Congrats to Grandma Janet Mary for receiving the prestigious Women Who Inspire Awards.
This special award was presented by The Sparrow Women Working Wonders Foundation. Janet competed with nominees from the entire Mid-Michigan area. The gala event was hosted by a variety of sponsors at the Lansing Center on November 9, 2009. It was a memorable evening for all who attended.
Grandma Janet Mary, as she is affectionately called, is the proud grandmother of 15 grandbabies, 7 boys and 8 girls. The oldest is only 8 years old!
"I are truly blessed,"she states. "My grandchildren continue to be my source of inspiration."
"The past 8 years have been an amazing journey," she will tell you. Her series of books include five published Children's stories and one inspirational book related to her hospice experiences, titled Ten Lessons Learned; Gifts from Those Remembered . Grandma Janet Mary continues to commit herself to the renewal of basic family values. She has spoken to over 40,000 school age kids and teachers and countless community groups.
She continues to face and deal with her own health challenges but refuses to let her Parkinson’s stand in the way of her goals. In August of 2008, she underwent brain surgery. The procedure known as Deep Brain Stimulation helps to control symptoms electronically thus improving quality of life for those afflicted with Parkinson's disease, However, it is not a cure. The surgery for Grandma Janet Mary was successful but the disease continues to slowly progress. This progression , however, has not diminished her spirit. She states, “In a strange but wonderful way, my Parkinson’s has been my greatest blessing because it has led me down a road I would have otherwise never traveled.” Her message is quite simple, “Make your memories today, for in the end, it’s all we really have.”
Now, as she continues to accept new challenges, another book quite different from the Grandma Janet Mary Series is now in print. It is titled,
Priscilla McDoodleNutDodlecMae Asks “Why”
Go to the web page dedicated to this new book. Take a peek at some of the extraordinary illustrations. Learn more about school presentations including a children’s theater production of this story. This book has a great message and has already touched the lives of thousands.
Grandma Janet Mary and her family continue to run their small publishing business. The books produced are regarded as labors of love.
She continues to live in St. Johns, Michigan with her husband, Mike. They have been married 38 years.
(In her own words)
To begin with, I am a pretty regular person. My husband and I have been married 38 years. We have 5 children and 15 grandchildren. Our oldest grandchild is only eight years old. So, we have lots of little ones. It’s great fun when we are all together. I LOVE BEING A GRANDMA! I love being a grandma so much that I began writing stories about the grandchild/grandparent relationship. That was about eight years ago but my love of reading and writing started way before then.
It started when I was about 5 years old. I never went to kIndergarten but that didn't stop me from wanting to read. I remember reading anything and everything, storybooks, cereal boxes, old magazines, newspaers and my mother's prayerbook. If I didn’t know a word I would ask my mother or father. Sometimes I pretended to know all the words and just continued on with what I was reading. When I did start school, reading was my favorite subject. I remember getting up early one morning, excited to get to school. I got dressed like I always did, walked out into the living room where my mother sat feeding my baby brother. She looked at me kind of funny and asked where I was going. I told her “To school, of course.” She smiled and said, “You can’t go to school today. Today is Saturday.” I remember crying that day because I couldn't go to school.
I grew up on a farm and lived in an old house with my dad and mom and my seven siblings. I shared one giant bedroom with my four sisters. There was very little privacy. Sometimes, we (my sisters and I) would draw lines on the floor to designate our individual boundaries. We argued and teased like most sisters and brothers but I remember having lots of fun.
It was a good life.
There were times, however, when I wanted to be alone to read and write. When those times occurred I would go to one very special place on that farm. It was an apple tree. The branches came out just right to form a seat. I felt very safe in that tree. It was a spot, I thought, made just for me, a spot where I would go to read stories like, Alice in wonderland and Tom Sawyer. I would sometimes write stories in that tree, stories about kings and queens and far away places, stories about my family and what I would be when I grew up. The winter months were rough because it was far too cold to sit in that tree, especially when the snow came. But, in the spring, when the earth was warmed and life sprang up anew, I would find myself sitting in that same old tree.
