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“It’s really an incredible life that we’re living and you should write about it”

Hello. If you know anything about me, you know that my wife Bethany died more than six years ago now. I’ve had a hard time with her death, especially at first, and for a long time, but the grief mostly has passed. I still have those moments, however.

On the one hand, I miss her terribly. On the other hand, she would have been horrified by the way that political and cultural events have rolled out over the years since she died.

If you’ve seen this page in the past, maybe you remember that I was hoping and indeed trying to write about her. I have started and stopped at multiple points: the grief was too hard to deal with; there was so much information to have to remember and compile; I stopped at one point, after a very long and concerted effort to try and contact book agents.

I’m at it again, and to this point, I’ve got roughly 95,000 words and 270 pages. Those are rough estimates, because I’m doing different things in different documents, and I know that some editing will be required to put these things together.

So far, I’ve written the beginning of the book and the end of the book – this latter part consisting of things that I learned about her only AFTER she died. I did this by going through all of the papers that she had carried around our whole life together. I hate to brag, but I really trusted her with all the things that she had told me about herself, and I did not snoop into her personal papers at all, with one small exception.

That one small exception was while she was gone in Iraq. I took those papers out of the garbage bag in which she had been storing them, and I collated them and put them into order. Then I put them in the attic and never looked at them again.

Among other things, she was a hoarder. This not only included “stuff”, but “papers”. Memories, really. She kept every paystub, every movie and concert ticket, every card or letter she received, every set of orders, every train or plane ticket … you get the idea.

But there is an exception to this, as well. Some of these papers and other things were damaged. At one point, we lived in an old wood frame house, and she kept these things stashed in a crawl space – “in the dirt” – next to the steps down into a musty old basement. I couldn’t stand up straight in that basement, it was so short and dark and musty, so I rarely went down there. But we kept washer and dryer and other things down there, and she did laundry down there for our young and growing family for four years, from 1995 through the end of 1997, when we were forced to move out.

Old and musty as this house was, (and probably moldy, too), the years we spent there were for her, the best years of our lives together. Prior to that, we struggled financially, and we moved a lot from apartment to apartment. After that came another couple of moves and then 9/11/2001. That event really did change “everything” for us.

But while we lived in that old house, for her, it was heaven on earth, with love, family, wonderful friendships, and a white picket fence. She was a young wife, the young and pretty mom of (up to that point) four little boys who loved and obeyed her. She was not only the matriarch of our family, but she had been adopted into the family of some of our neighbors – as large and rambunctious and loving a group of people as anyone could hope to get to know.

Those good times didn’t last, though we tried to hang onto them. We had to move away, and then Bethany went into the army.

I’m transcribing her journals now, and I’ve come to a point at which she describes her reasons for and her doubts about that period of her life. It was a letter that she wrote to me, in November 2002, just as she was finishing up her training as a medic. I haven’t read this letter for some time now, but revisiting it is really a priceless experience. It really brings both her inner strength and her inner troubles back to me in a very moving way.

I’ll be posting some more of these thoughts of hers from time to time. If you find misspellings or grammatical errors below, I’ve tried to be as faithful to her own words as I could be.

Let me know what you think.

Nov 8, 10:30 am

I’m outside on field training. I’m pretty nervous because I’ve been made Pltoon Sergent for [illegible]. We’re on reconisonce right now trying to bet to our BN station without getting shot or blown up. I’m in charge of 10 soldiers & I don’t want to do anything stupid to trouble or to get “killed”. A “killed” will take you out.

Sat Nov 9 / 02 12:20 pm

I’ve learned about Nathaniel’s bad grades. I hope this is the worst that can happen while I try * finish this course. So far when I get home I’m going to have my work cut out for me getting things back in order.

8 pm.

I went shopping today and bought goodies for the kids & our neighbor’s kids too. The days are too slow for me. I’m sure that they’re to slow for you too. I can’t believe how long 4 months are when your so miserable.

One night a long time ago before I left for the army I couldn’t sleep. So I turned on the T.V. while you were sleeping. A program on the Travel Channel showed all about San Antonio & the river walk. I remember watching all about it thinking then that I hope we’ll all like it. And I had hoped that we would all get to see it while I was going through school. I am so surprised about how it all worked out.

I’ve come to the Riverwalk twice since I’ve been here and I haven’t enjoyed one minute of it. I only came here to get away from the base because it’s so ugly there & I’m miserable here without you all. I also worry about the balance of my family while I’m away.

I’ve found a little Texas bar that I feel comfortable at for a little while. I’m going to drink a couple of beers & write to you and then go back to my bunk soon.

There are many thoughts on my mind right now. One of them is about spending 6 days out in the field playing the role of a combat medic. I just talked to a few soldiers that came back from the field! They all told me how hard it was. I wisht hat I had the confidence that I had when I first started this personal mission. All the medical studies were so hard. There were so many times that I didn’t think that I was going to make it. Plus my age is hindering my mind’s thinking. I’m sure I can do this for a couple of years but I really don’t knowhow long that I have left physically. I’m always so sore & a little slow at everything. It’s wonderful to get through the obstycles [sic] with out having my own heart attack

The most demanding of all my thoughts are about you & the kids. I would really enjoy this work & the struggle if all you guys were here with me. How can one enjoy a career & family together? That’s a big thought that I’d like to have come together for peace of heart & mind. The last ten years of my life have been family & babies.

