I leave for the Netherlands tomorrow and I’m sitting here in Chic-fil-A thinking about how all this got started years ago. I’m ever so thankful that I decided to open my home to an international teenager and I’m beyond grateful for the example my mother set by taking in teenagers, like me.
When I talk about hosting exchange students I get a couple typical responses, but they usually end with “I could never do that!” And that makes me really sad, but not just because I’m a Christian and feel that hospitality, grace, and unconditional love are cornerstones of my religion.
It makes me mad, not sad, when I have other Christians put their own comfort ahead of showing love to young person far away from home. This doesn’t mean everyone and all the time should host an exchange student. Life happens.
I get angry when someone asks me why they should have someone that isn’t family live with them – or some variation of that – and my response is always, “You aren’t having non-family stay with you. You are adding to your family.” Most of the time people know me well enough to shut up after I say that, but occasionally someone will say something along the lines of “not really” and then I go on a tirade and say that blood doesn’t make a family.
Feeling righteous indignation toward a tiny group of small minded people doesn’t move to tears though. As my mom always says, “We don’t care what stupid people think.”
What makes me sad is knowing what these families are missing out on. Year after year I hear people say, maybe when the kids are older, maybe when my kids are grown, maybe when I have more money, maybe when I have kids…
Apparently, I’m a freaking goddess for hosting exchange students while I am penny pinching and dealing with a special needs kid, a bipolar husband, a chronic illness, and a demanding career.
But I’m really just a regular person, just a mom.
You want to know how I do it?
It’s easy, really. Having the exchange student here makes everything better! I’m not kidding. And it’s not just that I had Joop and he's so funny. I also had two other teenagers live with me and they made everything better too. Charles’s depressive swings were more moderated; Drake learned about sharing his parents and got a glimpse into the life of siblings. I could name dozens more. I had an extra hand around to help and the ability to learn first hand about the world was intellectually stimulating on a level I will never replicate.
Not to mention that hosting is just fun. When you are going to McDonald’s with your American family, it’s just dinner, but when you add in an exchange student, it’s an adventure!
If you’ve read Joop Does America already, you may be calling my bluff. But! But! But! Yes, there was crap. Tons of it. Some pretty intense crap with all of the teens that have stayed with me. And not just the general run of the mill teenage crap, but addiction, hospitalization, and serious mental illness.
(Just to be clear, my experience is a little more intense than anyone else I’ve known, which is why I wrote a book. There’s a running joke going around that God sends me the neediest. Something about my family…and maybe a little payback for what my mom dealt with?)
But even with Leonie being hospitalized for a severe case of mono, I would still do it again. I would try to brush out the hospital bed hair and figure out what dizzy, nauseated Dutch girls will eat. I’ll deal with despondent, my girlfriend just broke up with me Joop curled up in a fetal position on my bathroom floor. I’ll handle paranoia and wild accusations.
After 3 years of working with exchange students, I can tell you, most of the time, the drama is pretty low key, run of the mill teenageness. I remember one host mother’s big complaint: They don’t use the top sheet! OMG! Such a problem… Guess what, neither do I. If you run into more pressing issues than top sheet usage, there is a community representative not far away. And then a district manager. And then the company itself. And even the state department.
Maybe this year with my Brazilian Princess I’ll just have top sheet usage issues….
So, if you want to host a student, feel free to send me an email. And if you just want to read about my experience with Joop, you can buy the book here.
I leave next Thursday at 2:30 in the afternoon from Atlanta. I found the cheapest darn flight I could, which happened to be through Delta of all things, and am flying overnight to Amsterdam through Washington DC. I’m supposed to arrive at about 7am on a rainy Amsterdam morning, which would be about 1am for me.
If I were Joop, 1am would be my prime time, but as luck would have it, I’m a terrible night person and will probably spend most of Friday battling sleep and jet lag, so I haven’t planned a thing that first day. I will do my best to stay awake through dinner that night, but otherwise, I’m not promising a thing.
The rest of the trip will be a full force, coffee fueled Dutch extravaganza.