I remember it still.
I won my first writing contest when I was in 4th grade. I remember listening to the radio. It was a few weeks before Mother’s Day. The radio station announced an essay contest. The rules were simple. Write an essay about your mom and send it in. All entries would be judged and the winner would win a fabulous prize. So, I went to my apple tree, wrote my essay, sent it in and WON! My fabulous prize—dinner for three at this horrible restaurant. The food was terrible but I didn’t care. I remember feeling very proud. It was a big deal.
I continued to write while growing up. I penned stories, kept a journal, and was assistant editor for the school newspaper. But, upon graduation from high school I did not pursue a writing career. I became, instead, a registered nurse. I have worked as a registered nurse for over 35 years. The last 20 of those years have been devoted to the hospice experience. A hospice nurse is a nurse who cares for those who are dying. I can tell you, without a doubt, that I have learned much from those I have cared for. For years I wrote about my hospice experiences but always kept them neatly tucked away.
I never had any intention of becoming a published author.
Then life threw me a curve.
I started to notice a loss of strength. I was very tired most of the time. I could hardly write. My balance was off and my voice was weak. I began shaking with constant tremors. Something was wrong. “You have Parkinson’s,” the doctor said. “You have had it for quite sometime.”
I was 50 years old.
At the same time I was diagnosed with an intestinal disorder called Celiac Sprue disease. It was a tough time. I had no strength to meet the demands of my job. I had to step down. I was afraid and wondered where life would lead me.
Then a strange thing happened.
It was January 15, 2003. I call it "the night of my epiphany." I remember it well. I don’t know why I got up that particular night. It was not unusual to wake. Parkinson’s had caused fragmented sleep patterns before. Normally I would lie in bed and wait to drift back to sleep. But this night was different for this night brought me to a major turning point in the road of my life.
I remember sitting in the dark that night. My mind started to wander. I had just become a new grandmother for the first time to a beautiful little girl, and as I thought of her, two other faces came to mind: my grandmothers, a farmer's wife and a coal miner's wife. They were poor as far as material things go but rich in faith and love of family. Memories came flooding back. I sat for a long time thinking and pondering. Then, feeling an urgency to make these warm memories last, I picked up the pen and started to write. Somehow, the words all came in rhyme. I wrote story after story under the name of Grandma Janet Mary.
I sent my first manuscript to 54 different publishing companies. I was rejected 54 times. I’m not sure why but I was not discouraged. “What did they know?” I asked myself. I felt I had something good to offer ,a great message, and so with the help of my family, I established my own publishing company. I named it: My Grandma and Me Publishers.
I knew nothing about the publishing world but I was determined to learn.
Now, I am generally known by many as Grandma Janet Mary, author of the Grandma Janet Mary Series. In eight years the company has sold over 50,000 books. Several of my books have taken national awards. I have spoken to thousands of school children. My message is simple, “Make your memories today for in the end, it’s all we really have.”
Now, a new and different story emerges. It is titled: Priscilla McDoodleNutDoodleMcMae Asks “Why.” It is a delightful story with a wonderful message and although I love my grandma and grandpa books, this story is, in many ways, is my best work. (Go to the Priscilla web page and take a peek)
My goal now is to make the Priscilla story into an animated film. I feel strongly about the message of this story and that message is this: embrace diversity, celebrate difference, respect all people for we are, each of us blessed with our own individual gifts. These gifts when recognized can empower us to work together to make the world a better place.
I have often been asked, "If you could give one piece of advice, what advice would you share." So here it is in a nut shell.
" Look for blessngs not only in brilliant rays of summer sun but also in clouds of storm. Recognize your own individual worth, share your own unique gifts and put to use the power that lies within your own individual soul. That way in your own moment of final surrender when the eyes are closing and the heart is stilled, your spirit will look back and say,' WHAT A GREAT LIFE!'"
And so the journey continues. We shall see where the Spirit leads.