It all started with me trying my hand at publishing a parenting newspaper when my fifth youngest son turned three. Just days before the first issue hit the stands, I took my kids to Tampa, Florida, for my yearly visit to my aunt. I was cooped up in a two-bedroom house with
five kids. I was in the same city where I had experienced a failed first marriage. My aunt was absent-minded. My uncle was ailing.
I wrote a first person account about my two-week ordeal and used it in the premier edition of the newspaper. I titled it “Incidentally, Iris” in case I came up with any other things I wanted to reflect on in future issues. And I signed off with the phrase “Keep Coping” — which was about the only thing that I managed to do during that visit, albeit not very gracefully.
Since that time 27 years ago, I’ve written over 600 columns, on a vast number of topics — parenting and family issues, major milestone events, health and well-being challenges, goals attained and those that fell short, losses avoided and losses sustained. Honors. Awards. Hard won wisdom. Empty nest. Empty heart. Maintaining relations with adult children. Long distance grand parenting.
At first I believed my column was so well-received because my children, my husband, and my life were just so interesting that no one could resist reading about my experiences. Over time, I observed that almost every bit of feedback I received dealt with my readers’ unique responses to both my world and my words — in relation to their own life and personal concerns.
When I wrote about losing my grandmother at such a young age, people who had experienced premature loss spoke up.
When I wrote about the poignancy in watching my “average” children excel — and sometimes not excel — in school and extra-curriculars, people who also had “average” children spoke up.
When I wrote about coming to terms with the sadness involved in watching my children grow up and leave home (or not leave home when they should), people who had experienced that same sadness spoke up.
When I wrote about the delight of stealing a few moments of solitude and relaxation in the midst of a busy day of responsibilities and deadlines, people who also had time constraints and never ending pressure spoke up.
Readers approached me in doctors’ offices, at Little League games, and in grocery store lines. By mail. Then by text and phone message. The feedback was and continues to be centered around my ability to figuratively reside in my readers’ kitchens — to mirror their thoughts, hopes, fears, goals and aspirations.
When I started, I thought I was writing a column about me. But it didn’t take me a long time to realize it really was about my reader. Recognizing that, I expanded into publishing a book of my earliest columns in 1996, Slices, Bites and Other Facts of Life and launched a motivational speaking career.
Here’s some feedback:
Iris is a GPS for the spirit.
Iris is a far from perfect woman who knows life’s tough, but beautiful.
Iris is all about what real women relate to.
Iris is a slice-of-life writer/speaker who peels back the layers.
Iris’s writing is informative without being boring; fluffy without being insignificant.
Upon retirement in the spring of 2013, I began the technology catch-up essential to spreading my wings. My means of communicating has evolved, but my core mission/message remains constant: fostering connection, encouraging coping, cultivating greatness and preserving my followers’ bloom and mine.
Let’s do it together.