Saturday, May 10, 2014

On Touching Me Without Permission...

I was going through my Twitter feed this morning and came across this really interesting article on titled "Are you a jerk to people with disabilities without even knowing it?" The story is basically about Scope, "a British group which advocates for people with disabilities, [that] has partnered with the advertising firm Grey London and TV presenter Alex Brooker to make a clever series of ads meant to help non-disabled people avoid being awkward (and, you know, actively offensive) when interacting with people with disabilities." The ads are pretty clever, and I have to admit, it'd be pretty cool if those aired here in the US, where we think we're oh-so-PC about these sorts of things. So I thought I'd offer my own perspective on people who think they're trying to help and, in reality, really aren't.

I'd like to preface these experiences by saying that in my professional travels and encounters with strangers, people have been nothing but extraordinarily kind and generous to me. Much of this awkwardness and insensitivity is borne out of benevolent ignorance and inexperience being around people with a disability. I'm just hoping maybe it will help you understand how to perhaps approach someone the right way when that instinct to assist hits you.

The day before yesterday, I was in San Diego to give a presentation to a civic group about my new book, Border Insecurity. It was at a lovely Italian restaurant, and the presentation itself went great! I met a lot of awesome people, and as you can see in the picture of me sitting next to my trusty walker with a glass of wine in my hand, it was a relaxing and enjoyable experience. It was a tight space in the room, and people had no problem getting up and sliding chairs or tables to the side so I could squeeze through with my walker to my designated spot.

After everything was done, I walked out with the event's organizer to get to the car taking me back to my hotel. The valet guy saw us and immediately said he wanted to help me however he could. I said very casually that I was fine, I do this all the time. He insisted. I got to the small curb and did what I usually do--just turned around, stepped off the curb backwards, then pulled the walker down in front of me. However, without asking permission, the valet grabbed my arm in an attempt to support me and help.

This exact scenario happens to me frequently, where people automatically try to hold me up or touch me in some way that they feel is helpful. It is ALWAYS without asking or me granting permission, and it's pretty infuriating. How many of you reading this like having complete strangers touching you without permission? Exactly. It's also often most unhelpful because it throws my already precarious balance completely off. And just as another reminder, I do this every single day. I limp around the side of my car when I get out and pull my walker or scooter out of the trunk all by myself, then put it back in when I'm done. I get into stores or offices or restaurants--many times with a curb that needs to be negotiated--by myself. This isn't a defiant statement like my almost-4 year-old makes when he says "I can do it by myself!!" It's just that I, and other people like me, have learned through experience how to do these things for ourselves out of necessity.

This isn't to say I have a problem asking for help. Trust me, I don't! Prime example: Thursday evening getting into the car taking me TO the restaurant. My right leg has a tendency to stiffen up when I'm getting into a car, and the more I stress about hurrying up, the stiffer and straighter it gets. That night I was in a tight dress and trying to get into the rather small back seat of a Prius. I made it most of the way in, and my foot/shoe got stuck in the corner where the door hinges on to the car. I awkwardly asked the driver if he would mind helping me. I told him exactly what to do with my foot and what I would do with my leg to help it bend and get into the car. It worked out just fine. A few minutes later, I joked that traveling with MS was always an adventure, and he told me a good friend and former bandmate of his has had MS for many years, so he was familiar with the trials and tribulations of the disease. We ended up having a really great conversation for the duration of the 30-minute drive.

So the lesson I hope to impart on all you kind and generous folk who want nothing more than to genuinely help a person in need? Just ask first. Don't make any assumptions about what a disabled person can or can't do on his/her own. They managed to get around before you came upon them, and will continue to do so after you walk away. If they need something, they'll ask. And maybe sometimes they won't because they don't want to bother anyone, but they'll LOVE the fact that you asked first, especially if it involves bodily contact. In the meantime, keep opening doors, picking up things that have been dropped, or grabbing an item that is just out of reach, because these are all things we should strive to do regardless of another person's abilities :).

