"Have you thought about writing your family history, but found yourself stuck from the start? Writing a family narrative can be a daunting task, but Karen Jones Gowen found a way to bring her mother's story to life." (Homespun Magazine)

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for Z

Z, the last letter in the alphabet, signifies the end of things. It just so happens that today is the Big Moving Day, the last day in our home of 13 years, the last day in the neighborhood where we have lived for 21 years.

Two days ago I cooked the last meal in said home and said neighborhood. It was baked fish, and fried rice with vegetables. *yummy* Since then we have eaten leftovers out of the fridge and sandwiches, trying to use up available food before the move. So yes, today I am thinking about the end of things. The end of the A to Z Challenge *whew* and the end of our long life in this lovely place where our family has lived for so long.

What's exciting about the end of things is the anticipation for new beginnings. Which reminds me that life isn't like the alphabet, with a beginning and an end, but it is like a circle. Eternal. Endings and Beginnings together, flowing into one another. One eternal round.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yes, I did it!

Yes, I did it! I walked an hour and ten minutes yesterday despite many valid  reasons  typical ridiculous excuses not to. So that makes six days in a row that I have overcome my resistance and just walked out that door. Because I am NOT A QUITTER.  HOO RAH!  Semper Fi and all that inspiring Marine talk I get from my son. HOO RAH!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X Marks the Spot

Do you remember that Steven Spielberg movie The Goonies? A group of kids find a treasure map in the attic and follow it to find a fortune so they can save their homes from evil developers. It sounds like a lame premise, but never underestimate Steven Spielberg or the fantastical charm of those four words-- X marks the spot.

Besides, what kid hasn't dreamed of doing this very thing? I know I did. I would fantasize about finding an ancient pirate treasure map with that magical X showing where to dig for the buried treasure. I even had my wish list of what I would do with all that money: 

Buy all the candy in the world. I still love candy. Have my very own horse. I always wanted a horse and never did get one, cursed deprived childhood. Fill my room with every stuffed animal, doll, puppet, book, paper doll set, tea set, electric train, squirt gun and cap gun and real gun that I ever wanted. I was a girl of varied interests.

Now I'm an adult, and I still long for some kind of magical X to mark the spot, the end of the rainbow, the buried treasure, the ship coming in. On The Goonies, there was an actual ship that came in at the end-- floating into the bay as the parents watched in awe.

What would I do with all that money? Pay off my mortgage and the mortgages of all my sisters and children. (Again, similar to The Goonies-- getting money to save the family home.) Buy my husband a truck. Get new carpet in my home, tile, and repaint the entire place. Rebuild the pond. Er, I mean pay someone to do it. Buy my son and his fiancee a new car to start their wedded life. Buy my daughter an economical but safe car so she could drive down every day to my house and go for hour-long walks with me.

Okay, I need to stop now. This list is building steam as I go. Do you think there's ever a time in one's life where we are so satisfied that we don't have even one tiny little desire to find the buried treasure?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for Walking (and not quitting)

As I see the end of the A to Z Challenge in sight, I balk every day about writing one more post and I just want to quit. Which is really stupid, because I've made it this far and it's not even that hard compared to all the hard things I have done and am still doing in my life.

Same with walking. I set a goal to walk 30 minutes a day. I'm finally getting around to starting, and have enjoyed it so much that most days I walk an hour or more. But do you know how easy it is to just quit? I keep making excuses for myself to either not step outside or to cut my walk short.

The weather. My mood. Fatigue. Too much else to do. My clothes. My shoes aren't right. Traffic bothers me. Too many people out. Dogs barking at me.Thirsty. Hungry. Tired. Bored. Need a kleenex.

Okay, I'll stop now, I'm sure nobody wants to hear the my list of excuses. As my mother-in-law used to say, "Excuses are like armpits. Everybody has them and they all stink." Another W word that inspires quitting is Writing. I make excuses for not doing that, too. Don't worry, I won't list them here, I've told you enough already about my inner dark side. 

