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Karen DeLabar: This is Simply My Story – Orange Karen Anthology Countdown (Day 15)

By now, Karen DeLabar should need no introduction. She’s the “Orange Karen” we’ve been writing about on this blog for the past two weeks. She’s the reason we’re doing this anthology. She is our friend, our inspiration and our warrior. Today marks the deadline for accepting submissions to the Orange Karen Anthology. Some of you know Karen, some of you don’t. But none of you (save a few) know the whole story about Karen’s sudden, and deathly illness, and how she came out alive, swinging fists after a long battle.

She still struggles with typing, and often writes by hand before dictating it to her computer. I can only imagine how difficult it was for her to reflect on the past six months and try to put into words what happened. But she did it. This kid’s got moxie, folks. Oodles of it.

It is my absolute honor to share with you Karen’s story, written by the one, the only, the true Orange Warrior, Karen DeLabar.

Note: Karen has put up some pictures on her website which further depict her battle with Toxic Shock Syndrome and her recovery. While some of the pictures may be graphic, they show the marvels of modern medicine and they show the resilient spirit of our dear friend.

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This is simply my story.

It started like any other Saturday. Eric was rushing around trying to get the kids ready and I was being lazy not wanting to get out of bed. Until, that is, I realized what was happening this Saturday. That evening was our oldest daughter’s very first dance recital. I was beyond excited. If you know me you know I love theater, the arts, entertaining. The thought of my daughter following in my footsteps just makes me want to push her out of the spotlight and take her place. Just kidding. 😉

As the day went on I started to feel tired, run down. I brushed it off thinking it was just the normal mom feeling of having to do everything in a short amount of time. I remember swaying back and forth as I tried to perfect her braid and scolding myself for doing a half-assed job.

Lily ready to take the stage at her dance recital

Lily ready to take the stage at her dance recital

When we got to the recital I started to shake with cold sweats. Taking shallow breaths and hoping not to pass out in the wings, I watched my little ballerina hit every move. After her second dance I couldn’t stand any more and opted to go home to bed. After tossing and turning that night and the following day with a high fever, Eric took me to the ER Sunday night. The night nurses took my blood, found nothing out of the ordinary, gave me fluids and sent me on my way, diagnosing it as a viral infection.

Under this advisement I went home and spent all of Monday in bed as severe pain ravaged my body, especially in my neck, shoulder, and abdomen. By Tuesday morning I was vomiting and too weak to even stand. Eric and I actually discussed not going to the hospital because of cost but I soon felt too sick to care and insisted we go. We later learned that had I not gone to the ER that Tuesday morning I would have died Tuesday night.

The total time from onset to fatality, four days.

I spent all day in the ER and after test after test with no answer as to what my ailment was I was admitted into the ICU that night. The last thing I remember was turning to the doctor, pointing to Eric and telling her to make sure he ate something. Another doctor looked down at me and said, “Lie back, we need to intubate you.”

When Eric left that night I was just intubated, when he walked into the room the next morning I was hooked up to 13 different machines. My body went into shock and they couldn’t figure out why. Just overnight I lost blood flow to my hands and feet; the toxins then pooled where there was decreased blood causing an intense rash which then turned to blisters which popped open and left open wounds. Disgusting, angry, limb losing wounds.

I lost my left thumb almost immediately. The infection was causing my body to throw out random clots. I was also placed on four machines that are designed to pull your blood to your core. The machines saved my heart, and my life, but they doomed my hands and feet. My family watched as my extremities turned black knowing there was nothing they could do to stop it.

At one point I had 19 extra liters of fluid in my body. Think of a 2 liter bottle of soda. That’s a lot of soda.

The doctors were stumped, they had no idea what was causing my sickness. I was dubbed the sickest person in the hospital by the Dean of Medicine. I’m still waiting for my plaque.

My heart was only pumping at 25 to 30% and there was concern that my body wouldn’t be able to handle the severe attack of the infection. However, thanks to the sheer determination of the many doctors and nurses on my case, a day and a half after they started antibiotics I started to turn around.  At this point I was placed on hypnotics which allowed me to respond to the doctors but I would have no recollection of the events.

