Wednesday, May 8, 2013

My name in ink

It's official. I am an author in print. I am 1 of 100 contributors in the book, "Lessons From My Parents". I had emails and correspondence confirming I was part of the project but couldn't really believe it until I saw it for myself.
It's a true story about an experience I had while living with my paternal grandparents while I was going to school at BYU.
 I submitted the essay in October, was notified I was accepted in January and the book was released in April. And all of a sudden, my name is in ink on a page. A dream fulfilled.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Becoming Un-Done

Ten minutes is not a nap.

One minute was enough time to track mud through the kitchen yesterday. Five minutes was long enough to argue with a child before she stormed out of the room last night. Eight minutes was the time it took to flood a bathroom this morning. Ten minutes is long enough to lose it and reconsider why you became a mom.

But it is definitely not a nap.

“Parker!” The blood pulsing in my eardrums competed with the cries of the baby. “Stop it right there,” I grumbled through clenched teeth and grabbed him by the arm as he made a last ditch effort to run past me. It had taken twenty-two minutes exactly to put that over-tired baby to sleep. I watched the clock tick with every ache in my back. With a controlled breath out, I slowly relaxed my grip on Parker’s arm.It’s been a long day and it’s not even lunch so pull—it—together, I told myself.

“What were you doing in the baby’s room?” I asked, in stiff, measured syllables. I squinted my eyes, trying to drown out the crying baby and the exhaustion that had been building all week.

“I need socks for soccer practice,” he said, his mouth left open, like, duh.

“Why on earth would your socks be in the baby’s room?”

“I don’t know. I was just looking everywhere.”

“Well, the baby’s room is off limits.” I let go of his arm already heading toward the baby. Parker followed, still asking where his socks were, trying to squeeze in and walk side-by-side in the narrow hall.

“Look in your laundry.” He turned and ran back down the hallway. “Your laundry in your room, not the stacks on the couch,” I called after him.

I walked reluctantly into the baby’s room, feet moving slowly like the Little Engine That Couldn’t. Looking over the rim of the crib, I stared at my crying baby girl, lying on her pink crocheted blanket, her pacifier clutched in her frantic fist. I don’t know what else to give you, I thought. You’ve been nursed, burped, changed and rocked to sleep and now I have nothing. I hadn’t realized I was crying until I saw my tears mix with hers on her flushed cheeks.

“Mom?” a small voice called from behind. “Mom, I hungee.” I felt small hands wrap around my leg.

How long had I been crying? Where are the children? What are we going to eat? My drained mind filled with questions as I picked up my baby. I didn’t know what to tell my 3-year-old daughter, Camille. I hadn’t been to the store for a week and the cupboards and fridge were bare. “Apples,” I mumbled, picking up the still crying baby.

Heading for the kitchen and already wanting to call it quits, the state of the family room put me over the edge. The furniture was covered by clean clothing that had, minutes before, been folded in a basket on the couch. I followed a trail of socks through the family room, into the kitchen, like a prisoner on a death march. Each step released any resolve or strength I had held in reserve. I was done, finished. It was over. I was as empty as the overturned laundry basket.

Camille held out an apple with a bite taken out of it. “Yucky,” she said, through pinched, disgruntled lips. Without breaking the rhythm of my march, I opened the fridge to get her a new, un-desecrated apple. Five apples in the produce drawer and every one of them had already been sampled and placed back into the fridge.

I didn’t blink. I didn’t care. I was already done. I stared at Camille, my eyes wide and vacant as she looked back at me, expectantly.

The doorbell rang. Wiping a fresh pool of tears from under my eyes, I answered the door to find my visiting teacher, Joyce.

“Hi Karin,” she said, hesitating before handing me a plate of cookies. “If I don’t give these away, I’ll eat them all myself.”

I rearranged the loosely swaddled baby in my arms to take the plate but Camille beat me to it, rushing back into the kitchen, already pulling the plastic wrap off the plate. My eyes lingered down the hall after her, relieved that she now had something to eat.

“Are you OK?” Joyce asked, pulling back my attention.

“Yes,” I smiled, nervously, unsettled by the confused looked on her face. “Yes, of course. We were just getting hungry around here so thank you so much for the cookies.” I tried to push the image of the family room buried in laundry out of my mind, wondering how long and loud the baby would cry while I cleaned it up.