I am not a quitter! I will keep walking! And writing! And finishing the A to Z Challenge! So there. W is for Walking and doing all that other stuff and NOT QUITTING.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

V is for Very Tired of Blogging

Hey, after thirty days and two blogs, posting daily, who wouldn't be? Still, I have enjoyed the A to Z Challenge and don't regret participating double. On Coming Down the Mountain, I had a theme and scheduled my posts so it was fairly stress-free. On this one, I just came up with something for the word of the day. It's been fun doing daily seat of the pants posting here, but in May I'll go back to my once a week posts, more or less. And posting 2 or 3 times a week on my other blog.

Blogging should work for one's own purposes imho. If you try to fit into someone else's idea of what it should be, you'll get frustrated and give up. It should be about your interests, time frame, routine, and style. It has to be fun, yet still a responsible task that has a purpose.

So I'm not actually very tired of blogging. I joined the A to Z Challenge to help me define my two blogs, and I think I accomplished that personal goal. But can I just say I'll be very glad when this month is over?

Monday, April 25, 2011

U is for Uncle Forrest

Often in a large family, the younger children will become aunts and uncles while still kids themselves. Forrest, our youngest boy, became an uncle at age 10. As my grandchildren grew, they of course bonded with Forrest who was closest to their age and liked to play with them. He was their favorite, (altho they never really called him Uncle Forrest.)

One of my little grandsons called his other grandma Grandma and he called me "Forrest's mom." Or "the grandma who lives in Forrest's house."

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Thirty Day Blogfests are Too Long

Okay, I know I'm a host of the A to Z Challenge and all, but that's really my other persona-- old KarenG over at Coming Down the Mountain. This Karen cannot believe it's another day and I have to write yet another post. What the---? Thank heavens tomorrow is Sunday, and we get a break, and the next week is the last week of this thirty day challenge. Whew!! April 30 is also our last day in our home of 13 years-- (hey thirteen, another T word!)-- which means the packing and sorting and moving is done. So I am really really really looking forward to April 30.

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Sunshine

I can't even tell you how many women have told me their doctors said they had Vitamin D deficiency. I used to spend hours outdoors everyday, year round. Walking, working in the yard, being outside with the kids. Then I somehow got away from it and became this big hermit. I guess I had so much work to do inside I couldn't spare the time for the sun.

The sun powers our lives. People need to be outside in the sunshine. It's rejuvenating and healing for mind, soul and body. When I was young, I heard that all the time from grown-ups: "Get outside in the fresh air and sunshine. Go play outside. You haven't been outside yet today. You'll feel better when you go outside and get some sun." Sound familiar? Well, maybe not if you are under forty. Because somewhere along the way came this idea that the sun's rays are harmful and cause skin cancer. What the heck? Why is it that everything causes cancer? Do people even know what causes cancer anyway?

So people started avoiding the sun, covering up, staying in and now it's Vitamin D deficiency from not enough sunshine. Lately I've been going outdoors for long walks in the sun-- and I can't tell you how much better I feel. It's not just the exercise either because I can be busy in the house, actively running up and down stairs, vacuuming, doing whatever for 6 or 7 hours on my feet and not feel as good as I do after an hour in the sun.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for Randolf

I got to thinking about how certain names go out of fashion and you just know they will never come back. Like Randolf, or Randolph, or Randy. It may work fine on those born in the forties or fifties, or even earlier, but can you imagine anyone naming their baby boy that now? Except as a middle name, named after a grandfather or whatever.

Since I read a lot of classic literature I run into these kinds of names a lot. Believe it or not, there was a time when Gertrude was considered a classy name for a woman. So was Gladys and Edith. Really can't see these three coming back into vogue. Then there are the older names now making a comeback-- like Beatrice, Emily, Annabelle.

Then you have the stock boy names that never seem to go out of style, like John, James, Matthew, Thomas. Edward is making a comeback, I wonder why LOL?

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quiver

Lo, children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward. As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them. (Psalm 127: 3-5)

I went out to breakfast this morning with four of those arrows in my quiver. Yes, I feel truly blessed that my husband and I had such a full household. And especially now that they are older and they just talk and laugh and eat together without fighting. Ever. They did plenty of fighting when they were kids living at home. I guess they got it all out of their systems.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for People Dead or Alive

A man said that there are no dead people. And I suppose that's true if one believes in life after death, which I do. When I wrote Farm Girl, I could feel my Grandmother Marker's presence and interest in this book. I was very aware of the presence of those who had gone before and whose stories were recorded there.