I woke up 10 days later to my husband and brother looking down on me with big goofy grins on their faces. Two days later we had a cause. A culture finally came back with toxic shock antibodies. My infection had a name, and it was Toxic Shock due to strep. Yep, your everyday strep got into my blood and there you have it. It’s cause is still unknown. It was NOT caused by tampons, or the mud run I had just raced in, or anything like that. Somehow strep got into my blood and tried it’s damnedest to kill me.

We were told that 8 out of 10 don’t survive what I went through. My doctors attribute my survival to three main reasons:

1. My age. I went through all of this, which includes mastering the bedpan, just a few short weeks of my 30th birthday.

2. My strength. Before my illness I was working out five days a week, sometimes twice a day. I would have loved to have been awake when the doctor told my mom, who used to criticize my workout schedule, that my physical strength was one of the reasons I survived.

3. I’m stubborn. My body basically refused to quit. They had me on enough narcotics and medicine to down a 300 pound man for a week, and yet I was struggling with nurses to remove my own tube, even tried to punch one who went to stop me. I struggled to let them know that I was still inside, that I was still fighting.

During that week and a half in the ICU I was placed on a dialysis machine, had several blood transfusions and more than one central line put in to administer medicines. The last one I had went straight into my neck and into a main vein; it was put into place right before I woke up. I kinda miss that one. They’d put in pain meds and before they were down pushing it all in, I would be out. Until the one nurse left the syringe in my neck and I didn’t realize it.

“Karen…” Eric asked me ever so cautiously, “is that a syringe hanging out of the side of your neck?”

I brought my hand up and lightly touched around what they called the IJ (inter-jugular) pick.

“Why, yes, yes it is.” And I went back to reading.

He spent the rest of the afternoon calling me “Frankenwife”.

After a month in the hospital and physical rehab facility I was released to go home on July 4th; a day that is now my own little Independence Day.  I thought I was in the home stretch, but my recovery was only beginning.

When the podiatrist first saw me he said the worst case scenario was double amputation up to my knees. No one should ever have to hear those words. I never felt so helpless in my life. I just kept thinking about my two little girls at home; how I could never dance or run with them again. He recommended a hyperbaric chamber to help circulation in my feet to aid in the healing. For 55 days I spent two hours breathing pure oxygen at twice the atmospheric pressure. I laid in that gigantic glass tube, completely closed off from the rest of the world watching “Frasier” reruns on Lifetime. It could have been worse.

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The hyperbaric chamber (L); Karen gets ready for one of many hyperbaric chamber treatments (R)

My afternoons were spent at various doctors, cardiologists, hand therapists, and surgeons.

With every appointment I continued to defy the odds. They told me that it would take at least six months for my heart to recover. By the end of July it was already back to normal. When August rolled around it looked like my feet were going to be saved, minus a pinkie toe.

My thumb was still the only question mark.

The first hand surgeon wanted to amputate it, sew my new stub of a thumb to my groin and grow a new thumb from there. Yeah. Let me just walk around with my hand down my pants for six weeks. I’m sure no one would notice.

But thanks to a second opinion I am now working with a brilliant micro surgeon out of the University of Penn. I am currently undergoing a series of surgeries to reconstruct my thumb using tissue from my arm.

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“Look ma, a new thumb!”

I don’t remember anything from those 10 days in which I fought for my life. A part of me wants to but looking at the sadness in my family’s eyes when they recall that time I’m guessing it’s for the better that I don’t. What I do remember is waking up to two whole walls of the ICU room covered in get well cards. Nurses and doctors would randomly come in, hug me, kiss my forehead and thank God I pulled through.  My social media sites, Twitter feed, Facebook wall, were filled with seemingly endless posts of prayers, well wishes and notes of people wanting to help.

I have never been so overwhelmed in all of my life.

I’ve learned a lot this past year, patience, humility but most of all what friendship and love really means. I’ve learned to be thankful for the smallest things and I’ve gotten pretty good at finding the silver lining in darker moments.

I learned to laugh at myself.

Everyone who looks at my hands and my troubled gait say they’re so sorry that this happened to me. But please, don’t feel sorry for me; never feel sorry for me.

I’m alive, and I’m in control of my recovery.

But I am sorry. I am sorry for my parents. They had to watch their only daughter’s hands and feet turn black before their eyes, knowing there was nothing they could do to stop it. I’m sorry for my husband who called up his parents to tell them to come say goodbye to me and how he had to figure out what to say to two little girls about their mommy who went to the hospital and didn’t come back.