“Are you sure?” she asked again, smiling wider.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” I smiled, placing my hand on the door, indicating it was time for me to get back to my family. Joyce took the cue. “Let me know if there is anything I can do for you,” I recited along with her in my mind.

I closed the door and let the emotion wave over me again. Five minutes was too long to put on a show today. My eyes drifted to my reflection in a decorative mirror in the entryway and I stared, paralyzed. Squinting, I leaned in to get a good look at the face in the reflection. Red eyes stared back, blank and baffled. Mascara ran down my blotchy cheeks.

Everything I tried to hide was running down my cheeks, calling my bluff in dark, wet streaks.
This is ridiculous, I thought, embarrassed at being caught in my own deception. “I’m done being done,” I told my reflection. “I can’t do this alone.” Who am I trying to fool anyway? And why? Empowered with a strength born of humiliation, I called after my visiting teacher.

“Joyce,” I called. “I’ve got a laundry basket I need to fill and I could use some help. Do you have a minute?”

Friday, April 12, 2013

Recently published essay - Losing Eleanor

I am so excited about my recently published essay. Read it HERE!  This is the essay I was working on in this post. It was a lot of work and such a fantastic learning experience. This essay is especially exciting for me in two ways.

First, it is published in the Segullah on-line literary journal. This holds a little more distinction than being published on a blog. I love that I have been published on other websites and I don't mean to discredit them at all,but a literary journal is different. It serves a different purpose and just carries a little more weight in my mind. Exciting, yes?

Second, the essay is about my mother-in-law, Eleanor and her fight with Alzheimer's disease. It was pretty emotional to write, based on an experience we shared. The editing was brutal and required me to dig deeper than I had when I first wrote the experience. The whole thing is close to my heart, from Eleanor, to the experience, to the final publication. 

I hope you enjoy reading the essay. And since you're on the Segullah site, browse around a bit. They really do offer wonderful literary works of art.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Celebrate good times - c'mon

Earlier this week, I posted this picture on facebook and said this:
"2nd revision. 2 day deadline on Saturday. So, I'm giving myself a little time to cry and I'll eat something really bad for me then I guess I'll get to work. There's a lot more red than black on these pages. I'm just sayin'.... "

It's the 2nd revision from my editor at Segullah. (That's still thrilling to say... My Editor. I'm learning to own it, Jen.) My deadline was in 2 days and I was feeling the crunch on top of children's homework, a family wedding and cousins visiting from California with whom I really wanted to spend time.

So I sat at the computer, said a prayer and started to revise. A little later a friend came to the door bearing a gift. A cold, chocolately ice cream gift. A little later in the day, another friend stopped by with a bag of goodies, some of my favorite goodies, involving chocolate and peanut butter.

They both relayed sentiments similar to the many amazing comments on facebook. Beautiful validation and support.

My heart swelled like a sponge soaking in the outpouring of love and friendship I felt from those reaching out to offer encouragement and support, through their words, well wishes and thoughtful gifts. Who am I to deserve any of this?

As I've reflected on this over the weekend, I've learned two things.

#1. I want to be that kind of friend to others. Because it's a big deal and goes a long way to feel so much love. I want to support and encourage friends as they achieve goals and work toward their dreams. I want to be aware of and involved in what my friends, family, spouse and children are doing so I can offer the same love and strength to them with which I have been so blessed. 

The problem is I'm sort of a blockhead and I'm just not that aware. Too often I'm not paying attention, I'm wrapped up in myself or just plain distracted. It happens, doesn't it? We want to do something. We're ready and willing, we just don't know who or how. That leads me to #2.

#2. Say Something. Let your friends and family know what you're working on, dreaming about, struggling with. We want to know! (And you may get yummy treats and amazing words of affirmation.) I'm reminded of the book "Mutant Message Down Under" by Marlo Morgan. She writes about the lessons she learned on a walk-about with an aboriginal tribe. At one point, she is trying to describe birthday parties to the tribe and they are clueless. They don't celebrate birthdays.

"If you don't celebrate getting older," I said, "what do you celebrate?"
"Getting better," was the reply. "We celebrate if we are a better, wiser person this year than last. Only you would know, so it is you who tells the others when it is time to have the party."
And later in the book -
" is in recognition of the uniqueness and contribution to life. They believe that the purpose for the passage of time is to allow a person to become better, wiser, to express more and more of one's beingness. So if you are a better person this year than last, and only you know that for certain, then you call for the party. Whe you say you are ready, everyone honors that."

