Tag Archives: friendship

A Final Word: Orange Karen Anthology Countdown

It’s the day after the official deadline for submissions for the Orange Karen anthology. First off I would like to thank everyone who submitted stories. We’ve had an overwhelming response and can’t wait to finish reading through all the short stories. We will be contacting you individually via e-mail in the next couple of weeks to let you know if your stories will be included in the anthology. Hang tight! We have a lot of reading to do!!

Thank you also to everyone to read and shared the posts. We have had great activity on this blog the website the past two weeks and that’s all because of you!Finally a thank you to everyone who posted such wonderful, funny, tender and heartfelt posts on the blog, you are all amazing.

To wrap things up, I’ve called in Glenn Skinner. He and the resident fairy in his head have some final words. Take it away, Glenn and fairy!

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A Final Word

Purchase the Orange Karen Anthology, or the fairy in my head will haunt you in your dreams!…

There, that about covers it. What else is there left to say. For the past 15 days, this blog has been hosted by the finest, most talented, assortment of writers and friends I have ever known. Through their words we have learned everything there is to know about our orange top warrior Karen DeLabar, and her struggles and triumphs. We have felt the passion, and compassion, that this group revealed from deep within their heart and souls. They have inspired us, made us laugh and made us cry. They are the humble group we label as #teamorange. I don’t think there is anything I can add that hasn’t been already been said.

Tragedy hits everyone differently, but for every Yin there is a Yang. Tragedy while it sometimes brings out the worst in people, it often brings out their best. Back in June this was the case for a tight knit group of writers who banded together in prayer and support for a friend in need. So strong was their support, that it went viral across the net. In a desire to help their friend in need, they did everything that was within their power. Whether that everything was filling Karen’s room in intensive care with cards of support, or sending a “Doggy Howser” flower bouquet, complete with balloons, chocolates, and a single orange bow to symbolize our solidarity and support. A stranger sent pizza, so Eric wouldn’t starve while sitting by her side. Another sent a new pair of shoes to brighten Karen’s day, knowing it could be months before she could wear them. When Karen was released, their support continued, whether it was simply moral support, visits, or meals, they never let up. It was no surprise when #teamorange learned of the mounting medical bills, this group would do nothing less than rally for their beloved orange warrior.  As such, the Orange Karen Anthology was born (OK, the anthology has a cooler name than that, but the fairy insists I keep it simple).  We live in tough times. Every day we struggle to keep our heads above water. If you’re a group of talented writers (and a hack like me) what do you do to help? You write. You write from deep within holding nothing back. You reach out across the net and you ask others to join your cause.  You rally your cause from every street corner.

The deadline for submissions has past; many talented people took the time to help a friend in need. Many of whom, have never met Karen, but were moved by the compassion put forth by her friends. What remains now is to wait while the submissions are reviewed, the stories selected, and the anthology brought to completion. All that will remain then will be to purchase a copy and spread the word. There are so many people in need in this world today, and so many good causes. Why should I spend what little I have on this particular cause, you might ask?  My answer to you is quite simple; you should do it for you. The stories in this anthology will reach deep into your soul. They will make you laugh, make you cry, and inspire you. The proceeds that will help Karen, will pale in comparison to what the anthology will give you back. Feel the power that is orange.

P.S. (Don’t make me send the fairy after you)

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Glenn Skinner is a fantasy writer and amateur astronomer who has spent a few nights too many with his head in the clouds. With his trusty muse the fairy by his side, he spends many an evening spinning tales of imagination, bringing color to the grey. His current work in progress is a fantasy series called “The Keya Quests”.

Learn more about him at:

http://glennskinner.com

Or his work:
www.keyaquests.com

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Laughter is the Best Medicine – Orange Karen Anthology Countdown: Day 14

We’ve had about two weeks worth of stories, testimonials and tributes to our dear friend Karen DeLabar. But we’re not done yet. There are two more sleeps until the submission deadline to have your short stories considered for the Orange Karen Anthology. As we near Day 15, we hear from a long-time friend of Karen’s, Susi Nonnemacher. She speaks of Karen’s resilience and her ability to see the glass half-full and live life through laughing. Enjoy, friends.

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When my brother was a sophomore in high school, he was the head Winkie in our high school’s production of “the Wizard of Oz”. This was perfect for my brother, who is great a doing the straight-faced, monotone, creepy voice the role required without cracking so much as a smile.

I was 22 at the time, moved home from Florida in the midst of the preparations for the show. I remember picking my brother up from rehearsal one day when he told me that his goal was to make one of the characters playing opposite him laugh on stage during a performance. He went on to tell me that this young woman was awesome, a natural actor who could just roll with the punches, no matter what happened–until he came on stage.

Toward the end of the show, after Dorothy throws the water on the witch, my brother’s character had the line, “She’s dead. You killed her.” There was something about the way he said it that made this young actress burst out laughing. The more she laughed, the more serious his tone became–it became a game to him.

Fast forward several years, and I was out with some friends from my community theatre. Karen is sitting across from me, and asks how my brother is doing. I didn’t realize they knew each other (my brother is a couple of years younger than her), so she proceeded to tell me about how he made her laugh on stage every time they rehearsed that scene.

