Wednesday, February 4, 2015

A Caller From St. Sault Marie

One of the nicest perks from writing my book has been receiving emails and calls from readers.

They are thanking me for writing Not Exactly As Planned: A Memoir of Adoption, Secrets and Abiding Love.  They relate to my stories about the ins and outs of adoption. They relate to the challenges (and joys!) of raising our son with Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder.  They thank me for me honest about the  ups and downs many of us face.


People share their own stories with me. And mostly, they thank me for making them feel less alone in their struggles.

A great response to my book came in yesterday.  I received a call from a woman who lives in a small northern Ontario town. She had heard about my book on the CBC, and ordered it from an online bookstore (Chapters/Indigo).

Karen also thanked me for writing the book. Though her life is very different from mine, she has raised two children, a boy and a girl with FASD, now adults in their 20s. Karen has had her share of hardships. Her children are older, like mine, and her life is still very tied up with caring for them.  She realizes it may always be so.

Her marriage split up, as many do due to the stress of raising difficult children. But Karen has friends to support her and a strong will.  She's a survivor. 

At the end of our conversation, Karen said, "When I save up enough money, I'd like to buy 10 copies of your book to give away. I want to give one copy to the Children's Aid Society here. Another to the guidance counselors where my children went to school. Another for the local library and community centre. Another for the Native council office..."  I was greatly touched by her desire to spread the word about FASD and the struggles families like ours experience raising our children with the disorder.

Her comment about giving out copies of my book have been on my mind since she and I spoke. I kept wondering whether I should have offered to send her copies.

I received a call from her again this morning. "Just wanted to let you know that I ordered 10 copies of your book. Decided i really wanted to do it."

I let her know how generous I thought she was, and how thrilled I was that she would be passing my book on to people who would clearly learn a lot from it. What a kind gesture.

The next time I wonder whether or not I was crazy to bare my soul the way I did in the book,  I will think about Karen't phone call. I have no doubt it will banish all such thoughts.

At least momentarily.

Not Exactly As Planned  is available on Amazon


Monday, January 5, 2015

My Memoir Now Available in additional outlets....

I'm pleased and thankful that interest (and sales!) is growing for my book, Not Exactly As Planned: A Memoir of Adoption, Secrets and Abiding Love. 

Not Exactly As Planned is the story of our family's challenges, and joys, of raising our son with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Michael was adopted-at-birth and diagnosed when he was six. I became determined to help Michael beat the dire progrnosis given, and to live with as much joy as possible while learning to live with our new reality.

Media attention for the book on the CBC, and the Toronto Star right after publicatio has been grand. I have also been lucky getting such positive response on Twitter, Facebook, in parenting magazines and with interviews with leaders in the field of Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (including David Gerry and Michael Harris).

Word-of-mouth seems to be doing wonders as well. I am receiving heart-warming emails (and even hand-written notes posted by mail!) from people around North America who have heard about the book from someone else. Can't get enough of these emails! :-)

Many people are using the exact same words:  "Couldn't put the book down."  As if I wrote a thriller or something. What nicer words could a writer hear?

Because of growing interest, Not Exactly As Planned is now available in Toronto at the following bookstores (and can be ordered online from the following as well):

Ben McNally Books
Another Story Book Shop
Parentbooks


Now online at Chapters/Indigo, and available at both Amazon.ca and Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle editions.

But please, if at all possible, please order the book through my distributor in Canada, Brunswick Books.  

Support our Canadian book publishing industry and bookstores!!

And thanks to all.  Keep spreading the word!

Monday, December 8, 2014

Post Book Launch Blues?


Everyone asks, "Has it been a letdown?"  They're referring to the aftermath of the book launch for my new book, Not Exactly As Planned: A Memoir of Adoption, Secrets and Abiding Love. It was held here in Toronto on November 18 at Ben McNally Books.

My answer?  Not yet.