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My Response to a Question about "That Sh*t on Your Leg"

I have to apologize first and foremost about the crude blog post title. Rest assured this isn't my usual language, but quoted from someone else. One of the hazards of writing for a large media outlet like Breitbart Texas is that you open yourself up for the general public to criticize or question. Trust me when I tell you the public does NOT hold anything back in the anonymous space known as the comments section of a story.

Several days ago, my managing director at Breitbart agreed to post the video of my interview on The Tavis Smiley Show from this past week, despite the fact he knew the mostly hard-core conservative readership might not agree with my more moderate opinions about how to tackle the illegal immigration problem. We talked about other border security-related stuff in my book, but that's what people would likely zero in on. However, he felt it was important to offer different voices and points of view, so they posted and we braced for some serious heat...that didn't come. Honestly, I was surprised, although I could chalk it up to maybe no one wanted to sit through the roughly 13-minute video. The initial comments criticized the show's host (who is a known liberal), but nothing about my views that was negative.

So imagine my surprise when I saw this comment from "1bimbo":

what the f*ck is that sh*t on her leg, take a day off and heal up for crisake

Again, my apologies for the foul language, but it's not mine :). To give you some context, here's a screen still from my interview that Breitbart Texas used for the story:

If you take a look at my right leg, there's certainly an odd contraption attached to it. While most of my interview was conducted showing me from the chest up, there were some shots of my entire body where this device was clearly shown. It must certainly have seemed strange to "1bimbo," who apparently thought I had it on as a result of some injury I could stay home and heal from before appearing on national television.

So in response to "1bimbo" and anyone else who might be curious about "that sh*t on [my] leg," it is called a WalkAide, and it's an electronic stimulation device that essentially keeps me from falling flat on my face. If you're reading this blog for the first time, I'll tell you that I've had multiple sclerosis for over nine years, and one of my symptoms is something called drop foot. Basically, when I take a step, my brain is unable to make my right foot pivot up to clear the ground when my right leg swings forward. As a result, my foot just flops down, and since I can't lift my right leg up at the knee either, I have to swing my right leg around in a wide arc just to walk. Amusing, I assure you. You can actually see this pretty cool video of the difference a WalkAide can make in a person with MS-induced drop foot.

Enter the WalkAide (or the competing device, called the Bioness L300):

Inside the cuff are two electrodes that are placed in the exact spot where a small electric jolt can stimulate my peroneal nerve. When I get that jolt with every step, through a reflex action my foot is forced to flex at the ankle, which allows it to clear the ground when I take a relatively normal step. Do you see that little box with the blue knob? Inside that box is a tilt sensor exactly like the one that's in your smart phone and makes your screen rotate when you change the position of your phone. The specialists calibrate the timing between that sensor and the electrodes to make sure it's perfect every time I take a step.

Does the WalkAide stick out? Sometimes. I can wear it under my boot-cut jeans, capris, and work slacks with no trouble. I'm still trying to figure out whether to cut holes for the electrodes in my (rather expensive) skinny jeans or just convert them into cutoffs. The device is obvious when I wear a dress, of course, and I get asked a lot about it. 99 times out of 100, people think I have some sort of injury or am recovering from surgery when they see it. I mean, how common is it for a young and (I'm told) relatively attractive professional woman to be using a walker or electric scooter? The producers of the show asked me if I'd be comfortable talking about my MS if Tavis wanted to address the device or just chat about my background, and I said I'd be more than happy to; they even had a printout of this blog! But in the 13 minutes we had to talk, we (and happily so) had more than enough ground to cover with just the book.

When people do ask, I tell them I have MS and the cuff is a device that helps me walk better. Usually after I give them a demonstration (there's a little test button on the control box), they're fascinated and so excited that I can take advantage of medical technology. I also tell them their tax dollars paid for it and thank them profusely, since I got it through the Veterans Administration. The reaction is ALWAYS, "I'm so happy my tax dollars are finally going towards something useful!" That usually makes an interaction that started out awkwardly (what do you say when someone tells you they have a lifelong chronic disease with no cure?) much more comfortable by the end. 