Before all this, though, Joop Does America will be officially published on the 16th of April. For all of you that pre-ordered your books, your book will be sent to you that day. If you are in Athens and would like a signed copy before I leave, I’m going to ask you to please purchase a book from Amazon and wait for me to return. I have limited supplies of the book and limited funds at the moment to purchase more, and it looks like I may be selling out of all the books in the Netherlands. Sorry, Netherlands first. 😉
So here are our important dates:
April 16th: Book publication and article in the local newspaper in Edam
April 20th arrive in Amsterdam
April 23rd Speaking with local students and teachers
April 25th The Amsterdam Art Museum with Don Boscoe College
April 27th Koningsdag (The King’s birthday) in Amsterdam
April 30th Second newspaper article
May 1st Big book signing at the church in Edam
May 4th I return home.
In addition to these dates, we also have more malleable plans for every day. Here’s a list of other things that we will fit in between these set dates. We will have at least one video every day available on our YouTube channel, which you can check out here: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC0ZvBSmv2JX-14wFJNGBTyw. It’s brand new and we’d appreciate it if you’d subscribe:
Plus much, much more! I'm keeping a few surprises up my sleeve. If you subscribe to our YouTube channel or like the Joop Does America Facebook page, we’ll get notification when new videos, posts, or general shenanigans happen.
Joop and I are two very different people, and we remember situations differently. This week Joop’s dad was reading an advanced reader copy of the book and had a question about the very first anecdote in the book in chapter one, which is about teenagers lying. I only grounded Joop once his stay here and this story is about what caused me to ground him.
Here’s the story from my point of view: I grounded Joop because he lied to me. From Joop’s POV, I grounded him because he was driving around in a car with a girl.
A basic run down: I got a call from Joop’s school one afternoon saying that he hadn’t shown up to school! I was panicked. Last time I saw him, he was off to school. It was now after 4, when he was normally home and he wasn’t and he hadn’t called me. I called Anastasia, my best friend, and she talked me down.
“He’s probably just being a stupid kid and skipped school. He’s not laying facedown in a ditch,” Anastasia said. “Try texting him again.”
Throughout the year, one of the main points of arguments with us (and worry for me) is that Joop wouldn’t keep me informed about his plan changes. And his phone would die. And it would be 6, dinner time, and I would have no idea what happened to him. I didn’t care much what he did, most of the time, as long as he kept me appraised of his plans so I could adjust the entire family schedule. However, I had never received a phone call from his school saying his was absent.
After I hung up with Anastasia, I texted him again, and this time he answered.
“I’m at drama club. I’ll have someone give me a ride after it’s done.”
A-okay! Maybe it was just a fluke the school called me. It was an automated message, maybe some wires got crossed. I was about to call Anastasia back, but she called me before I could.
“I just saw Joop driving around on Cedar Shoals Road.”
“He just told me he was at school…”
“Well, Joop and his red hair are pretty easy to spot. He was driving around town…I mean, he wasn’t driving – the other girl was, but he certainly wasn’t at school.”
I text Joop back. No drama today. I’m coming to pick you up.”
He attempted to get out of me picking him up. I was insistent and gave him a couple opportunities in the texting to let me know what was happening. I had no problem with him hanging out with friends after school. In fact, he did it most days, so I was having a hard time understanding why he would keep lying to me. My mom’s voice rang in the back of my head, “Teenagers all lie. They lie for no reason. They lie for good reasons. They lie for bad reasons. The good ones, the bad ones, the braindead ones. They all lie.”
And that was the point of the chapter and that anecdote: Joop was your average teenager and he lied.
I gave him a couple more opportunities to tell me the truth, but he never did. So I called him out and then grounded him from riding around with that girl for two weeks. He’d have to take the bus to and from school.
When Joop’s dad read the story, he didn’t understand why Anastasia had called me. After Joop explained things to his dad and Dutch friends, the general consensus was she was a snitch. As far as Joop was concerned, Anastasia was calling me to snitch that he was in a car with a girl. Just randomly.
From my point of view, Anastasia called me back to inform me that my missing child was not face down in a ditch.
For about two days because of our differing POV’s on the story, I thought he Dutch didn’t care about their children being missing, and the Dutch thought American parents would text each other every time they saw someone else’s kids. The Dutch didn’t care at all what their kids did, and didn’t want to know what they did unless they were swinging from trees doing crack and shooting off guns. American parents on the other hand, stalked their kids and had their friends stalk their kids.
Sunday, I finally realized what was going on. Joop kept saying that Dutch families let their children make mistakes because you learn from mistakes. Well, so do American parents, I’d say, but we try to shield our kids from life changing mistakes. He kept saying that riding in a car with a girl was not a mistake that was life changing.