I love this story not only because Karen and my brother are two of my favorite people, but also because it focuses on Karen’s awesome laugh. When she laughs her whole face lights up. She doesn’t hold back, and you can always tell it is genuine. As my husband put it, her laugh is contagious–it makes you want to join in, even if you didn’t hear the joke. (For those who haven’t had a chance to see this first-hand, check out this video from her blog, posted last Christmas).

When I think of Karen, I think of someone who is happy, someone who embraces life, and someone who loves to laugh. I had a lot of pictures to choose from for this post, and I can honestly say that she is laughing in the majority of them. 🙂

I am lucky to only live a mile and a half from Karen. We went to the same high school, and did our first play together in 1996, when I was a high school senior and she was in eighth grade. I had the privilege of calling her my friend prior to us jumping into the writing world, and am thrilled to continue that friendship in the years since.

Living so close meant that I was able to go to the hospital the day after she came out of ICU. I have to admit, I was nervous walking into the hospital. I didn’t know what to expect. I knew her body had been through hell, and I was prepared for the worst.

As I was walking toward her room, I heard her laugh dancing through the halls as I was still several rooms away. I stopped, right there in the hall, and cried. The friend who had come with me looked at me and asked what was wrong. My response? “She’s going to be OK.”

Until that point, I knew she was doing better. I had heard the stories of her fighting off nurses while in a coma; I knew she wasn’t giving up any time soon. But, there was something about hearing her laugh that just made it all click… she was going to get through this. That’s not to say that it has been easy, or that it has been all laughter. It certainly hasn’t ,as anyone who knows her has seen. But, in spite of everything that happened, just days after waking from ten days in a coma, she was laughing.

KandS - Laughing by the Water

In the months since, I have seen Karen struggle at times, but her spirit was never totally broken. Within minutes of a pain attack, she was back to cracking jokes and joining in on the laughter. She is an amazing friend who, in spite of all that has gone on, is always there for others, ready to give a hug or draw out a smile.

I am so excited that Karen and I will both be returning to the stage this year in “Annie,” along with some awesome friends. I continue to be amazed at her recovery, and her excitement at jumping headfirst into her life. As I look to the coming year, I look forward to Karen and I sharing many more girls’ nights, long rehearsals with entertaining friends, support and encouragement as we keep working toward our writing goals, and, most of all, a whole lot of laughter.

Twitter 11012011Susi M. Nonnemacher is devoted wife who finds time to write between community theater and church choir rehearsals, minor league baseball games, baking batches of cookies, trying out new Pinterest-inspired crafts, and juggling more loads of laundry than any two people should be able to produce. You can find more about her at http://smnonnemacher.com or follow @smnonnemacher on Twitter.

I Love You, That Is All: Live – Orange Karen Anthology Countdown: Day 13

‘Tis the season for love. For sharing love. For receiving love. For finding the love we all desperately need. Though it’s been said many times before, it still rings true: All you need is love. As the final days lead up to the Orange Karen Anthology short story submission deadline (December 15th), we hear from Tess Thompson who talks about the little things in life that help us find light through the darkness.

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Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart. ~ Anne Frank

It is everywhere. Bad news. This autumn two high school friends lost their children. Another friend had open-heart surgery at 46; another lost his battle to cancer at 44. Our recently retired pastor at my church is fighting a brain tumor.

My little daughter is struggling in school. My mother’s been ill for months. My marriage collapsed, after twelve years.

My friend, Karen DeLabar, almost died last June from toxic shock. But in what can only be described as a will made of fire and steel, she survived. But every day since has been a struggle of gigantic proportions: excruciating pain, fatigue, and the latest in a long list of miseries, detoxing from pain medications.

And huge medical bills.

Last week, I have a sleepless night after a particularly difficult day in this journey called divorce. In the morning, after I take the girls to school I come home and crawl into bed. I watch the rain falling in sheets outside the window, the gray clouds low in a despairing sky. I think of all the ways hearts have broken yesterday and last week and last month. There’s my own heart, shattered and aching, all my dreams washed away like the rain that runs out the gutter and onto the sidewalk. I question everything. I call out to God, why? I wonder how any of us survive in this world of uncertainty and pain and struggle. I marvel that we all continue to get out of bed each and every day and fight our battles. Because on this day, I cannot.

And in the dim light, I understand only this. Despite all the bad, love continues to show itself. For me, just then, in the middle of my hopelessness, it comes in the form of several phone calls and texts from friends. Are you okay? Why weren’t you at Zumba? I love you. You will get through this, I promise. Go get your mail.

So I do. With all that love like a force, I propel forward. I do something normally so simple but so daunting in this moment. I get the mail. And in my box is a package from one of my dearest friends – an early Christmas present – a necklace with these words: “The story of friendship is written on the pages of the heart.”

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And it was enough to save me. Love, there, showing its face to me in the midst of my anguish.

All of us in Karen’s circle of friends were terrified when she was in a coma. Now, we worry and fret during her long recovery. We wonder how to help. And yet, we know we’re limited. We cannot take away her pain. We cannot pay her medical bills. We cannot take away her sleepless nights.