But I’m most sorry for my two little girls who knew nothing of what was going on and just wanted their mommy to hold them. That’s who you should be sorry for, for my loved ones who had to watch me fight this and could do nothing to help.

However, that is all in the past. So instead of feeling sorry, I try to remember to celebrate. I’m here for birthday parties, holidays, smelling honeysuckle waft through the air on a cool June night. And yes, I’m even excited to be here to potty train our soon to be three year old.

Life is truly a blessed and beautiful thing. I have many reminders by way of scars, pain, and overall way of life that reminds what I went through to ensure that I have a life to live. Whenever pettiness and pride creeps in to ruin my day I just have to look down to my hands or feet to remember how precious life is and what really matters.

I urge you to stop and take some time to yourself and be thankful for all that you have because within four days it could all be gone.

I want to quickly give thanks to everyone who has worked on this site, submitted posts, submitted stories for the anthology, and is currently working on putting everything together. Another big hug and thanks to all my friends and family who have rallied behind us during this trying time. To my doctors, nurses, therapists, pharmacies, and hospital staff, thank you for your dedication to help others. And last, but not least, my husband, Eric. Yours was the last face I saw before I went out and the first one I saw when I woke up. I want to keep it that way. 

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A DeLabar Family Christmas 2012

Soft on the Outside: Orange Karen Anthology Countdown – Day 6

Cara Michaels ushers in Day 6 of the Orange Karen Anthology Countdown with a great post about the power of human will. So if you Inkslingers are thinking about wanting to submit a short story to the anthology, there’s only a handful of days left until the deadline (December 15, 2012) have a read of Cara’s post and dig in for some will and hit the keys with renewed vim and vigor! Once you’re all motivated, read up on the Submission Guidelines.

*****

Soft on the Outside

Cara Michaels

A good friend and I have spent time discussing the power of human will in recent months. Could we change things in our lives simply by changing how we thought about them? Did a lot of the crap in our lives begin with the crap we expected to experience?

We humans spend an awful lot of time talking about people, places, jobs, events…especially those that make our lives not so great. We want people to ‘vent’ to, to spew our misery on empathetic ears. Maybe we get some positive feedback. Maybe we just get commiseration, because oh yeah, our friends and loved ones all have a laundry list of people, places, jobs, and events, too.

We wallow. A lot.

Until one day, the news spreads of a dear friend’s illness. Along with this news come pleas for positive thoughts, prayers, love, juju: Whatever you’ve got in your spiritual arsenal, will you please send it her way? Because this isn’t a mundane illness. This bastard could take our friend out of this world any moment. Days, hours, minutes… it’s all touch and go. Maybe she’ll respond to treatment. And maybe she won’t.

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Karen DeLabar, Our Orange Warrior

We’re pretty soft on the outside. Prone to illness, injury, wear and tear. Plus we let the day to day worries bruise us and knock us down emotionally and spiritually. But then a life and death moment comes along to wash away the small concerns. A moment to recognize how incomprehensible and frightening the world can be. She’s not even 30. She has a husband… two beautiful little girls. How can this happen? Why did this happen?

While Karen’s illness didn’t prompt the talks between me and my friend, she provided plenty of real world examples of the power of human will. We get to go through most of our days without having our resolves truly tested. Sure, we have ups and downs, triumphs and sorrows. But we should be grateful every day we don’t face the life and death moments, and perhaps the biggest question we answer in life: If the worst happens, how do we carry on?

It’s a question Karen’s family faced day in and day out during her hospitalization, even as they tried to stay positive.

When it comes down to it, maybe the hows and whys don’t matter. Maybe all that matters is we offered any support we could. We climbed to our feet and we stood together. Such an outpouring of love, hope, and help reached out to Karen and her family. And… in the face of terrifying illness, Karen survived. The illness left its marks, permanent reminders of how fragile our bodies are. Reminders in the form of surgeries, scars, therapy. Ten days of illness has yielded six months of recovery and it’s still going. But her survival gives testimony to the strength of the human spirit.

We may be soft on the outside, but we’re pretty damn tough on the inside.

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About Cara Michaels

A left-handed, right-brained Gemini with stories to tell, I have been writing since childhood. I suffer from an extremely low boredom threshold and can typically be found tinkering with half a dozen projects. Occasionally all at once.

