I have heard that your level of happiness is directly correlated to how often you show gratitude. Well, I am bound and determined to start off 2015 happy. So much so that this very first post of the year is going to be slathered with gratitude.
I have much to be thankful for in this past year, but I’m guessing you don’t want to read a novella-length post in which I profess my appreciation for everything from Korean-Mexican fusion food to The Monkees finally playing a gig in St. Louis. So I am going to focus on the biggest thing to happen to me in 2014: the release of my first children’s book, Absolute Mayhem. (Sorry, Monkees. You were a big deal, too. Promise.)
I am still giddy over how well-received the book has been, even in its fledgling first month. And while it does feel like a huge payoff for me and all the work I put into it, an incredible and unexpected byproduct of the book’s success became
very clear. The better the book performed, the more I realized exactly how amazing my support system is, and just how far it reaches. The feeling that swelled largest inside me was not pride nor satisfaction in my own achievement, but raw gratitude and immense awe at all these people who did not hesitate to support my dream and celebrate with me.
These people deserve to be thanked with the loudest, shiniest, most gigantic “thank you” I can muster. Like, if I could go to Costco and buy some “thank you” in bulk. But fancier than Costco. Like, if Bergdorf Goodman sold things in bulk. But less snobby. Maybe this blog will just have to do.
So buckle up friends; this list is lengthy. But chances are, you’ll find yourself somewhere in here.
Blog Friends & Followers
Had I actually gotten around to publishing Absolute Mayhem when I first had the idea, the release would have looked a lot different. The biggest reason is that I would have missed out on the last few years of friendships and followers which have resulted because of this blog. My blogging family came out big for me, whether it was through supportive comments, buying the book for their families, or spreading the word. And when I reached out, looking for a brigade of bloggers to more formally help me announce the release of the book through posting reviews on their own blogs, I was overwhelmed with the response. There were the faithful buddies I had already forged relationships with who stepped up to the plate: Emily of The Waiting, Scott of Finding Twindaddy, Gretchen of Drifting Through My Open Mind, Karen of Mended Musings, Dawn of Tales from the Motherland, Shannon of My Ahas, Maggie of Perspectives Writing and Editing, Mary Beth of Mindful Magpie, John of Brokenfish, Stephanie of Drama Happens, and Jenn of Does This Roller Coaster Ever Stop. A special shout out to Scott from Snoozing on the Sofa, for not only reviewing the book, but also for catching a wording mistake just before I was about to send in my final proof for approval. WHEW! It pays to have smart and talented friends, and all of these bloggers fall into that category. Knowing these people, I was not surprised by their offers of support and enthusiasm, but I was touched no less. Because they didn’t have to do it. But they did.
Then there was Meredith of Pile of Babies and Hannah of Skidmarks, both of whom I sheepishly emailed and was all, so-I-really-love-your-blogs-and-all-and-I-was-wondering-if-you-would-read-my-little-book-and-write-a-review-thanks-I-love-you-whoops-I-said-that-out-loud. And they were both kindly like, “Absolutely!” Because they are awesome like that.
And then there was this whole wonderful group of bloggers who were newer to me, who REALLY didn’t have to help me out. But they did. They offered to lend a hand to the dream of someone they didn’t even know. And many of them wrote the sweetest things about the book and offered takes on it that surprised even me. So I have much gratitude for: Stacey of Stacey’s Life Blog, Kim of The Art of Being a Human, Faith of HomeEc @ Home, Riki of Refreshingly Riki, Dawn of Our Nontraditional Family, Julie of Live, Laugh, Lazenby!, Kay-Leigh of Miss Juliet Poe’s Emporium, Brooke of MommyBrain, Shayna of Musing of a Mom, Megan of Mama Megan, and Jessica of On This New Morning (her review is in the works and coming soon!).
Doug Schneider and My Writer’s Group
There’s a small group that meets once a month at a local library. It’s a “come-when-you-can” sort of thing, and every time I can come, I leave with a smile on my face. My writer’s group is full of talented and encouraging people, who share pieces of themselves and know just how to critique everyone else’s. I have read many things to them, including the manuscript for Absolute Mayhem. And I am especially grateful to our leader, Doug Schneider, a published author and blogger extraordinaire. Not only have I learned from his brand of writing, which is sophisticated, funny, and intensely clever, but he is partially responsible for the ending of my book. The first time I brought the Absolute Mayhem manuscript to writer’s group, it wasn’t finished. I was grasping for ideas. His half-joking quip about “monkeys throwing cupcakes” sparked the idea that resulted in the final pages of the book. (Do yourself a favor and visit Doug’s blog, Puppy Out of Breath. He has lived one of the most incredible lives of anyone I know, and writes about it with charm and wit.)
John and Monica Gunn
When one sets out to self-publish, there is a lot of uncharted territory someone like me encounters. I mean, I specialize in knowing the ins and outs of Target, all the words to just about any 80’s one-hit-wonder song, and the full given names of The Monkees (George Michael Dolenz, David Thomas Jones, Robert Michael Nesmith, and Peter Halsten Thorkelson…look ma, no Google!) None of those things are helpful in knowing how to start up your own business. This is where it is good to have friends who are lawyers. Enter John and Monica. Not only did they take care of things I couldn’t possibly do on my own, but I actually kind of sort of understood what the heck I was doing after their counsel. The only reason I am legit is because of them. Seriously.
The Copy Guy at Office Max
I always appreciate good customer service, and he was great every time I needed scans of my illustrations. You have to admire a guy who keeps his cool when my 6’6 husband stares him down as I hand over my works of art and says, “Be careful with these. Seriously. Really careful. You’re pretty much holding her life’s work,” then asks if he has recently washed his hands. So thanks, Copy Guy!