So, Mr. or Ms. "1bimbo," there's your answer. And as much as I'd like to take a day off and heal up before appearing on national television, MS just doesn't work that way. I'll take it from your lack of response to my MUCH shorter--and still very civilized--response than this one below your comment that you have been sufficiently placated. Oh, and no apology necessary.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Giving Birth to a Book (and Post-Pub Depression)

At the release party for my new book last week, I told the audience that publishing a book was like giving birth. I felt like I was justified in saying that because I've given birth to actual children twice, so I know what the "real thing" is like. The short explanation is that there's a huge sense of relief and joy and excitement when the book first comes out, but as the excitement wanes, you start to think, I'm never doing that again! I've done my duty in procreating and one child is plenty. But just like with kids, something called "pregnancy amnesia" starts to set in about a year after pub date (a.k.a. birth). You forget about the deadlines, the sleepless nights, the aches and pains from sitting in a chair for too long, and the tedium of endless edits and revisions. After a while, you start thinking, Hmmm...maybe it's time to start writing another book... (For the record, the human child factory is closed.)

Most people know it's hard to get published. I have been incredibly blessed to have two books in print with a major New York publisher, including a Spanish translation purchased by another major publisher. But there's this notion among many non-writers that published authors have some semblance of celebrity and wealth, and don't know much about what real life is like for many of us (Hint: it usually does NOT involve wealth). Even more mysterious is the reality that comes after a book is published for a lot of authors--what I'm starting to call "post-pub depression."

For most, I imagine it's not a real depression, but more of a serious letdown. I can only use myself as a personal example, but I've read enough author blogs to know I'm not alone. I had a serious spike in pre-orders just before Border Insecurity came out, thanks to a big media push by Breitbart News and some local media outlets here in Tucson. We sold 42 copies at the book release party (which means half the people in attendance bought a copy there), and I did three media interviews the day of the launch to push sales up that first week. I expected my Amazon rank to shoot up at least into the tens of thousands, if not the single thousands (it hit around #6,700 the day before its release), and it did...but it didn't stay there for as long as I had hoped.

While Amazon book rankings aren't all they're cracked up to be (nobody really knows the algorithm for how the rank relates to actual purchases), they're all we helpless authors have to go by to determine if people are buying our books. There are plenty of other outlets, like the Barnes & Noble website that also ranks books, but no one has the volume that Amazon does. My frustration is starting to build because I'm doing a TON of media, I'm much more well-known than I was when Cartel was published, and the initial reviews for Border Insecurity were outstanding. How audacious am I to wonder why hundreds of thousands of people all worried about our borders aren't running out to buy this book???

I ask that tongue-in-cheek of course, but it's very easy to build up your own work in your mind, especially when you have a lot of people telling you how awesome your book is. I have to keep reminding myself that for someone in a niche market like me, book sales are a marathon and not a sprint. Cartel didn't exactly sell a million copies right out of the gate. But here we are, 2 ½ years after it was originally published in hardcover, and sales are just as strong as they were right after pub date. Of course it's getting a big bump from Border Insecurity sales, but Cartel sales never really dropped off because the subject matter--while outdated in some places--is still completely relevant today.

So even though it's only been a week since my new book's publication, I'm working hard to fight off that post-pub depression I can feel just around the corner. Several times a day I'm checking Amazon ranks, and both anticipating and dreading how many stars the first review will garner--and fretting that the first review still hasn't come in. Can't people read a book in less than a week??? (Again, tongue-in-cheek.) I've had one amazing review from a very conservative media outlet and two mostly positive (but not glowing) reviews (here and here) from very liberal newspapers, and while I should be over the moon that my book is living up to its non-partisan characterizations, I'm not satisfied. I was crushed when my first Goodreads review came in at 3 out of 5 stars, even though the reader was only displeased that the book wasn't emotional enough for her; she really loved all the information and found it easy to read and interesting.