Many of her projects can be found on her website. She also tweets on the Twitter and has an author page on Facebook.

The Family We Make for Ourselves – Orange Karen Anthology Countdown: Day 5

Yesterday,  Tim Queeney wrote about an unspoken connection with his father and the ties that brought them together. Today, Janelle Jensen talks about a very special long-distance connection that turned into a deep and loving friendship. One with a certain Orange Warrior. Have a box of kleenex handy. Oh, and before your eyes get too watery, remember that the deadline for the short story anthology submission is coming up on December 15th! Submission guidelines are here for you to read. But first, a post from the lovely Janelle Jensen.

Oh, one more thing, our good friend Troy Aaron Ratliff, writer, photographer and artist extraordinaire has created a few “Orange” products with proceeds going to Orange Karen and her medical costs. The amazingness that is his Zazzle site can be found here. The coasters, water bottle and laptop sleeve would all make fantastic Christmas presents!

P.S. Happy birthday, Janelle!!

*****

The Family We Make for Ourselves

Oftentimes on our birthdays (Yes, it’s mine today. Be kind.), we look back at all the year has brought us. These things may be good, bad, or simply change from what used to be. I am thankful for many things that this year has brought me, but one thing stands out above the rest. Friends.

I have met many wonderful people on Twitter and Facebook, most of whom are part of the writing groups that I belong to. It’s an amazing community of people for which I am most grateful.

I was lucky enough to be able to meet some of those people in person this year. After many conversations through online chatting, texts, and phone calls, I was able to finally meet the stunning Karen DeLabar in person at the end of May. Okay, so maybe I stalked her first and invited myself over to go see a concert together, but that’s semantics.

That weekend brought good music, great laughter, and bound our friendship even closer. I mean c’mon, if I took your dog out in the morning you’d love me too! Jennifer Gracen also came out that weekend to spend time with us, so I had the pleasure of meeting her for the first time in person, as well.

I couldn’t have been happier. We were already making plans to return at the end of June to celebrate Karen’s 30th birthday, in grand New York City style. I drove home from Pennsylvania that weekend with a heart full of joy.

This photo was taken at the Flogging Molly concert with Karen and her husband, Eric on May 24th. I never could have guessed what would happen next.

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Mosh Pit Girls!

Ten days later, on June 4th, Karen started feeling ill with a high fever and severe body pain. She texted me saying that she couldn’t stay to watch her daughter dance because she was so sick. She went to the ER the next day, where they treated her symptoms and sent her home. When she started feeling worse instead of better, Eric took her back to the ER to figure out what was going on and get her feeling better.

By June 6th, Karen had been admitted to the hospital. Overnight they put her on a ventilator and a dozen lines as her body and system began to shut down.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. Our own bright, vivacious redhead who went to the gym nearly every day, who was so full of spirit, who I had just spent a fabulous weekend with, was now lying in a medically induced coma on a hospital bed in the ICU fighting for her life.

I was devastated.  I cried, I screamed, I swore, I prayed. It is never easy when something like this happens to someone, whether you know them personally or not. When it happens to someone that you truly love and is a soulful and kindred sister of the heart, it destroys you.

As the team of doctors fought to save Karen’s life, her friends rallied around her. We sent out call to arms for positivity and prayers to be sent to her. People who didn’t even know Karen started praying for her. Her room was flooded by get well cards that we were able to fill out and send to her via the hospital’s network. Which I still believe is beyond amazing – hear me, hospitals? You need to ALL do this!

Eric quickly stepped up and became our lifeline. I will forever be thankful to this man, this incredible man who let us know throughout the day how Karen was doing and what was going on. Eric was there for Karen every day, every hour, every minute, showing us all what a real man is made of. He has earned a special place in my heart. Forever.

It would get scarier before it got better, but our girl is a fighter. We don’t call her the Orange Warrior for nothing. Think Cheetos, not hair color. Anyone that tries to punch a nurse for not taking out the ventilator is most definitely a fighter. Finally, on June 14th our girl came back to us. They took her off the vent, reduced her pain meds, and allowed her to wake up.

When I got her short text message on June 16, I completely lost it. Broke down and bawled on the couch before I jumped up and shouted for joy. My friend was BACK!