But, riding in cars with girls was not the point of the story, and it was most certainly not why Anastasia had called me.
So, I texted Joop’s dad, Christiaan, on Sunday afternoon and said, you know, American parents don’t go around snitching on each other’s kids. Anastasia called me because she was calling me back…because I was panicked thinking my kid was missing.
And apparently, Dutch parents would have responded similarly. It suddenly made sense to Christiaan. “We had no idea Joop was missing.”
Joop and I experienced this situation differently. I was a panicked parent, and he was an annoyed teenager.
In the end, Joop was never missing, so he didn’t understand what was going on from my point of view. Plus he’s not a mother, so he doesn’t understand that pit in your stomach every time the kid takes the keys… Joop was only late for school; he stopped to have Waffle House for breakfast, and the first period teacher responsible for taking attendance didn’t update Joop from absent to tardy.
However, I didn’t know that. Anastasia didn’t know that.
If he had just told me he was going out with friends after school, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. He did it all the time. His lie was completely pointless.
What I thought originally was a cultural misunderstanding, ended up being a difference in point of view, in how Joop and I experienced this situation.
Honestly, this happens a lot in life. You hear about when police interview witnesses to a crime. Each of them tells the cop something different. It’s not that these differing stories are untrue, or true even, but that these people are relaying their personal experience.
So if you ask Joop something, he’s likely to recount a different story than me. If you ask him, or me, to explain something to you, and it sounds too outrageous – whether good or bad – to be true, then it might just be our own personal understanding, or misunderstanding, of the transpired events.
And this, is why talking to people with different backgrounds, experiences, and beliefs is so important. If we don’t talk openly about even small issues – such as a story about a teenager getting grounded, we start making wild assumptions about cultures or people that are different from us.
In this instance, the wild belief was the Dutch are nutso amoral pseudo parents who don’t care if their kids are missing, and on the flipside Americans are nutso holier-than-thou stalkers who helicopter parent their kids into submission.
Sure, Dutch parents are typically more lenient that American parents…but parents everywhere would be concerned if their child was missing.
Have you ever had an experience like this before? How did you handle it? How long did it take before you realized that their experience was different than yours and coloring their response differently than yours?
Most Americans I know have a family origin myth. It’s not uncommon for us to say I’m Italian and Irish, even though we know we’re Americans. It’s really no surprise because, unless you are fully Native American, your family originally came from some other country, whether taken under duress, shipped with a prison colony, or looking for a new start.
At this point in time, most white, and I dare say African Americans, are a complete mutt and mixture of countries, ethnicities, and even races. I don’t come across too many people that claim to be to be from of just one country origin.
My dad was one of them. His famous claim was that he was all Dutch.
But, there was a little blip on his family tree where he couldn’t be sure if he was honestly all Dutch. His grandmother was adopted. The family lore suggested that his grandmother’s biological mother may have either been Irish or Mexican. She was certainly Catholic and from Texas, but that’s all we knew for sure. Her name was either Mary or Maria. My dad has a nice dark, olive skin tone, and thick black hair – like his mother – and therefore we suspected that her name was Maria and she was Mexican. Or perhaps the biological mother was Black Irish, and therefore my dad had some Jewish blood in him. Otherwise, he was fully Dutch.
I grew up learning all about Dutch culture because I was Dutch: All Dutch on my dad’s side, half on my Mom’s. I was, even accounting for the adopted great-grandmother, at least 50% ethically Dutch.
But as with many of those now taking DNA tests, this narrative came crashing down.
My family knew that not all our ancestors where ethnically Dutch. Before the discovery and eventual rush to The Americas, many refugees sought asylum in the Netherlands. The Pilgrims did this before they came to America. And we knew that my family did the same, it just took them an additional 300 years to immigrate to the US.
The furthest I can track my patrilineal heritage is to France in the early part of the 16th century, when my family was called De Tringham. Side note: My maiden name is eerily similar to my married name, so if you’re seeing Ingraham in De Tringham wait a minute and you’ll see where I’m going.
