Friday, July 22, 2011

While the weather outside soared to triple digits, I was inside Progress Energy’s air-conditioned Energy and Environmental Center at the Harris Nuclear Plant, on an Energy Safari with Senior Community Relations Representative, Kim Crawford, my son Jordan, and about forty Wake County, North Carolina fifth graders and their teachers.

It was a good day to learn how nuclear power plants produce electricity and even better day to point out it takes electricity to power our air conditioners. 

Last year students participating in the Wake County Energy Camp  were recruited to be my personal guinea pigs for my nuke book, which was still a work-in-progress.  This year’s students got to critique the finished product.

Despite the air conditioning, I was perspiring with nervous anxiety.  These were not just any guinea pigs,  but children that have an aptitude for the sciences. It was obvious from the get-go we had several future engineers in our audience.  

What a relief to receive the endorsement of the experts! 

The only thing hotter than the weather was Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works!  

Thursday, July 07, 2011

The restaurant where she works is in my home town, the book I’m promoting has received plenty of press, the topic (nuclear power) is timely and age appropriate, children love the puppet characters, there’s a nuclear power plant in our own back yard, and she has booked people with fewer qualifications than my own, but even before I hung up the phone I knew the children’s event planner I was talking to wouldn’t be calling me back. 
Marketing 101- to be successful you’ve got to show that you are successful.  Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time it works, but there’s always that one person who sees the news, views my website, or listens to my elevator speech, and concludes I need to be knocked down a peg or two. 

Or is so hell-bent on advancing their own agenda they don’t care who they hurt, like the person who labeled me a nuclear pedophile.

If only it was as easy, impressive, and one-sided as the press releases, elevator speeches, or marketing pitches like this one make it sound:

Even before Nuclear Power: How a Nuclear Power Plant Really Works!  was sent to print, it caught some buzz!  The Raleigh News and Observer did an article that was also printed in the local Southwest Wake News. The proof we received from the printer looked great and books will be available soon.

When my book’s proof arrived at my home in North Carolina, I was at a hospital in Pensacola, Florida where one of the persons it’s dedicated to, my father, Preston Solomon, was in critical care and doctors didn’t expect him to survive.

My children assured me the proof looked great, but there were some issues that needed addressing.  I stressed over the book, worried about my father, complained about my computer which wasn’t working in the hospital, and tried not to cry when talking to my cousins.

Weeks earlier I had left my home in North Carolina.  My plan had been to drive to northern Alabama where my husband Randy works and lives. Along the way, I was going to hit bookstores, media, and other venues, and pitch my upcoming book.

Instead, at the last minute, I decided to drive straight to St. Augustine, FL, where my cousin, Jerry Vaughn, was hospitalized.  He had recently been diagnosed with a brain tumor and it just wasn’t going as well as we hoped. It was a shock to all of us. Jerry had the distinction of being the only person in our family over the age of 21 that’s never been overweight. He had no bad health habits, still ran, biked, and swam, and looked ten years younger than his sixty-seven years.

He and his older brother, my cousin, Jimmy were young adults when I was born, but I always adored them and they me.  When I left the small panhandle community of Walnut Hill, Florida for the much larger, more liberal, and more sophisticated University of Florida, I spent many a homesick weekend being fed and favored at my cousin’s who lived a short drive from the university.

Last year Jerry and his wife, Elaine drove for miles, out of their way, just so they could get reception and listen to me being interviewed on a radio talk show.  Most of my relatives would have considered that a waste of good gas money.

Jerry passed away not long after I visited.  By then I was at my parent’s home, eight hours away, in the Florida Panhandle.  I had been planning to wait there until arrangements had been made for his funeral and then drive my parents to it, but then my father became ill and was admitted to the hospital. 

Daddy was diagnosed with Parathyroid Disease which is usually not life-threatening, but his prognosis went from bad to worse when he aspirated after a routine procedure that had to be administered prior to surgery. 

Words can’t describe the panic I felt when I heard a code blue being called in my father’s hospital room.  I jumped ahead of a line of people, shut the elevator door in their faces, and then uttered a profanity that a Priest overheard as I took my shoes off so I could run to his room. The room was filled with hospital staff and they were able to revive my father. 

My dad was on a ventilator in critical care for over two weeks, but he surprised his doctors, and has made a remarkable recovery.  He’s still hospitalized and doctors have advised us his recovery will not be quick due to his age and health history, but he was well enough for me to leave. 

My father has asked about Jerry’s wife Elaine, but still isn’t cognitive enough to remember his nephew died, or be told that none of us had attended the funeral. 

Instead, we had kept vigil at his bedside, and for the first time in more than 40 years my siblings and I were together with our daddy on Father’s Day. Too bad he won’t remember it. 

Even in the worst of times, some things are tragically comical. Like listening to my delirious father complain about picking cotton, and yell orders to my cousin Jim.

A month after I left North Carolina, I finally arrived in northern Alabama.  Together, my husband and I, drove back home to North Carolina to celebrate the 4th of July with our children.  

My summer has been filled with professional triumphs and personal tragedies, laughter, and sorrow. I reflected on this as I hung up the phone with the event planner.

Rejection is common when you’re marketing a book, but summer 2011 has put name-calling and rejection in perspective. This year I've learned to appreciate the joy that’s present when life is ordinary.