Tag Archives: Love

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.

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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.