The launch, as one twitter follower called it was a "crowd scene." I was so pleased to look up from my book-signing desk to see more than 120 smiling faces of family, friends, colleagues, neighbours and people who have worked with out family over the years. They had all come out on a stormy windy night here in Toronto, and they deserve big credit for doing so. It was the perfect eve to be home, sitting in front a fire and listening to the wind howl. But they chose my launch.

There they were, drinking bubbly, eating the wonderful homemade tapas made by neighbours. If you can use the term tapas for  creamed herring and smoked salmon and cream cheese on pumpernickel, among more tapas-like choices.

Fortunately for the bookseller, it was a book-friendly crowd, and more than 100 books were sold at the launch. My understanding is that the number is high for a launch, which added to my pleasure with the evening. The bookseller seemed happy, too.

Forty minutes after the evening began, I did a reading of two short excerpts from my book. Since it's a memoir, largely about our family (with all its joys and challenges), I picked one passage about our son Michael and one for our daughter Sarah. Equal opportunity parenting. I couldn't possibly have honoured one and ignored the other on such a big day. So I picked sweet, and what I would call upbeat passages to read about each of them as newborns. Limited any chance of them squabbling about factual correctness! Though the passages were sunny and bright, when I looked up for a breath from my reading, I barely found a dry eye in the house.  I was touched, and clearly the audience was too.

So to the question everyone asked the next day, and are still asking: "Has it been a letdown?" I can honestly say, not yet.

Response has been wonderful to the book.

I was worried, because the book is filled with raw emotion about raising our son with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome; about infertility and adoption, about life going, as the title of the book says, "Not Exactly As Planned."  The sub-theme about the challenges of learning to live with one's reality (as opposed to our hopes and dreams) seems to have struck a chord.

"Can't put it down." "Read it in one reading." "You're so brave to share so much about your life, your marriage..."  "So honest. It's imspiring."  "I relate to everything you say and don't have a child with special needs."  "The narrative just sucked me in. I stayed in the bathtub for hours." Lots and lots of bathtub reading. Along with wrinkled skin, I'm presuming.

Media interest has also been great. I did a wonderful interview on CBC's Fresh Air, their weekend morning talk show.  Here's the link. Interview focuses mainly on adoption.  https://soundcloud.com/cbc-fresh-air/linda-rosenbaum-on-adoption-and-fetal-alcohol-syndrome-nov3014

The Toronto Star is publishing an article this week about the book. More interviews in the make. Interest growing.

The emails and queries keep coming.
I'm still riding high.
Gonna stretch this out as long as I can before my time is up.  "In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes," said Andy Warhol. I'm hoping for 16.
Big thanks to all for getting me here.

To order Not Exactly As Planned:  http://brunswickbooks.ca/Not-Exactly-as-Planned/   or Amazon. com, Amazon.ca or Chapters/Indigo.ca

Friday, October 24, 2014

Release of Not Exactly As Planned: A Memoir of Adoption, Secrets and Abiding Love



I'm thrilled to announce the release of my new book.  It arrived from the printer yesterday, and it was quite the rush holding a copy in my hand for the very first time. It's been years in the making. I have to admit, a few tears fell from the corner of my eyes.

I gave two readings yesterday from the book at a conference at Ryerson Unversity here in Toronto, called Motherhood in Literature. I was on a panel with five other writers who also read from their works, all good, all well-written and interesting.

I have many people to thank who supported me on my extremely long journey through the nail-biting writing and equally nail-biting publishing process.

A good editor is worth his/her weight in gold, and I was lucky to have several great ones, probably in the platinum category. They included Canadian author Merilyn Simonds, writer Renate Mohr, and Beth McCauley, senior editor at The Editing Company in Toronto. And, I'm of course grateful to Andrea O'Reilly from Demeter Press for publishing my book.

My biggest thanks goes to my family, who allowed me to tell our story, MY way. 