And more media push is coming. I was in Los Angeles yesterday to tape an episode of The Tavis Smiley Show, which will air on May 1st. I taped a show for the local PBS affiliate tonight for airing twice this weekend here in Tucson and in Phoenix, and I'm doing Al Jazeera America live tomorrow night. More media appearances will come, and I have a border conference to attend in late May that will likely garner more readers. I just have to learn to do something I've always sucked at: Give it time.

This is one of those let-it-go moments that we control freaks have such a hard time with. I can do my absolute best during interviews and bust my hump to get the word out about the book through friends, networking, and social media. But ultimately, my book's fate isn't up to me; it's up to millions of faceless strangers who may or may not buy it and may or may not understand or agree with my message. I'm going to try as best as I can to thank God for blessing me with this talent, for the incredible opportunity to share my message with anyone in this country (and several other countries) who wants to read it, and for the ability to contribute to humanity's body of knowledge. And if you want to read my book, you can buy it here :).

My 15 Minutes of Fame with Tavis Smiley...and a Few More Surprises

Yesterday I was in Los Angeles to tape an interview with Tavis Smiley for his late night show on PBS. To be perfectly honest, I had never heard of him until my publicist sent me a VERY excited email a couple of months ago letting me know they wanted to book me to talk about Border Insecurity. It took me a while to start doing my homework, but even though his show is on PBS and very late at night, it started looking more and more like he had a pretty huge audience. He has interviewed the likes of Jamie Lee Curtis, Ian Somerhalder, Salman Rushdie, and Jackie Collins, just to name a few.

So needless to say, I was a nervous wreck in the days leading up to my trip. I got a decent night's sleep on Monday night, had an OK breakfast and a small rushed lunch because that's all that time and the butterflies in my stomach would allow, and then I was off to the studio. I was feeling a bit more calm about the interview itself, but more nervous about my legs. I slept okay, but not great, and my left leg was really stiffening up on me that morning. My drop foot is almost completely on my right side and I have my WalkAide to help with that, but I'm starting to notice it creeping up on me on the left side. I was thinking, wouldn't it be just craptacular if I did a face plant in the studio right before my interview?

Anyway, when I arrived the studio was a flurry of activity. I was hoping to see Harry Hamlin, with whom I'd be sharing Thursday night's episode and whom I aDORE as Perseus from the original Clash of the Titans film. Yeah, yeah, he's on Mad Men, whatever. That movie is a classic! It turns out he wasn't showing up until later in the afternoon, but you can imagine my surprise when I realized they were filming nine segments in that one day--meaning I'd be seeing a lot of stars in my short time there!

I was ushered into my little private "green room" with a TV, water, and snacks. A lot of people came and went in the hallway, and I started to gather that Hugh Dancy from the new TV show Hannibal (based on the book/movie) was in the room next door. The only reason I know who he is is because he's married to Clare Danes, whom I LOVE in Homeland! I figured it would be rude to say something to him about his wife and not his show, so I kept to myself :). Over the next half hour, several extremely nice staffers checked on me to make sure I was okay; I can't tell you enough how nice everyone there was. I chatted with the producer about questions Tavis might ask me, and the makeup lady just tamed down some flyaway hairs. Then I was on!

The interview was only fifteen minutes long, and the time flew quickly. Tavis asked good, meaty questions and I think I gave meaningful answers. We covered many of the main points of my book, so I was happy we were able to touch on so much in such a short period of time. The chair was comfortable, and the perfect height so I could try my best to have good posture; I slouch way too much! After we finished, Tavis had me sign his copy of my book, then write in the show's guest book. After I stepped off the platform and headed out of the studio, the executive producer stopped what she was doing to introduce herself and tell me she thought I did a great job. I don't know if she says that to everyone (I always assume TV people get paid to coddle celebrities and show guests, so I always worry they don't always mean it and are just being nice), but it was really nice of her to do that. In the hallway I also had several staffers tell me they thought it went great, so I was happy. You can actually now watch the video of the interview HERE!