I have mentioned Maggie several times on this blog. Not only did she guest post for me, but I was also honored to have a story in her book, Milk Diaries, the gosh-darned best book about breastfeeding there ever was. With all these “Maggie-mentions,” you’d think I have a serious girl crush on her. Well, not only do I admire the talent that pours from this lady, I also happen to be extremely good friends with her. Like, we were friends before either of us knew we were both writers. We have a bond that was forged through the preschool years of our eldest children, when mommies search with the hope of all hopes for others we can befriend and have adult conversations with. That bond became even stronger over writing. Maggie gets me. I get her. And I can honestly say that Absolute Mayhem would not have come to fruition had it not been for Maggie Singleton. Not only did watching her go through the publishing process with Milk Diaries serve as mad inspiration for me to get my own butt in gear, but the wisdom she gained from going first was mine for the taking. Because Maggie was with me at every single turn. Nudging me. Counseling me. Warning me. Editing me. Celebrating me. Some of my most productive bouts happened immediately after having coffee with her. Whenever I started slacking, I would joke with Maggie that we needed to meet up to get my wheels churning again. Only special people have that power to inspire others in such a way. And the best part was, she was always, first and foremost, my friend throughout it all.
Too Many Friends to Name
I.love.my.friends. I don’t even think love is a strong enough word. Friends from every area of my life have pretty much made me feel like Oprah, only better. Because it’s like I have a million Gayles, not just one. Whether it was taking interest in how the book was coming along, pushing me to keep at it, squealing with excitement upon its release, sending me notes of congratulations, posting pictures of their kids with the book, buying copies for everyone they know, coming to the launch party, surprising me with flowers or goodies, helping me make connections with schools or book stores…the list is endless. My friends are proof that people really are good…either that, or I just somehow got really lucky to score all the good people as friends. I want to name of all of you, but…you know…that whole novella thing. I think most of you know who you are. If you don’t know who you are, but you’re reading this, and you know me personally, you’re probably one of them.
Duh. Right? But for realz. It’s like the friend thing, only we share blood. Or we are legally bound through marriage. First of all, my parents are kind of the bomb-diggity. They gave me the kind of life where I grew up believing I could do things like this. And that’s no small task. But then they go all peacock-proud and brag about me all over the place. It’s pretty awesome. And I almost cried when my mom brought over a “Mayhem” themed flower arrangement in celebration, one she put together all by herself. And I did cry when I read my dad’s note on the little keepsake book my daughter made for my launch party: “You done good.”
Then there’s my siblings who support me in every way siblings should. Whether it was my sister taking photos at the launch party or my brother handcrafting a beautiful book stand for me, they always find ways to build me up. So does the rest of my extended family…aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents. They are always there. For everything. All the time. And it’s awesome.
I also scored when it comes to my in-laws. My husband’s parents have always been so loving and supportive of me. And I was extremely thankful when they offered to host the launch party at their beautiful home. They are some of the most generous people I have known, and that filtered down to their children. In particular, I really want to thank my sister-in-law Tiffany Hoeckelman and my brother-in-law Erich Suellentrop. These two helped me with so many aspects of the book, I can’t even remember them all. Tiffany owns a successful marketing design company called Lone Orange, and Erich is in the process of starting up his own company called TBN Media. They helped design and build my author website, KellySuellentrop.com, and we spent many, many brainstorming sessions together, all of which involved laughter. Not only that, but along with Tiffany’s husband Matt, they played huge roles in executing the launch party. To say Tiffany and Erich have been indispensable is an understatement.
Finally, my husband and my kids. In case you didn’t realize, my kids were not only the inspiration for the characters of Lulu and Milo, but there would be very few posts on this blog without them. I have always loved writing, but I honestly believe that becoming a mother helped me find my true voice. Before, I think I was always writing with a voice I thought I should have. Now I am happy with the way I sound, and even happier that Grace’s and Michael’s energy can entertain through the guise of Lulu and Milo. Aside from the whole inspiration business, my kids have been the cutest, most delectable little cheerleaders regarding the book. The day the first proof showed up on my doorstep, they were more excited than I was. Grace was jumping up and down, and with every page turn, she would shout, “Oh my gosh! It looks so good!” The success is just as much theirs as it is mine.
And my husband, Kurt. God bless that man. People tell me all the time how lucky I am to have him. And they are right. Because he is about as rare a gem as you can find. He has patiently encouraged me to chase my dream, even when it seemed like I might get permanently sidetracked. And when I seriously considered taking a teaching job to help lighten the financial load he has been bearing for almost ten years now, he told me not to. He said it was more important for me to focus on the book, on my writing, to see what came of it. He knew I would regret it if I didn’t. He knew better than me. None of what has happened in the last year…Absolute Mayhem, the success of the blog, being featured on places like the Huffington Post, snagging some freelance writing gigs…none of that would have happened had he not been willing to make sacrifices to allow me time to nurture my writing. Oh, and he created “absolute mayhem.” It’s his phrase…and it is a way of life at our house that has endeared him to our children and to me. He gets the biggest thank you of them all. But I’ll get his at some mom and pop place…he detests giant conglomerates like Costco. And considering he still wears t-shirts from high school, he could give two whirlybirds about anything from Bergdorf Goodman.
WHOOOOOO BOY! That’s a whole lot of gratitude. And wouldn’t you know it…I AM feeling rather chipper now. Chip-chip-chipp…wait, did I forget anyone? I hope I didn’t forget anyone. That would be the worst. Hopefully if I did forget you, you can fall under the family or friends umbrella…and chalk it up to the fact that they never said happy people have good memories.
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