But hear this. We want to. Because we love her. And because we’re good people. When love and good people are in combination, it makes something called hope. I know this, too – most human beings, despite our flaws, are good. We are made to love one another, both in partnerships, and families and communities. It is the best of who we are.

Some of Karen’s friends organized this anthology as a way to help with her medical bills. Will it make a dent? Who knows? But ultimately it’s not what matters most.

What matters most is how love appears despite low-hanging clouds. It is all there is. It is the only thing to hold onto in illness and loss and uncertainty. It is all that can bring us from the dark into the light.

My friend made it through his open-heart surgery. He’s home recuperating as I write this. I’m grateful.

I write this on his Facebook wall:

I love you. That is all.

He replies:

It is enough.

TessHeadshot

Tess Hardwick is a novelist, essayist and mother. She studied acting at the University of Southern California and enjoyed many years as an actress and director in Seattle before writing her first play, which won the first place prize in the Burien Theatre’s new works series in 2001. After several productions of “My Lady’s Hand”, one of which she directed, she decided her sensibilities were better suited to novels.

After several years and many rewrites, her first novel, Riversong, was picked up by Booktrope Publishing and released in April of 2011. In October of 2011 it became the number 1 Nook Book. In April and May 2012, Riversong was in the top 20 bestselling Kindle books, and number 1 in the Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense categories. Since then, readership of Riversong continues to grow and is known amongst her friends and family as “the little book that could”.

Like her main character in Riversong, Tess is from a small town in southern Oregon. She currently lives in a suburb of Seattle, Washington with her two young daughters and their wild but lovable dog, Patches.

In March of 2012 a book of reflections on life’s past, present and future called Write For the Fight was released through Booktrope Publishing. A collaboration of 13 writers, all proceeds for Write for the Fight go to breast cancer research. It was in the top 10 Inspirational category on Free Kindle books in June, 2012.

Tess just completed her second novel, an ambitious historical fiction set between 1918 and 1934 in Alabama and Georgia, inspired by a story from her great-grandmother. She is currently working on a new novel, also historical fiction set in England during the Great War.

Into the Wilderness – Orange Karen Anthology Countdown: Day 10

Jeff Tsuruoka helps us to get our week off to a good start with his inspirational post. Head “into the wilderness” with Jeff and while you’re there write a short story to submit to the Orange Karen Anthology – deadline December 15th.
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Into the Wilderness
Jeff Tsuruoka
    If you know anything about Jewish mysticiscm you are familiar with the words, “the wilderness”.
    In a literal sense the wilderness refers to the forty years spent lost in the desert following the exodus from Egypt. In a broader sense it represents the journey all of us take through life, our wanderings, our doubts and fears, our aspirations, our confusion and our convictions.
    We are all in the wilderness, seeking the way through to the other side, to a promised land.
Rabbi Lawrence Kushner describes the wilderness as, “A place that demands being open to the flow of life around you.” To be in the wilderness means to be “on your way.”
    There are signposts in the wilderness, guides, that can help you get to where you belong, to where you need to be.
    For me, one of those signposts came in the form of a group of fellow writers I’ve become associated with via an old friend, through the advent of social media. In a very short span of time I’ve been welcomed into their family and welcomed them into my heart. The relationships are real. The friendships are real. The love and support are real. We have each other’s backs, support each other’s work, and when somebody needs a lift we are there to do what we can to help.
    Our friend, Karen DeLabar, is fighting her way back from a life-threatening illness. She is, through her own strength and with the love of her husband and two daughters, making a remarkable recovery, but insurance can only cover so much of the cost.
    That’s where we come in.
    We want to help the DeLabar’s, just as they would without hesitation help any of us, and as writers we’ve decided to do so by doing what we do best.
    Write.
    We’ve decided to publish an anthology of original short stories on the theme of, ‘Orange’, in honor of our red-headed Karen, with all proceeds going to help cover medical expenses. The stories are not necessarily about Karen but have been inspired by her courage, her perseverance, and her sheer will to live and recover.
    This project is not exclusive to our small circle of writers. It is open to all.
    The forthcoming Orange Karen Anthology of original fiction is a project I’m proud to be a part of. I see it as further proof that, not just me, but all of us share this outpost in the wilderness.
    Each of us has to travel our own wilderness and while there will be times when we feel lost there is great comfort in the knowledge that we don’t always have to travel it alone.
Jeff Ferry2
Jeff Tsuruoka is an author in search of a writing career.
His life as a writer began at the age of six. He wrote stories based on the monster movies he watched on the 4:30 Movie after school.
Thirty six years later he still writes monster stories, though the monsters that populate his current work have a little more on the ball- at least in terms of conversation skills and the ability to drive cars- than Godzilla and his pals did.
He is hard at work on his first novel. Some of his writing is featured here.

Soul Sisters: Orange Karen Anthology Countdown – Day 9

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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Soul Sisters

Jennifer Gracen

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!

holidayNYCKaren & Jennifer take on NYC for the day to do Christmas, Dec.13, 2011

 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.

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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.

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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

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!!

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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.