But the most interesting part of the afternoon hadn't even happened yet. After the interview, I changed my clothes since I was heading straight to the airport, then went to use the bathroom. It was a unisex bathroom and the only one available, since Tavis Smiley gets his own the next door over. As I was finishing up, I heard someone jiggle the handle (which I remembered to lock, fortunately). I washed my hands quickly so as not to make anyone wait too long, and as I opened the door to walk out, I see...Larry King standing there. It took my brain a bit to process this surreal piece of information, and what do I do? I said something stupid along the lines of, "Funny meeting you here!" Oh, brother. The poor guy just wanted to get in and do his business, and he's met with a flustered woman trying to navigate a bright orange walker around him, his escorts, and a narrow hallway.

It was finally time to go, so I headed down the hallway to the door. That was when I happened to say hello to Cheech Marin as he walked down the hallway towards me to his little green room. Like it was no big deal and I say hi to him all the time. Yep. Right before I walked out the door, one of the staffers came with a little white bag and said it was a thank you gift for being on the show. They had printed out three 5x7 photos of Tavis and me during the interview that I imagine they got off a screen grab, and they were great! They even put one in a plastic frame for me, which I thought was so nice. Then I was off to LAX to head home to my beautiful boys and my "normal" military mommy life ;). If you'd like to tune in and watch the show, it'll air this Thursday night (May 1) on PBS! Please check your local listings for the time, as it varies from city to city!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Wrapping Up Launch Week and Kicking Off Promotion Month

It's hard to believe that after all the waiting and anticipation, launch week for my new book has come to a close. And what a week it was! I could not have asked for a better release party this past Tuesday here in Tucson. We had about 100 people attend, the food was amazing, we sold 42 copies of Border Insecurity, and guests were thrilled with the cool giveaways--including a DVD set for the second season of NatGeo's 'Border Wars' series autographed by friend and series producer Nick Stein. Honestly, I felt like it was my wedding day all over again, minus my husband! It was sad that he couldn't be there since he's currently deployed to Central America. However, I had fun talking to all my guests, meeting fans from Twitter and the community, and just soaking in the entire experience of becoming a twice-published author. The introduction from my managing director at Breitbart Texas was awesome, and I was so grateful to have the support of so many members of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber of Commerce!

In addition to the party, the entire week was filled with non-stop promotion and media appearances. Monday morning I was up at 5am and giving an interview in my bedroom closet (so as not to wake anyone up) for the Mike Church Show on satellite radio. Tuesday morning I spoke with a local radio news program on KQTH at 7:30am, went in-studio once more with the Jon Justice Show at 10am, then did another live radio show for Mid Day LA on KABC in Los Angeles at 12:30pm. Wednesday morning I recorded an interview with Blog Talk Radio, and Thursday morning I had a producer/reporter from local news station KVOA come to our house to interview me for an investigative special they're airing on Tuesday night. I don't know how my body managed to deal with everything, considering I got very little sleep on Sunday and Monday night. However, I got through the launch party just fine and was able to get around without any mishaps.

Here's where the insanity of my dual life creeps in. My week was already overwhelmed with book launch and promotion stuff, but I had other things to work on and commitments to keep. My son's school held a big fundraising event this weekend, and I was in charge of putting together a basket of donated baking-themed items. Wednesday morning our nanny and I headed with our son to his school early to put the finishing touches (meaning jamming a gazillion items into one basket and wrapping it) on the basket, which I think turned out pretty well. Monday afternoon AND Wednesday afternoon I had to testify in two immigration cases, in which thankfully both applicants were granted asylum by the judges because they were likely to be killed by drug cartels if deported to Mexico (for different reasons). Thursday morning I had my monthly IV infusion of Tysabri to treat my MS, Friday morning I had my semi-monthly MOPS (for Mothers of Pre-Schoolers) meeting, and Saturday afternoon I had my weekly acupuncture treatment to help alleviate some of my MS symptoms. Let's just say I was incredibly grateful to have just a little bit of down time whenever I could!