Peter De Tringham was a French Huguenot and after his village was burned down by the Catholic church, he and his family escaped to the Netherlands, where he changed his name to Tringham. Somehow in the immigration to the US, an “S” was added and we get my maiden Stringham. During this time, a lot of Huguenots immigrated to the Netherlands instead of Germany, or other Protestant leaning nations, because Huguenots followed a more Reformed theology as opposed to a Lutheran theology espoused by Germany.
I also knew that some of my ancestors were from England or general British Isles. They left for similar reasons as the Pilgrims. They were similar to what we call Quakers. Their religious practices were Reformed, simple, personal, austere, and quiet. Huguenots and Quaker/Separatists were welcomed with open arms in the Netherlands, as long as these families became Dutch. You could practice your religion with similar Dutch enclaves as Dutch.
The Pilgrims, unlike my family, didn’t want to become Dutch in culture, so they eventually made the treacherous trip across the Atlantic. My family stayed and became part of the Dutch culture. We became proud of that Dutch culture, but due to famine 300 years after the Pilgrims, were forced to make a new way in the United states.
While my Dutch heritage has started to fade, my family’s loyalty to the same faith that has caused it to move to Holland in the first place, has continued. Being Quaker is so deep within my DNA, that my offspring could mix with extra-terrestrial DNA and we’d still be Quaker.
Back to my dad, and his DNA test: We knew that originally, some of my dad’s DNA was not Dutch, or as the DNA test would lump it together, Western European. But France was still in that broad Western European category, so I assumed he would be at least 50% Western European. And perhaps quite a bit from the British Isles.
There was of course, the possibility that my dad would be part South of the Border, or Jewish. I assumed he would be mostly Western European and British, with a touch of Mexican or Jewish blood in him.
But, we were all wrong. And DNA doesn’t lie.
My dad is just an inexplicably dark, mostly Scandinavian man. I can’t remember the exact break down, but it was something like 40% Scandinavian, 35% British Isles, 18% Eastern European, and only 14% Western European.
I’m going to assume that my great-grandmother’s biological mother was just plain old Irish. I have no idea why my dad’s coloring matches my Hispanic sister. It’s an American mystery. That 14% Western European accounts for 95% of what I know about my family, and the stories that we’ve been told, and we’ve continued to tell, but only account for 14% of the DNA.
I’ve got plenty of stories on my mother’s side too. I’m interested to get DNA tests done on myself, and my mother, to see if the stories we’ve been passed on match our DNA. Was my matrilineal grandmother a gypsy as I’ve been told?
I know lots of Americans have been told stories that aren’t matching their DNA tests. A common story among many Americans is the Indian Princess Narrative. Many families tell a story about a white settler falling in love with and marrying a chief’s daughter. While I know there were lots of tribes scattered throughout America, I kind of doubt 75% of the white population had a Native American princess ancestor. I don’t know why we tell ourselves these stories. Perhaps, to assuage our guilt? If we are part of them, part of that terrible genocide, then maybe we aren’t responsible for what the white part of us did?
While I grapple with not being as ethnically Dutch as I thought, and as I prepare to go back to my ancestral lands, which maybe aren’t so ancestral, have you had an upset to a story your family told? Did you think you were Italian to find out you’re were Russian? How are you dealing with it and how will it change the narrative you tell your kids?
As I’ve gotten older, especially since I haven’t been in school, I’ve delved more and more into reading nonfiction. I’m sure this has to do with my intense need to learn. I want to learn how to do things better, faster, neater, weirder. I want to learn what keeps the sun a fiery hot mess year in and year out. I had to understand why my kid was screaming in the middle of the night, not just so I could quiet him, but out of sheer curiosity. I had to know why 12 ordinary men from a repressed people would spread one of the most virulent religions ever.
Some of my favorite books are cookbooks. I don’t just cook the recipes; I read the whole cookbook. I want to hear the funny stories, learn the reasoning behind why one did things, and if there are any alternate ways of making a recipe. Every year of my adult life, my grandma Jeannie buys me a cookbook. The first one was Julia Child’s treatise on French cooking.
In retrospect, I believe it was Julia Childs who hooked me on nonfiction.
My taste in cookbooks has progressed over time. Today, I have an enviable collection of classics from around the world. I can just as easily cook you an authentic borscht as a Midwest meatloaf. Joop claims my pea soup is as good as any Dutch grandma’s. And I can cook a Thai dish so hot it pleases my “I eat pure capsaicin for breakfast” husband.
