Well, folks, we’re on the downward slide toward the Orange Karen Anthology submission deadline on December 15th. We’ve had wonderful guest posts so far to inspire, entertain and inform. Today’s post by Jennifer Gracen will do all three. Prepare to laugh, cry and get goosebumps. As one of Karen’s kindred spirits, Jennifer know Karen better than most. Pull up a chair, grab a glass of scotch (and raise it in Karen’s honor), some kleenex and prepare to be moved.
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Karen DeLabar is my best friend. That’s a term I don’t throw around lightly. I am fortunate that I have many friends, and some really close ones. But Karen is my very best friend, a true soulmate, of which we get very few in life, if ever. And we only met fairly recently. We live in different states. She’s 11 ½ years younger than me. I met her through Twitter – no, I’m not kidding – in April 2011. But we had so much in common. Karen and I just instantly connected, hard and true. By the end of that summer, we were all but attached at the hip, texting & tweeting several times a day, on the phone several times a week, and met in person for the first time that July. We have become an integral part of each other’s lives. Two kindred spirits found one another. That kind of friendship is a gift that seems to be a rare find in adult life for some reason, so I cherish it, and her, that much more. God bless the Internet!
You’ve likely heard about how Karen fought the horrible illness that swept in out of nowhere last summer and almost killed her. You’ve heard about what a wonderful mother, wife, and friend she is. You’ve heard that she’s a writer who loves to support other writers, but did you know she just finished — WON — NaNoWriMo by hand writing her 50,000 words since she basically lost her left thumb as a result of this thing? That’s a prime example of her determination, grit, and unbreakable spirit, why we call her a warrior. So I’m just going to tell you a few more personal things about Karen, and you can get to know her a little better.
Karen’s a fighter. She lost a pinkie toe and most of her left thumb to this, and still has bouts of random, excruciating pain at times, but she doesn’t give up or give in. There are bad days where she’d like to. She’s just a human being, not a superhero. But she doesn’t, and that’s what counts. Some people, faced with what she deals with daily, would. When she was in the coma — a coma, you understand? — she took swings at nurses. I’m talking about boxing punches, folks. She was fighting even though she had enough drugs in her to down a horse and was intubated, which is apparently what pissed her off. When her husband texted me that from her hospital room, I literally laughed out loud and cried tears of joy, because it was so fabulous. THAT is Karen, I thought. She’s fighting like hell. She’s still in there. Thatta girl.
Karen’s funny, in a warm, goofy way. She’s the first one to laugh at herself, and never laughs at someone else’s expense. She even created (I think she created it, I could be mistaken; if not, she adopted it) the perfect word to describe herself: adorkable. And she totally is. Quick example: one night, a few of us were having a Skype hangout, talking and laughing. Out of nowhere, Karen just fell out of her chair. She wasn’t drunk. But FOOMP! Right to the floor. Then popped right back up. “I’m here! I’m here!” With a big smile on her face, like nothing had happened. Yeah, nice try, redhead. We all needled her about it because we were hysterical, and she laughed harder than the rest of us.
Or the time she and I were texting each other during one of her bad pain days, and I was trying to soothe and comfort her. In the middle of a serious, heartfelt sentence, my stupid phone decided to autocorrect my “honey” to “homey”. I didn’t see it until after I’d sent it. I’m a 42-yr-old white woman; I call people a lot of things, but “homey” isn’t on the list. And Karen was right on it, before I could type anything, texting me: “Dude. You just called me homey.” We both laughed so hard over it that the tears from seconds before were history. To this day, once in a while, she’ll slip in a “homey” crack to lighten a heavy moment.
Karen cares about people. And it shows, and people respond to that in a very visceral way. That’s why when Janelle Jensen and I posted a link on Twitter so people could send her an e-card if they wanted to, her hospital wall was quickly covered in printed out messages wishing she’d get well soon. From about 200 people she’d never met face to face, and likely never will. They sent things to the hospital, they talked about her on Twitter and Facebook, they told their real life prayer groups about her and asked for prayers that Karen would get well. The outpouring from the Internet was truly amazing, like nothing I’ve ever seen.
Bestie “Family” Photo: Jennifer Gracen (top left) and Janelle Jensen (top right) visiting Karen (front) in PA, May 25, 2012, ten days before Karen was rushed to the hospital.
I must tell you that Karen has been completely flabbergasted and confounded by the massive deluge of love in her direction these past few months. I understand her shock, and why she’s overwhelmed by it, and believe me, she is humbled by and grateful for it all. But me? I’m a little flabbergasted, but not confounded. Amazed and moved, yes. But I totally get why. Some special people simply touch others with their pure heart and spirit. Karen’s one of those people. She’s one of those rare individuals whose authenticity comes across even just in written words on a computer screen, and people respond to that. (Though I’m sure it also helps that she’s beautiful and has a smile like pure sunshine. #adorkable)
Karen is only thirty years old. She’s got more surgeries and recovery ahead of her as a result of this illness. But she’s got a lot of life to live yet, and she deserves to be able to do it without the constant scythe of massive medical bills hanging over her head. I want for her to be able to do all the things she used to do, like go to her daughters’ school trips and dance recitals, go to the gym, perform in her community theater, write novels, and laugh and love with her friends and family. She, her unbelievably supportive and wonderful husband, Eric, and their two beautiful daughters deserve to do that without the worry of enormous medical bills plaguing them, and possibly altering their lives any further than they’ve already been altered. Hopefully the proceeds from this anthology will help enable them to do that. I want that for Karen, because I love her so much. I don’t even think this gushy post expresses it adequately, but I tried. I just know I’m lucky to have her in my life, and many others feel that way too, so we wanted to help her somehow. I’m so grateful this illness didn’t take her away from everyone who loves, likes, and knows her, and am so grateful to each and every person who will buy this book.
Jennifer Gracen wears several hats: contemporary romance/women’s fiction writer, copy editor, social media addict, friend, wife, and (most important hat) mother of two young boys. If you’re interested in her writing, go to http://jennifergracen.wordpress.com If you’re interested in contacting her for copy editing services, go to http://jgce.wordpress.com