But any down time will be short-lived this month. This morning I'm getting ready to head to Los Angeles to tape an episode of the Tavis Smiley Show on PBS Monday afternoon, which will air on Tuesday evening (or afternoon, depending on the market). I'm sharing the episode with Emmy winner and Golden Globe-nominated Harry Hamlin, and I'm freaking OUT about the possibility of meeting him in the green room! Younger people know him from recent episodes of 'Mad Men,' but I know him from 'Clash of the Titans' and 'L.A. Law.' I'm a fan :). Tuesday night I'll be taping an episode of 'Arizona Week' for Arizona Public Media (local PBS), conducting business meetings, and taking my kids to tae kwon do. And all week, I'll be waiting anxiously for the first reader reviews of the book to get posted on Amazon, and for any other media reviews to roll in. Just another week in this crazy life of mine!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Letting Go and Looking Ahead

Today is Easter Sunday, and it's been a very relaxing and laid-back day for our little family. My husband, who is currently deployed to Central America, had his first full weekend off in about a month, my mom is here to help me with our two boys (and life with MS in general), and we've just been watching movies and enjoying the contents of the boys' Easter baskets.

I've tried really hard to relax this weekend, since I didn't have much to do work-wise or home-wise. Unfortunately, for someone with my control-freak and high-anxiety personality, free time isn't always a good thing--especially before a huge event. I've been frantically looking for anything to keep me busy to help the time go by faster.

I've also been trying to think back to roughly 2 ½ years ago and the weekend before my first book, Cartel, was released on Sept. 27, 2011 (see photo from that launch party in St. Louis to the right). My husband was deployed then as well (to Afghanistan), but I was alone with my boys at the time. The process of getting Cartel to press was stressful and my workaholic addiction to the process put no small amount of strain on my family. I was about to embark on a book tour, and I had so many questions and worries swirling in my mind: Would people like the book? Would people show up to see me at book signings? Would my MS interfere with my travels? How different would my life become in the following year?

Fortunately, everything turned out well, and there were no seriously life-changing events in the time after Cartel was published. The book sold well--well enough to earn out my advance, get nominated for a Los Angeles Times book prize, and go into paperback (a rarity, I'm told, for first-time authors). However, my MS progressed considerably during that time, although I think that was mostly due to the stress of my husband being gone in a war zone for six months. I went from just needing a cane to having to use a walker much of the time.

So today, on this holiest of Catholic holidays, I find myself praying not only in thanks for Jesus rising from the dead, but in hopes that I can appreciate that whatever happens next is the right path God has placed me on for our family. I have a different feeling about my professional future with the publication of Border Insecurity on Tuesday than I did with Cartel. I have more writing experience, more perspective, and I'm living in the most ideal place in the country to be writing about border security; trust me, NO ONE in St. Louis or southwest Illinois cared about Mexico's drug war. The early reviews of the book and the pre-order numbers from Amazon have been extremely strong, and I have the very enthusiastic backing of a national media outlet with an enormous following.

Yet, I still have the same questions as I did 2 ½ years ago. I'm pretty confident the book launch party Tuesday evening will be a success, with over 100 people confirmed to attend and likely several more that didn't RSVP. I'm also pretty confident that the book will sell well enough to earn out my advance once more, and Cartel sales have been seriously boosted by the buzz I've been generating for Cartel. Royalties won't make me rich, but if a copy of Border Insecurity gets in the right hands, it could mean big things for my consulting business and media footprint. Cartel certainly boosted my business, and my husband and I are in a position right now to really want to see how far Longmire Consulting could go.

So as the sun sets on Holy Week, I start the new week with anticipation, anxiety, and excitement. The stress is having a minor impact on my MS, as my legs have been working a little bit harder than usual. However, I started seeing an acupuncturist a couple of weeks ago (which is going well so far), and I'm still sleeping well. Whenever I approach an event that I know could alter the course of my life at least a little bit, I have to work very hard to understand there's only so much I can control, and then I have to hand everything over to God. Some of you don't believe in that, and that's okay; even if I were an atheist, I'd still be struggling with letting things go that I can't control. It's time to let the cards fall where they may, and just enjoy the ride!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

A Deployment, a Book Launch, and Trying to Be Supermom

For those of you who don't know, my husband is in the Air Force and deployed to Central America this past Monday. It's his second deployment, and relatively speaking, it's a plush deal compared to when he left for Afghanistan for six months in 2011. But even if he was in Montana, it's still three months away from the comforts of home and from his family. Him being away also places special demands on us--and emotionally for him--since he physically has to help me a LOT due to my MS-induced limitations.