My reading progressed as much as my cooking repertoire. I was as comfortable reading Stephen Covey as I was Charles Darwin. Currently on my night stand are Inklings of Reality by Donald T. Williams—a leading expert on C.S Lewis--I am Malala, Walden by Thoreau, The Willpower Instinct by Kelly McGonagall, and A Good Housekeeping manual from the 1980s on how to get stains out of everything. On my phone, I am reading an ebook by my friend and editor Deborah Natelson, which is the only fiction, other than for my job, I have read in nearly a year.
One of my favorite subgenres of nonfiction is books on habits, and I have fallen in love with the writings of Gretchen Rubin and Charles Duhigg. My mom discovered Rubin for me, and I found myself reading everything Duhigg had to offer after hearing him speak at the Atlanta Catalyst a couple of years ago.
But, as my life and cooking skills progressed, my writing did not. I kept writing the same young adult fantasy I had been writing as a child. Literally. The same exact story.
Recently, I bought Duhigg’s latest book and haven’t been able to put it down. The reason I’m writing now that something he said stuck out to me. He talks in one of his chapters about the movie Frozen. Whether you like the movie or not, you have to admit the pop culture storm surrounding it was nothing short of amazing. I’ve watched it a dozen or more times because of my son Drake and listened to the sound track in Dutch 40 million times because of Joop. Duhigg gives us a glimpse into the creative process that created the animated giant. And I was surprised to learn that they got stuck creatively on the end. I wasn’t surprised that coming up with the plot was hard, or that making both sisters likable and unidentifiable while creating tension had its difficulties.
Duhigg crosses over into the world of biology to explain what happened. The crew had gotten so wrapped up in the way things were in the film world that new, necessary ideas were getting crowded out. Joseph Connel was a biologist studying biodiversity in the 1950s. He was fascinated with the fact that one area could be teaming with life and diversity, but that another only a mile or two away would be dominated by maybe only one or two types of life. Connel’s studies eventually led him to the intermediate disturbance hypothesis, which says that diversity in biology is caused by intermittent, moderate upheaval. Too much and stuff dies and not enough and diversity fails.
I’d been stuck in a large, non-diverse universe of my own making. We all get in this rut sometimes and need an intermediate disturbance to wake us up.
For me, I needed one in my writing, my personal writing.
It’s easy for us to live in a biosphere of dominated by what makes us comfortable, what is just like us. Whether we are a white middle-class Americans living in the white suburbs, attending white churches—Sunday morning is the most segregated time in American culture—or liberal city dwellers hanging out in coffee shops discussing the fall of intellectualism, it’s a good idea to shake things up. Talk to a person from a different background or one who holds more conservative or liberal views.
Or you could take things to an extreme and host an exchange student. There’s nothing quite like having a foreigner in your midst to throw a wrench in your cozy, unexamined life.
In the case of Frozen, the team decided to introduce new people to the group, people with different expertise. And it worked. Of course, there were still some issues with the ending, but that was to be expected: Frozen was the first Disney princess movie to feature true love of the non-romantic type. And it was revolutionary.
I’ve often sought out upheaval. I grew up with it and I saw the benefit of it, but I couldn’t see some of my deepest areas of stagnation. Even though I had written quite a few non-fiction books in my ghostwriting career, in my personal writing, I had never written anything other than fiction, specifically young adult fantasy. I was getting pretty bored with it, but it was all I knew.
As I close out this chapter, I challenge you to find areas of languish and torpor in your life and introduce, on purpose, an intermediate, moderate upheaval. Is Tuesday always Taco Tuesday? The bland ground meat, cheese, lettuce, sour cream, and salsa? Why not have a friend from an actual taco-eating country come over and show you their family recipe? Or maybe throw a complete wrench in your plans and have spaghetti?
Whatever your own area is, mix it up. And if you ever see me around, let me know what you did. I’d love to hear about it.
Today is my birthday! I’d say I’m 29, but I just published a book that says I was 31 years of age 3 years ago… My dad told me to change the book because I’m only 24. My mom is not old enough to have a 34 year old, apparently. Someone should tell her that my older sister turns 40 in a month.
I think it’s appropriate that today is the day that Amazon has approved my book for publication. Unfortunately, though, CreateSpace, who I am using to publish the paperback, does not offer pre-orders, which is stupid, if you ask me.