To purchase Not Exactly As Planned onlinehttp://demeterpress.org/notexactlyasplanned.html

And please visit my website at:  lindarosenbaum.com



Here's a  Synopsis of the book:

Not Exactly As Planned chronicles Linda Rosenbaum’s arrival in Toronto in 1970 from the US after political upheaval and sexual violence in Washington, D.C. casts her on an unexpected journey north in search of safe haven. She lives a counterculture life in communes in Toronto’s American ex-pat community, eventually moving into the city’s mainstream. A move to Toronto Island, marriage, and parenthood through two unorthodox adoption processes finally bring a sense of safety and belonging.

Life takes a major turn when Linda’s son, adopted-at-birth, is diagnosed with irreversible brain damage from fetal alcohol syndrome when he is six. She was determined to change Michael’s prognosis, illustrating the expectations that those raised on the activism of the 1960s brought to their lives and families. She no longer fights for other people’s sons — picketing for civil rights or demonstrating to bring soldiers home from Vietnam. She has to fight for her own son.

According to statistics at the time, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was a sentence to failure in his life: he'd drop out of school; he'd be incapable of holding a job; he'd live on welfare, on the street or worse. The brain damage, they said, was irreversible.

With love, devotion, hope and all the medical knowledge she could accumulate, Rosenbaum sets out to change the predicted course of events. Though truth of the old Yiddish saying “Man plans, God laughs”  was testing her, she is determined to have the last laugh. She confronts the sexual violence in her youth; raises her children Jewish even as they share their father’s last name of Christmas; fights to save the iconoclastic Toronto Island community from developers’ bulldozers; and resolves to live with as much joy as she can while struggling to beat Michael's odds.

With compassion and humour, Not Exactly As Planned weaves the disparate threads of Rosenbaum's life into a story of acceptance, at once achingly unique yet universal to all parents.  Not Exactly As Planned  is a provocative story about hope, loss and acceptance.



Tuesday, August 12, 2014

My Memoir, Not Exactly As Planned, fall 2014 release



                              Not Exactly as Planned
                              A Memoir of Adoption
Secrets and Abiding Love


                                         Book launch in Toronto

                                 November 18, 6:00 - 8:00  p.m.
                                         Ben McNally Books

 

My life took a major turn when our son, adopted at birth, is diagnosed with irreversible brain damage from fetal alcohol syndrome. I am determined to change Michael’s prognosis and live with as much joy as possible while struggling to accept my new reality.

Not Exactly as Planned
is more than a story of motherlove. It’s about birdwatching, bar mitzvahs, the collision of '60’s ideals with the real world, family secrets and woodcarving.


The book, published by Demeter Press will be available October, 2014. 
 

                                                 order here

Why I wrote the book:


Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder affects an estimated one percent of all children born in North America. Yet, despite being the most common cause of developmental disability, most members of the public are unaware of it and of the ways it profoundly affects the lives of individuals and their families.

It is my hope that the book will bring comfort and hope to families struggling to raise children with FASD, and bring to professionals who work with these families a better understanding of the daily struggles these families live with.


Synopsis of the book:


Not Exactly As Planned chronicles Linda Rosenbaum’s arrival in Toronto in 1970 from the US after political upheaval and sexual violence in Washington, D.C. casts her on an unexpected journey north in search of safe haven. She lives a counterculture life in communes in Toronto’s American ex-pat community, eventually moving into the city’s mainstream. A move to Toronto Island, marriage, and parenthood through two unorthodox adoption processes finally bring a sense of safety and belonging.

Life takes a major turn when Linda’s son, adopted-at-birth, is diagnosed with irreversible brain damage from fetal alcohol syndrome when he is six. She was determined to change Michael’s prognosis, illustrating the expectations that those raised on the activism of the 1960s brought to their lives and families. She no longer fights for other people’s sons — picketing for civil rights or demonstrating to bring soldiers home from Vietnam. She has to fight for her own son.

According to statistics at the time, fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) was a sentence to failure in his life: he'd drop out of school; he'd be incapable of holding a job; he'd live on welfare, on the street or worse. The brain damage, they said, was irreversible.