That's not even the hardest part. When he deployed to Afghanistan (that's him to the right), our then-3 ½ year-old son wouldn't even speak to him over Skype for probably the first three months; it was just too painful. He acted out for the first month, and woke up crying sometimes. So now with TWO boys who are VERY attached to their dad, I was prepared for the worst. We talked to our oldest's teacher at school and our youngest's teachers at daycare, as well as our part-time nanny, and explained they should probably expect some acting out and negative behavior. The first weeks are always the worst, so I expected this week to be a miserable one, filled with lots of crying, whining, yelling, and acting out.

Instead, it's been a pretty amazing week so far. My oldest is getting fully dressed all my himself for school before he even leaves his room in the morning. My youngest is playing, laughing, and being weird as usual, and both are eating and going to bed with little fuss. They've been great helpers, holding doors for me and cleaning up after themselves, and even a bit more affectionate than usual. I don't know how long this will last, but God seems to have instilled a sense of peace and calm in them that He knew I wouldn't be able give by myself. I also think it helps that they have each other to play with and stay busy/distracted.

In the dozen or so weeks to come, I will once again attempt to play the role of Supermom. But fortunately, I won't be doing it alone. My mother-in-law will be here in four days, and will stay for a couple of weeks until my mom takes over mid-April. That's when things will get crazy; I do have a new book to launch on April 22nd, after all :). This is actually the second book launch my husband will miss, since he was also deployed when Cartel launched in September 2011. I can't tell you how hard it is to have your life partner not be able to be a part of one of the biggest professional moments in your life. However, it IS great that my mom will be here to share it with me, as well as several good friends who will be at the party.

But the launch is only the beginning; the REAL juggling act starts after the launch. I have several trips out of town to promote the book, attend a conference in San Diego, and give presentations in May. Trying to travel for work when you have two kids and your spouse is deployed is no easy task. My mom is 76 and can't completely take care of both boys by herself, so there's a lot of meticulous planning and scheduling that goes into just an overnight trip. Thank GOD I have the most amazing nanny in the world, along with awesome mom friends, my husband's coworkers, and other local friends who are able to help with just simple things that make a world of difference.

For example, life with a deployed spouse is really hard when you're able-bodied, but things are just different for me because I have MS. Honestly, the hardest thing for me when he's gone is making healthy dinners. I can't cook anymore because I can't be on my feet for more than a couple of minutes at a time, so doing anything other than using a toaster oven or a microwave is just too hard. Thankfully, our nanny is a great cook, and I just buy ingredients that she can use to make dishes that leave a lot of leftovers. I also have great friends who are great cooks, and are waiting on standby for me to ask for food that will extend for a few days. I can't roll our trash bins up our steep driveway to the street for pickup day, so I need help with that. I can't change a lightbulb when it requires more than a step stool to reach.

This is the life of a military wife; generally, your blood relatives aren't close by, so you make a new family in a short period of time. Some of them will be friends for life, and some will fade away over time. It's not something we dwell on; it's just a fact of this way of life, and we're grateful for the time we have with each other and the special ways in which we can help each other.

So my life and work continues, albeit at a pace that can be interrupted on short notice. If one of the kids gets sick, all my work comes to a halt for a while, and my clients have always been understanding of my situation. I have to miss certain meetings or opportunities because someone isn't available to watch the boys or pick them up at school/daycare, but those are the breaks. Some days are awful and I just want to sit in our bathroom and cry for hours. Other days are incredibly empowering, knowing that I'm capable of making our children happy and succeeding in my professional life while I'm partly on my own for several months. Until this deployment wraps up at the end of June, I just ask that you pray for my husband while he's away, and that our little family manages to plod along successfully--and hopefully uneventfully :).