Our plans to celebrate Karen’s birthday may have been changed, but there was nothing in the world that could have stopped me from seeing her that weekend. If I had to crawl on my hands and knees all the way to PA, I was going to be there. I would have had to leave earlier, but I would have made it. Amy Thompson Weaver and I traveled from our homes to the home of Jennifer Gracen, where we all hugged each other, cried, and rejoiced that Karen had fought her way out of darkness. There may have been wine involved, as well.

We all piled in the car, made a few lost turns, and eventually made it to Karen’s bedside where we all broke down and cried on her. I don’t think the fact that we couldn’t stop touching her to make sure she was sitting there in front of us put her off. Too much.

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The Beauty of Friendship

The road to recovery has not been an easy one for her. In fact, it is now the beginning of December, six months later, and she still battles it every day. She went through sixty hyperbaric chamber treatments to restore tissue and blood flow back to her extremities, she goes to therapy to restore function and movement to her hands and feet, and now she is finally back in the gym that she loves trying to gain back the physical strength that she lost.

Luckily, she only lost a pinky toe. And really, who needs a pinky toe? More room for stiletto shoes! And she is right now in the process of undergoing several surgeries to replace and reconstruct the damaged, dead tissue on her thumb. Otherwise, she made it back to her adoring husband and two precious girls, the family she fought so hard to get back to, her driving force to return to life.

Her passion for life continues every day. Of course, she’s human just like the rest of us. She has good days and bad days. There are days when the physical pain is overwhelming from her body still trying to recover. But her positive attitude always triumphs.

On Thanksgiving, I told her the one thing I was most thankful of was that I was able to tell her Happy Thanksgiving. That she was there, on the other end of the line. That she was in my life, and in her family’s life.

As I mentioned before, the thing I am most thankful for, that this year has brought me, is friendship. I started talking with Karen on Twitter in the spring of 2011. I finally met her in person in May of 2012. This may not seem like a long time to some, when sometimes we carry our friends with us from childhood into our adult life.

However, when I met Karen, I knew. I knew right away. We were kindred spirits. I call her my sister of my heart. She is one of my best friends. I’ve known her only a few short years, and I feel like I have known her my entire life. I know that I will treasure our friendship until I’m old and wrinkled. Probably surrounded by thirty cats and twelve dogs.

But above all else, there is light. Especially now, when her Christmas decorations rival the Griswold’s (Eric’s nickname of Sparky should give you a hint) and her two adorable girls’ eyes glow at the mention of Santa, the internal light that shines out of Karen brings me to tears of joy.

Now Karen battles something else besides her health. Her medical bills. Insurance handles some of the cost, but as we all know far too well, it is not nearly enough. Especially when you spend a month laid up in the hospital and in a rehabilitation center. So now, I put forth another call to arms. A call to my fellow writers who are reading this asking what else they can do to help. I put to you a challenge, to stir up your creativity and to help a fellow writer in need at the same time.

We are collaborating on an anthology of stories by talented writers, with every single penny of the proceeds going directly to Karen and her family to aid in paying her medical bills. Where do you come in? We need writers! That’s write! Yes, that pun was intended. Remember, it’s my birthday? Be kind.

We need your fantastic minds to contribute to make this anthology a success. We need writers of all genres, no story is too great or small. Okay, yes there are guidelines. I’ll get to that. Let your story be inspired by one word – ORANGE! – and you’re set!

The writing community never fails to amaze me with their ability to band together and help a fellow friend in need. Please help us as we gather together to help one now.

Your time, your friendship, your love . . . it means the world to me. And I know it means everything to Karen DeLabar.

Find out more about our mission and the anthology!
Orange Karen: A Tribute to a Warrior

Interested in submitting for the cause? Find out how you can help!
Submission Guidelines

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After tak­ing years off of writing, Janelle Jensen’s self imposed hia­tus has now ended. She has fun writing flash fic­tion pieces, which can be found at janellejensen.com, and is hard at work writing her novel. She finds inspi­ra­tion in the imagery of words, as well as through the cam­era she often has stuck to her face. When she is not play­ing with words she can often be found vol­un­teer­ing at a wolf research and edu­ca­tion park, where she works with her real-life muses.

Defying the Odds: The Orange Karen Countdown Series

Happy December everyone! ‘Tis the season for twinkly lights on houses, packed parking lots at the shopping mall, and way more fruit cake than society needs. Christmas specials are already on the major TV networks and commercials and littered with stuff you’ve just gotta have.