With love, devotion, hope and all the medical knowledge she could accumulate, Rosenbaum sets out to change the predicted course of events. Though truth of the old Yiddish saying “Man plans, God laughs”  was testing her, she is determined to have the last laugh. She confronts the sexual violence in her youth; raises her children Jewish even as they share their father’s last name of Christmas; fights to save the iconoclastic Toronto Island community from developers’ bulldozers; and resolves to live with as much joy as she can while struggling to beat Michael's odds.

With compassion and humour, Not Exactly As Planned weaves the disparate threads of Rosenbaum's life into a story of acceptance, at once achingly unique yet universal to all parents.  Not Exactly As Planned  is a provocative story about hope, loss and acceptance. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mama Getaways

All mums, by and large, deserve breaks from mothering. No denying that aspects of the job description are rewarding. But for many of us – particularly ones like me who have children with disabilities – the job can sometimes take the living daylights out of us. When the signs are clear that we’re coming to our proverbial Wit’s End, it’s time to recharge. For everybody’s sake. As the saying goes, “If Mama ain’t happy...NOBODY’s happy.”

In my memoir Not Exactly As Planned, to be published in November by Demeter Press, I describe the strains on my marriage from raising our son with fetal alcohol syndrome. I’ll gently sum them up here with the following understatement:“The cups of tea he used to bring me in bed each morning during the first years of our marriage stopped coming.”

However, Robin and I were fortunate enough to have the resources to get away from time to time.

From the book:  “When Robin and I travelled, our problems seemed to vanish as soon as we hit the road. Travel was the key to remembering what it was we loved about being together. It was a magical elixir to our troubled marriage.

Undoubtedly, one of our trips’ positive attributes was the pact we made before we left: we wouldn’t talk about the children. It was always hard the first leg of a trip, but got remarkably easier as we hiked the Bruce Trail, rambled through England’s Cotswolds or ate our way through a Tuscan hilltown. We still called home daily, but never talked much about the kids afterward.

Since Michael had worked his way through all the babysitters in our community, we were always on the lookout for some strong, level-headed young or older adult to stay with the kids during our absences. Someone looking for a challenge – our version of a “handyman’s special.”
****

I recently read entries from parents who belong to an online chat forum for parents of children with FASD. They shared their own creative approaches  to “getting away” when times are tough. sometimes known as running away from home. 

The first posting on the thread that opened the discussion was this:


“Well I may get a lot of backlash for this....but I ran away from home this weekend. One crisis too many and I was beyond overload. Called hubby told him it was his turn to parent 24/7 for the next few days. Got on hotwire. Got me a great rate in a 4 star hotel about 50 miles from home. Told everyone no call no text. I will text I'm ok. Which I did last night and this morning. Kinda nice the only noise I hear is the a/c unit. And no FB for me except this post.”

In response:

“To survive the last two years with all the ups and downs (mostly downs) with our FASD daughter, I found a friend who loves musicals and we began following our favorite musical on its US tour every three or four months. We'd book a hotel, get tickets for two or three shows a weekend and I could finally BREATHE. The cast may have thought we were stalkerish, but what they didn't know was that those weekends saved my sanity. It was expensive but my dh agreed it was worth every penny because I came back human. ;). The tour ended last fall, but we squeezed in a trip to NYC to see a few shows on Broadway this winter and next week we found a regional theatre performing our favorite musical so I'm hanging on by my fingernails for that! One week from today baby!!! People who don't live like this just think I'm spoiled. I've just learned that for my mental, physical, and spiritual health I have to get away.”

And another mum getaway tip:

“I think only we, the fetal alcohol spectrum disorder parents, know this exhaustion! And total desperation! There is an orchestra here in Burlington, Vermont, organized by two world class musicians and called ME2, whose members are made up of people with mental illness or who have it in someone close to them. They are just so excellent and their separate string orchestra is to die for. We recently went to one of their concerts called Music From the Holocaust, certainly mental health related, that will be with me for a long time.

I'm not a musician, but I feel a bond with them. I really think engaging your right brain is important in our situations. I've always loved art, although I'm not an artist, and every chance I get, I love going to exhibits and museums. We live between Boston and Montreal, so special exhibits are somewhat accessible.”