It’s really an incredible life that we’re living and you should write about it. I do believe that God has been the lead of us. When I remember that axis I get peace inside & feel at ease. But situations around me unnerve me and make me loose my confidence. Plus I believe the evil one plagues me. I’m always wanting to do the right thing but situations happen & I could not act in or react perfectly. I’m always being tested! I always worry that I failed to make, or arise to be the woman to meet the strom. That hurts me deeply.

I so want to do good things for the world and then I realize that I’m so inadequate. When is enough really enough? I always knock & I don’t receive an answer. How about you? When I get to this frenzy & can’t think anymore I stop thinking and just do. I just do the next of what ever is required with out thought, letting everything fall into place with the belief that God is moving then. We start or move events we can’t control everything that comes with the momentum.

I have to tell you right now that I love you and I thankyou very much for letting me do this. I’d never get to try this challenge if it weren’t for you. You’re my backbone. I’ve never had anyone before you that loved me like you do to the point of letting me grow. Growing & learning are such gifts that haven’t any price. I’ve learned that one thing when helping others. One must always give as much as they can for someone to learn. It comes with that phrase “teach a man to fish.” You really do good work for God then.

9 pm.

I’ve tried to write you a letter with my most pressing thoughts & feelings while trying to relax. I’m getting ready for the climax of my military escapade. If I get to do more later then so be it. But if I don’t I know that I’ve done my very best with what we could expend & taste now.

I miss you & love you. To me I’ve spent the last hour with you while I was writing to you. You were here with me the whole time. I hope when I come home you’ll love me as I imagine that you do.

# # #

The Discipline of Writing

Heinz-60000Three days a week now, I’m usually in the gym by 5:00 am, and out by 5:30 am. That was the case this morning. There’s not much competition for the squat rack at that time, although there still is some!

I’ve settled on a program – “Stronglifts 5×5” – it involves squats, deadlifts, bench press, overhead press, and rows. On my off days, usually 2-3 other days of the week, I’m in the gym doing what they call “HIIT” cardio (“high intensity interval training”). I’m working toward the goal of losing my belly. Only recently have I found a diet regimen that makes sense and is working.

So I’ve been going to the gym now for almost six months, on a fairly regular basis. I started in October, and now that it’s almost April, I’m still at it. I’m looking better and feeling better. The key to it is that I’ve been able to work it into my life as a routine.

With writing, that’s a little bit harder. You have to sit and think and focus for a longer period of time than is comfortable. You have to do research. You actually have to know what you’re writing about. But the results are significant.

I’ll put it into perspective for you – a kind of “Tale of Two Eloqua Partners”. When I was looking for a job in 2013, I had contacted a number of people – one of whom was Matt Heinz, founder of Heinz Marketing. He and I corresponded for a bit, and there seemed to be some interest there. One of his blog posts, from 2012, asked the question, “One thousand blog posts later, was it worth it?” Apparently the answer was a resounding “yes!”.

One is greeted on the Heinz Marketing blog by a pop-up that says “Join 60,000+ B2B professionals…” Here’s the theme:

This is my 1,000th blog post. For the first few years, I posted sporadically and when I had time. But for the past year, I’ve ramped up both publishing volume (posting something at least every business day) as well as how carefully we choose the topics I cover.

This weekend I reflected a bit on whether it’s all been worth it. Many bloggers struggle with this question, and many marketers (including some of our clients) wonder the same thing. But for me, based on the criteria below, there’s no question it’s not only been worth the time and effort, but also been one of the most important marketing investments I’ve made and continue to make.

The success here is quite the contrast to the results of the company that I actually joined. (I won’t mention names, but the company is listed in my LinkedIn profile).

There, the focus was “sales”, as in “a good salesperson can do everything that’s needed to generate enough business”. We used a CRM, and as a salesperson, I was tasked with calling a lot of different people. And I made the calls – I was the leading salesperson one year, and over a period of time, I made far more phone calls than the other two sales reps combined.

But the problem was, who was I calling? We were given a list of contacts, but they were stale, and there was no way of refreshing them. So I had to research my own list (in several different ways – I may go into this). And in the end, when we were setting up “call blitzes”, there were, after more than two years, still not more than several hundred contacts in my neck of the woods. In the end, I was dismissed for not being a good enough salesperson.

Today, both companies are still in the same line of business; both have upwards of 20 people. My former company, though, was struggling for business when I left. By contrast, in an article then about the milestone of reaching 2000 blog posts, Heinz writes of his blog, “It’s my top sales rep by far. It opens doors. Makes cold introductions easier. It keeps my prospects warm. Generates inbound inquiries. It literally helps me close deals, including with prospects I haven’t even spoken to yet.”

Two different sales philosophies, two different sets of results. I think the results speak for themselves.