SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

March 8, 2013

Beverly mom contributes to 'Chicken Soup'

By Will Broaddus
Staff writer

---- — “Chicken Soup for the Soul” has been serving up heartwarming stories about dealing with life’s challenges since 1993.

The original volume has evolved into a series with more than 200 titles, but no matter how big the “Soup” empire grows, it is the individual stories gathered in each book that makes them all successful.

Stories by Jeneil Russell of Beverly will appear in two upcoming volumes, “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Parenthood,” which will be released on March 12, and “Chicken Soup for the Soul: Raising Kids on the Spectrum,” which is due out next month.

Russell and her husband, Brandon, have two daughters — Rhema, 9, and Hope, 6 — and she has been blogging for several years at rhemashope.wordpress.com about coping with Rhema’s severe autism.

When she heard “Chicken Soup” was collecting stories related to autism, Russell submitted a few blog entries and had work chosen for the two volumes.

The story in the autism volume describes a minor breakthrough, when Hope was trying to teach Rhema to give high-fives and is finally acknowledged by her sister.

“Listen and Learn,” in the parenting volume, describes spending an evening at a gala during which Russell challenged herself not to bring up her daughter’s autism while talking with other parents.

Her aim in this “test” was to learn not to see herself as completely defined by her daughter’s condition and to appreciate other parents’ challenges without comparing them to her own.

“I’ve always felt in the past that I’ve struggled relating, because I have a child that has such severe needs,” said Russell, a Dartmouth graduate who works in information technology for an investment firm. “If someone asked me about my daughter, I didn’t know where to start.

“I came to the realization that, even though our stories can be very different, there is a common thread in all of them,” she said. “We treasure our children. There are different things we go through as parents, but there are struggles for everyone.

“It was a good reminder of that, and really that night, it helped me be more comfortable with my own motherhood story.”