What am I going to do? Let it derail my plans? Scream at customer service agents? No. I’m not. I’m publishing it…today. Surprise! Well, you won’t be able to order from Amazon for another couple weeks unless you are a wholesale retailer. I have at least that much control.
So, I’m going to offer the pre-order myself. Since I have an exclusivity contract with Amazon, I can’t offer the book through my website, and anyway my website isn’t set up to accept payment. So if you ant to pre-order the paperback, please go to my Gofundme page. It will ask you for your address so I can send it out to you on the day it comes out, which coincidentally is my sister’s birthday. The payment through Godfundme is secure.
Just put in the comments on your Gofundme donation that you are pre-ordering the book. The cost is 12.99, which includes shipping within the United States. If you are in the Netherlands and want the paperback, you will get it from Joop or me when I am there starting on the 20th of April.
So if you want to support me for my birthday, here are the links to pre-order both the ebook and/or the paperback. I’m currently at 10 ebooks sold, which means I need 40 more to hit my goal. If you could help me reach my birthday goal of 15 paperback pre-orders, and 10 more ebooks, I would appreciate it. And any books pre-ordered through my Gofundme will also go to my goal there too, which means more funny videos. We’re $200 short of me and Joop redo the Rickrolling video he love so much.
The book is being worked on by my staff members the exceptional editor Deborah Natelson and the prodigious proofreader Sarah Awa. It’s a journey, editing, and it takes a lot of back and forth, and rewrites, but I will have the manuscript shipped to the book formatter next Friday.
In the meantime, I put the book available for pre-order on Amazon, but just the ebook. If you want the paperback, you’ll have to wait till next week to pre-order. The official publication date is April 12th, 5 days before I leave for the Netherlands.
However, I still encourage as many people as possible to pre-order the book. There’s a couple reasons behind this:
Really, reason #2 is why I am offering the book cheaper during pre-order than when it will be available to read. All the books you buy now, will show up as purchases for ranking purposes on the actual publication date, April 12th, instead of the date you bought it. The more pre-orders I get, the higher my ranking will be, and the more visibility the book will get, which means more sales in the long run.
So, if you help me, I’ll help you.
My goal is to get 50 paperback pre-orders and 50 ebook pre-orders. The second thing that will help me rise in rankings is if everyone that pre-orders writes or leaves a starred review. I realize this probably won’t happen, so my goal is a quarter of those pre-orders converted into reviews.
Which brings me to my final point on pre-orders. If you pre-order and promise to leave a review the day the book comes out, I will send you an email copy of the book so you can read it before it comes out. You can be an official beta reader for the book. If you pre-order, you will show up as a “verified purchase” on Amazon, which is super important, so I can’t just send you the book without you pre-ordering it.
Lastly, on a different subject, the cover is done! Well, for the ebook anyway. Nada Orlic over at Erelis Designs is still working on the paperback cover, but I’ll be sure to share when it’s done. I decided to go with the map cover for a couple reasons.
Normally, when I am working on a book cover, I keep it pretty under wraps until it’s nearly completely done. Part of this is because I’m a control freak, part I like to give people the element of surprise, and partly, I really respect my cover designer, Nada Orlic. (http://erelisdesign.com/) She really knows what she’s doing and we’ve been working with each other for a long time.
She’s done hundreds of covers, and she knows what works. I have realized from working on dozens of client covers with her what her pet peeves are. And one of the big ones is clients who give bad directions and ruin her beautiful covers with amateur suggestions. She’s been heartbroken a couple times. Me too.
I didn't want Joop's cover to break her designer's heart. So I gave her a few suggestions from me and other folks and gave her free reign. Then I worked with Joop to come up with a few final options for our fans to look over.
My favorite from the beginning was the Sprinkles cover. I never liked the burger cover much myself, while it was Joop's favorite. And it seemed pretty split among our fans between the white burger cover and the sprinkles cover. But we're not going with either.
Why I didn’t go with the original designs:
We went with a few more literal concepts: Maps and Joop, himself. My friend Zu had a great idea of Joop in a bowtie, and I had just the picture of him that I could use. Nada played around with a few covers, and these three covers are the favorites of the rest of my staff, Joop, Nada, me, and of course my mama and Joop’s Pap.
Please keep in mind that these covers are for concept only. The font, positioning, and subtitle WILL change. So please vote for your favorite concept.