Good for you mums!

What’s YOUR secret to maintaining sanity?

Friday, April 18, 2014

Same Old, Same Old?


Michael has come far since he was diagnosed with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome when he was six. At that time, the prognosis was grim. Although the clinician at The Hospital for Sick Children was clear that early intervention could make a real difference in his life, the diagnosis was irrefutable – Michael was brain damaged. Research at the time was showing that by their adult years, many people diagnosed with FAS would be living on the streets, be on welfare, in and out of jail, and leading lives of quiet desperation.  Only time wold tell.

Our son is now 26. He lives in a group home during the week and is home with us from Friday through Sunday.  We’re happy to have a break from him during the week, and know it’s important for him to develop some independence, which he can in the the semi-independent living environment at the home.

He has become a sweet, mild-mannered young man, kind of heart.

Michael did drop out of school in Grade 9, as predicted. But last year he started a program here in Toronto at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) to get his GED (high school equivalency), and goes to classes four days a week. To date, he has had no success holding a job, he has few friends, can not manage money, prefers his own company, and would never do his laundry, shower or clean his room unless forced to.

He has become an excellent woodcarver. Several of his carvings have won awards.

The dire predictions made when he was six never came true, but Michael does not function well in the world. He needs family and professional supports daily.

We love our son, always have, and appreciate the many strides he has made in his life.

But something worries me. Last week, when he was home with us, he stole $20 from my purse to buy cigarettes. This is not the first time, and I’m afraid,  this may not be the last.

We saw him with this pack of cigarettes and couldn’t figure out how he got it. We knew he had no money. When asked about it, he started to lie.  With each word, he was digging himself deeper into the proverbial hole. I walked away. I couldn’t bear hearing him making things worse, adding lying to the list of crimes.

The next day, Michael admitted that he had stole the money.  He saw how upset I was. It was obvious he felt remorse.  His eyes filled up. Unprompted, he said he was sorry. He looked miserable, went to his room and threw himself on the bed. I believe he truly was sorry.

The trouble is, it doesn’t mean that the next time Michael is desperate for something (be it cigarettes, candy, a beer...), he will be able to control his impulses.  One of the characteristics of many people with FAS is poor impulse control, not to mention poor judgement.  It’s the nature of the beast.  He doesn’t stop to think about consequences of his action.  In the heat of the moment, he doesn’t care.

That night, I went online to one of my FASD Facebook support groups. I read messages from parents talking about their children who had stole money, food, and other valuables.  Many said they locked up money and everything else hey could. They hid food. One person put food and money in the trunk of her car. Several parents said it was their duty to not to have anything around to tempt their children.  It wasn’t their fault that they stole. It was part of the FASD package.

The children of these parents were all under 10.

At 26, Michael still has impulse control problems. He smokes too much, eats too much, and would drink too much if he could. He tries to cut down on everything, but it just doesn’t seem possible for him. But I did think he had outgrown stealing. It was a real shock to us that he clearly hadn’t.

Though we understand that people with FASD have particular neurobehavioural problems, my husband and I believe we had to hold Michael accountable for his actions.
Perhaps if the consequences are meaningful enough to him, perhaps, just perhaps, he will be able to control his impulses the next time he wants to steal. We have to do something.

Our decision was to not let him come home to be with us the following two weekends after the incident. Why would we want someone in our house who steals from us, we told him. Why would we want to be with someone we couldn’t trust?

Before he could come back, we asked Michael to write a letter to us explaining what he had done wrong;  why it was wrong; why he wanted us to trust him again; and what he was going to do to earn our trust again. We hoped to encourage him to think hard about his actions and to understand that things would have to change before he would earn our trust again.

He followed through.  He wrote some very thoughtful things, but of course, he’s no dummy. He knows what we want to hear.

Michael  is home this weekend and we can see he’s on his best behaviour.  But the truth is, if the opportunity and impulse arises for him to steal again, I’m not completely sure he won’t just go for it. I’ve hidden my purse.