I went to the Ozarks Writers League (OWL) Awards banquet hoping, but not expecting, to win an award for my contest entries. After winning third place in the Gene Andereck short story contest, and third in the Dan Saults essay contest, I felt good about the recognition. Sixty-six of OWL’s 263 accomplished authors submitted more than 200 entries in nine categories, and though I was elated to win, I calmly walked forward to receive my checks and certificates.
One of the last awards was for the Book of the Year. When President Delois called out my name and announced that Early Onset Blog: Essays from an Online Journal was the Best Book of the Year Award winner, I hopped and skipped toward the front to accept. I bounded forward propelled by a mixture of excitement and the urge to get to the front of the room before they changed their minds.
The blog book didn’t win Book of the Year because it has an outstanding plot or colorful fiction characters. The characters are real people, with fear, anxiety, hope, and humor weaving us together as we share the bond of life with dementia. My blog isn’t flowery prose or a literary masterpiece. Each idea, phrase, or observation comes from my heart or it doesn’t hit the page.
For the past five years, I’ve wanted to write a memoir about Jim’s life. Although, I’ve never pared down my copious journal, I have shared many of my memories through the blog. The blog has become a memoir of our ten-year journey through dementia. Our story is the thread that binds the essays together that make up two books: Essays from an Online Journal and The Friendship Connection. Now, the third book is almost finished.
The books are not bestsellers, and were never intended to be. I give them to legislators during our Capitol Hill visits at the Advocacy Forum in Washington, DC. I hand them out during Memory Day at the state capital. Then, I distribute them free of charge at our Sedalia Memory Walk. The worth of the books is not based on sales, and the rewards I receive are not monetary. I am more like the old time vendors who receive something of value in exchange. No, please don’t send me a chicken or side of beef—my rewards are finding out I wrote something that helped or encouraged you. I prefer emails, comments, or a hug when we meet in person.
Readers have many different views of bloggers and bloggers have different goals, or agendas. My goals are simple: Encourage, Inspire, and Inform. I know how alone a caregiver can feel, and I understand those middle-of-the-night moments when you need to be encouraged. No matter how much family, friend, or church support you have, your inner strength occasionally needs to be shored up. You need to be reminded that the days may be dark, but moments of joy will break through the clouds, and you will once again walk in sunshine.
I don’t write this blog to win awards. Yes, it is great to be recognized and it validates the time and effort to keep on writing even when I get no comments or emails. I can look at the stats and know hundreds read the blog on a regular basis. My writing comes from a passion of knowing how alone a caregiver can feel.
When I lose my passion, I’ll close this blog down. Until that day, if it ever comes, I’ll keep on encouraging, inspiring, and informing. Simple, but important goals, as long as Alzheimer’s erases memories, erodes skills, and reduces our abundance of life.
Early Onset Blog: Essays from an Online Journal and Early Onset Blog: The Friendship Connection are both available at http://www.amazon.com/ when you type in "Early Onset Blog."