I’m keeping the contest officially open, so if you comment with your thoughts on the cover, or even wish me and Joop good luck, you’re still going to be entered into the drawing for the free signed copy of the book.
I’m high-strung. I adore plans, and planners, and sticky notes. I have a meal planner, calendar, and life planner, and yes, they are all connected. I have notifications on my phone for everything: meditating, showering, picking up my kid from school. My lists have lists and my habit is making everything into a habit.
I come by it naturally. My dad is the ultimate list guy. My mom on the other hand writes a grocery list and promptly forgets it on the kitchen counter.
To be fair, some of this list making is an attempt to control my ADHD. Like my dad, I just might forget to pick my kid up from school if there isn’t a reminder. So yes, I have an alarm to snuggle with my kid, because it’s too important to be distracted from.
But, this listyness – it’s a word now; I made it up – can wreak havoc on my peace. Because, no matter how well I plan, life always happens. Like pretty much every day. Every. Single. Day. And when things don’t go according to plan, I quickly get frazzled, and then nothing happens.
This year for Christmas I asked my mom for Michael Hyatt’s new Full Focus Productivity planner. I’m a big Hyatt fan, and I send lots of my clients to his blog when they need to beef up their platforms (and honestly, what writer doesn’t need to beef up their platform a little?).
It’s the planners dream come true. It even helps you plan out your off time on the weekends with his Weekend Optimizer. Now I can cram even more into my weeks, but only the things that will actually help me achieve my dreams.
My mom, in her infinite wisdom, also gave me a copy of Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist.
I love Shauna. She has a way with prose that makes it feel like poetry. She’s also a blonde, slightly older version of me. She’s a Dutch Pastor’s kid from the Midwest who grew up to be a mother, world traveler, and harried writer.
As I was setting up my planner for the year, seeing just how much I could smash into this year to make up for falling behind while sick last year, I was also reading her book, chronicling how she realized that doing, doing, doing was keeping her from being. Being with her family, being content, being a woman, person, Christian. How she didn’t listen to her body when it was giving out, when she was throwing up in parking lots, when she was up crying all night trying to hit self-imposed deadlines. Sounds like someone I know…
So I wrote in my Full Focus Planner as a goal: Give yourself grace. I underlined it 3 times.
And I’ve needed it this year. January has been a mess.
The first week back to school, Drake was there for 1.3 days. He was sent home one day for an allergic reaction, which lasted into the next day. Then it was MLK day, with 1 day back to school before there were two snow days, which was followed by my husband having a terrible flu bug, and you guessed it, me catching that flu bug. And no family flu epidemic would be complete without the kid getting it.
It's also had other challenges. My mom had knee surgery, my best friend had more health scares, and my husband was diagnosed with bipolar disorder after a couple years of worsening mental health. Plus, he’s also in school full time and working full time at the university in our town, leaving me to deal with all the household stuff when school is in session.
I’m way behind where I wanted to be on Joop Does America.
But, because of my planner, every day I see the goal to give myself grace. And I do. Three days with snow on the ground in Athens, GA is a miracle, so I enjoyed every minute of it with my son. And I would have normally made my self sicker trying to work while puny, but I rested. I even slept 15 hours in one day.
Drake went back to school, which is good, because even though I am trying to give myself grace, I still have work to be done. And thankfully this planner shows me all the little victories I’ve made along the way.
Even with all the distractions, my final version of the Joop Does America will get to the editor this week and Joop will have it today, after I read through it one more time. And in April, I will be on my way to my ancestral land to visit new family, and maybe find some old family too.
And the book covers are here! I took in suggestions from several fans and here’s what we’ve come up with.
We went with a food theme, in case you can’t tell. While Mountain Dew was suggested, copyright issues prevented us from having his favorite soda on the front. Another suggestion was Chic-fil-A, but again copyright issues. Instead, we picked a giant, juicy bacon cheeseburger. Joop’s second favorite sandwich while here.
You can vote here on the blog, or via Facebook. Again, anyone that enters a vote will get their name put into the hat for a free signed copy. If you have a suggestion for a subtitle/tagline leave it in the comments. We’re not married to anything but Joop Does America.
Please comment with the number (1-6) that is your favorite, or even your second favorite. To see the full cover, click on the first picture and a gallery will open up. Thanks for your time!