and demonstrate my academic prowess with dazzling Powerpoint slide transitions.

Canada… in the house!!

The result? It was not my best work; trying to be something I am not, lost between the story and study of my experiences. I thought if I could become a perfect specimen of a triumphant survivor, it would prove I have something valuable to share. Sw-inggg ‒ and a miss.

Undoubtedly, I can be my own worst critic and quick to think my efforts are consistently ablaze with ineffectiveness. With smoke clogging my thoughts and heaps of ugly ashes filling my sight, it looks like a new set of mountain ranges just came into sight…

Insert deep breath here.

Now that a few weeks have passed and a constructive conversation with hubby has been concluded, some clarity has arrived. I will never sound like a scholar, will not be an expert, and may always be haunted by the ghost of lacking credentials. Poor me. No degree.


That is the sound of the dishtowel of reality whipping me in the butt. Who said you had to be perfect? And on what planet does having a degree make you an expert at living, or loving, or helping others humans?  

Alright, then! Get on with it, AJ.

Today you get to live what you believe; that beauty comes from ashes, that transformation is never concluded, and that Love is what gives small voices all the credentials they need.