All commercialism aside, this holiday season is a time to reflect upon the year and be with those we love. Every day for the next two weeks, we’ll be hosting a series of writers who have Big Love for a certain orange-headed warrior, Karen DeLabar. We love her, we feel inspired by her and we want to help her out. We hope you do too.

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The deadline for short story submissions is fast approaching – December 15th. Submission guidelines can be found here. But before you head over there, continue reading. Our good friend Susan Ethridge shares a very personal and touching story about her father, a man who defied all odds and lived a full life. A warrior’s life. Just like our Karen.

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My father was a very brave man. Very strong, and very stubborn.

He was born in 1933, in rural Texas, and at the age of five, he began to exhibit serious musculoskeletal problems. Medical care was limited – the nearest doctor was two hours away, and in that time and place, the type of specialized treatment he needed was practically non-existent.

By the time he was in high school, his spine was curved into a question mark. In his junior year, he underwent surgery, during which several of his vertebrae were fused in an attempt to slow the progression of his disease. The official name: severe scoliosis. He spent most of that year in a chest-to-hip brace.

His doctors told him that he would probably never be able to walk. That he would never be able to have a family, or hold a job. That he should resign himself to the life of an invalid and prepare for an early death.

Instead, he fought.

He recovered from the surgery and enrolled in college. He earned a degree in Accounting from Texas Tech University, and took over the family business – an industrial/agricultural operation in the Lower Rio Grande Valley.  He worked at least ten hours per day during the harvest season, in a business that involved tractors and welding and heavy machinery. Not a desk job. Not cushy at all.

He married my mother, and adopted her young daughter. And then he fathered my sister. And me.

In my entire life, I never saw him bend over to tie his shoe – he couldn’t. Instead, he would put his foot up on a coffee table or a stool, so that he could reach the laces. His right side was partially paralyzed and atrophied; he walked with a limp, and my mother had to alter all of his shirts and pants to fit the hump on his back and the odd length of his right leg. He lived with chronic pain, and yet he bore his struggle with such stoicism and determination that until I was eight or nine years old, I didn’t even realize that anything was wrong. He adapted. He overcame.

He wasn’t even supposed to live, but he did – and then some. He defied every doctor’s prediction. He ran a business and raised my sisters and me. He took us camping and taught us how to grow melons and gladiolas. He lived a good life. A good, big, rich, full life.

He died when he was 57. I was 20.

I thought I knew what it meant to be a warrior. After all, I was raised by one.

And then I met Karen.

To be truthful, we haven’t actually met in person. Our paths were brought together through a writers’ group on Facebook. I have only read about the disease that nearly killed her, the grueling surgeries, the gradual withdrawal from serious narcotic pain killers, and her incredible recovery.

I wasn’t there. I didn’t experience any of it first-hand. And yet, it all touches me to the core.

For my father, disease and pain and struggle were always a part of life. He never knew anything else. His only option – ever – was to fight. It was a moot point.

But Karen had a “normal” life. She was a young mother, a writer, a wife…buying groceries, taking her daughter to dance class, writing stories, doing her thing. She never imagined that she might face death at the age of 30, with two little girls to raise. In her wildest dreams, she never thought she would hear a doctor say “You might never walk again.” Her world was happy, simple, fulfilling…until the day she got sick. And from that day to this, life has been one long, arduous battle.

My father was one kind of warrior, and Karen is another. Maybe even stronger, maybe even more stubborn and more determined than he was. After all, the idea that life had to be fought for was all he ever knew. But that fact took her completely by surprise. And she rose to the challenge anyway.

Orange Karen looked death in the face and beat it. She lost a toe, and almost lost a thumb, and she still faces long months of recuperation and rehabilitation, but today, she is walking. She is potty training her younger daughter and celebrating Christmas with her husband and family. She auditioned for a part in her community theater’s production of “Little Orphan Annie.” And let’s not leave this aside: she also completed NaNoWriMo – a competition which challenges authors to submit 50,000 words of a novel in a single month.  She can’t type very fast, or for very long, so she did all of that by hand.

Karen, I wish so much that my father could have met you. He would have admired you, a lot. You are a warrior.

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Susan Ethridge works in marketing, and enjoys graphic design, painting, cooking and writing. She and her husband live in Texas with their two cats.