LOVE this concept. Hence, one of the reasons I posted on facebook in the first place. And I'm so grateful to the friends who are joining me in my journey and my celebration. 

And for the rest of us knuckleheads, let's all celebrate with each other more often. Just remember, YOU can be the one to tell us when it is time to have the party!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Red Forest: Prologue v1.0

The branches seemed to leap in front of her deliberately and swallow her deeper into the dark, empty voids of the forest, grasping angrily at her pale brown cape, like the sticky tendrils of a blind, hungry monster. The trees seemed to shift before her in a tangled and ominous dance, forming an endless maze of shadow and fear. The young girl stumbled to a stop and leaned her hand against a tree, gasping for breath. Her fingers were dirty and scratched from reaching for branches and dirt to steady herself as she raced through the forest. At almost every turn she lost her footing, fell and scrambled to stand and keep running. Her fingers told the story. Her blond hair had fallen loose from her bun, matted with leaves and dirt, and hung dirty and ragged around her young, pale face. She turned and leaned her back against the tree, resting her head against the rough bark. Her breath came out in heavy, wheezing gasps. Hot tears fell from her closed eyes, creating dirty brown rivers down her cheeks. She clenched her eyes tightly shut and willed herself to wake up, but all she saw was the vicious face of the predator hunting her.

The afternoon began with an innocent hide-and-seek game at the edge of the forest with her 5-year-old little sister before dinner. While the younger sister found her way back to the village on her own, the older sister wandered deeper into the forest, responding to the reckless craving of youth to explore and experience the mysteries of the unknown. She was fifteen and more bold than she should have been, believing the dangerous rumors of wolves in the forest were cautions only for the faint of heart. The setting of the sun had mercilessly and sufficiently demolished her naïve confidence in the invincibility of youth and launched her into a terrifying nightmare.

She heard the snap of a twig and jumped, stifling her scream with her shaking hand, eyes wide open. Her heart struggled to race faster than it already was. The force of adrenaline and blood through her body was almost unbearable. She scanned the shadows surrounding her, blue eyes wide with paralyzing fear. A snarl a few yards behind her shot enough adrenaline through her to start moving again. She clutched the front of her torn, yellow dress in her trembling hands and started running frantically, as the prey before the predator. She looked behind her and couldn’t see any movement but the horrible sound of pursuit pounded in her brain and seemed to echo all around her. The snarling pant of the wolf behind her, ever-present in her mind, screamed at her, “run!”

The wolf pursued his marked prey. The trail she left was like a brilliant streak of light through the forest. Though he could have taken his time and given her a lead, he was anxious. It had been many long years since anyone had been foolish enough to venture this far into the woods. He plowed through the trees with agility and enthusiasm. He saw a flash of yellow fabric dash behind a trunk. It was tattered and dirty. The sight of it thrilled him. He slowed his speed slightly and quieted his padded feet, veering to the left. His surprise attack would come swiftly from another direction. He was minutes away from his target.

Frantically, the young girl raced on, pushing aside the underbrush that seemed to grow taller with every step. The snarl so close behind urged her on. Each breath hurt as she sucked air into her aching lungs. It was never enough and she began to feel light headed and confused for the lack of oxygen. Panting and faint, her body involuntarily began to slow down. Her head dropped and she stumbled over a protruding root. She knew she was defeated when she hit the forest floor. It was eerily quiet and the trees seemed to spin in a slow circle around her. In a daze, she raised her eyes and saw a path in front of her.

She scrambled to her wobbling knees. She recognized this path. It was well-used by those coming into the forest to hunt, trap, harvest roots and herbs, or to find a place of solitude. She felt a flicker of hope burn through her exhaustion and despair. Somebody might see or hear her and come to her aid. In her focus on getting to the path, she never heard the wolf attack from the side. The wolf tore into her without reserve and relished the victory of the chase. He pulled her back into the forest and shared her with his pack. After his appetite was satisfied, the wolf searched the area for the young girl’s cape. With her scared scent all over it, it was not hard to find. He left it near the path, as a reminder and marker of his territory.

The same night, the villagers sent out a search party. Walking the path, they quickly came upon the cape. It was tattered and torn but easily recognizable as hers. It was no longer brown, but red, stained with her own blood. The somber news of the young girl’s horrible death spread like wildfire through the village. So did the new name of the forest, Red Forest.