This is my favorite photo from Farm Girl, showing young Lucille on the fence around her family's farm. To me, it seems like she is looking back and forward at the same time. Back at all those who came before and sacrificed so their children could have a better life, and forward to those to come.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Obesity

When we got married, my husband and I were skinny. I weighed 110, he weighed 170. I won't tell you what we weigh now but "obese" would probably describe the two of us. Anyway, my husband just started an eating plan where he eats 1/2 cup every 2 hours. It's working great, because it keeps his blood sugar stabilized, so he doesn't get hungry even on such small amounts. He likes the plan and has lost 8 lbs. in 3 weeks. 

I am so proud of him and hope and pray he stays on this until he is slim and healthy again. Obesity is horrible. Even if it doesn't kill you, it makes you feel like crap. I have a plan as well, but I don't like telling people because that's bad luck.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

N is for Nothing

Do you ever feel like "I got nothing." Drained, burned out, too tired to keep at it? I've been a maniac on social media this year. My writing/editing/publishing blog is almost to 800 followers, my Twitter account is over 1400, I have nearly 300 Facebook friends, most of them writers. Despite my hatred and avoidance of all things Facebook. Except for Mark Zuckerberg-- I like him. I am online daily blogging or commenting on blogs, Tweeting like a crazy person. And I wonder, Why? Why am I doing this again?

Mostly I've kept at it because it is fun. The second it stops being fun I'm in trouble. This week it stopped being fun. Maybe it's because I have other stuff on my mind and I see all the online activity as a "have to do" that interrupts my real life, or maybe I just got burned out with the A to Z Challenge. I'm not sure. Maybe I took on too much while trying to pack up a 4000 sq. foot house we have lived in for 13 years. Maybe I have an addiction that needs to be cured. Whatever.

Anyway, I have the rest of my posts scheduled on the KarenG blog for the month. I'm done looking at Twitter for awhile *ha, famous last words* No, I really really mean it. I'll keep posting here for the rest of the alphabet month because this is my quiet, no pressure blog. And if I got NOTHING here, no one seems to mind. I'm not chasing anything here so it doesn't drain my energy. Here I am just me being me. Not that I'm fake elsewhere, but you know what I mean.

Peace Out.

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Miserable Dust Mites

So with all this sorting and moving and emptying of closets and clearing out of spaces untouched for the past 10 years (it's a really big home we are leaving), the dust has been flying through the air. There must be zillions of dust mites disturbed and now looking for new hiding places (do they fly? or crawl? or just cling to things?)

Anyway, my husband and son are suffering for it. The sneezing and sinus issues around here have become epidemic. Strangely enough, it's not bothering me. What bothers me is thinking of all those dust mites who have been lurking in the corners, clinging to our stuff. I swear, my hew house is going to stay clean!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Lucille

Lucille Marker Jones, my mother, died early on New Year's Day of this year. I didn't think I would recover from the loss of this wonderful woman who has been such great influence on me and as essential to my life as breathing. January was awful. Things are better now but every so often I just have to say, "Mom, I still can't believe you are gone."

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Karen

Yes that's right. My name. I am named for my mother's Norwegian grandmother, Karen Walstad. I came to know her through writing Farm Girl. From Chapter One: The Walstads--

My grandfather Hans Walstad lived alone in a dugout near Farmer's Creek, back when cottonwood, elm and ash trees crowded the banks. Lots of fruit grew near that creek-- grapes, plums, chokecherries, berries. Indians would come by his dugout and want tobacco and sugar, and he'd trade with them for buffalo meat and furs. Somehow they communicated, by signs I suppose, because he spoke only Norwegian. He was one of the first settlers to stake a claim in this part of Nebraska.

Hans would have stayed forever as a single man in his dugout because the girl he had loved back in Norway had married another man. Her name was Sofie Maren Stav, and she chose to marry Andre Pederson rather than him. So Hans decided to come to America and homestead in western Nebraska and live by himself in this dugout. He was happy here and had everything he needed. Soon his parents, one brother and three sisters came to the area and settled nearby, so he wasn't at all lonely.

His parents, Jakob and Karen Walstad, left Norway when Karen was 72 and Jakob 67, to be with their children in America. The older couple wanted a log house like they had in Norway rather than a sod house, so they cut logs from the trees along Farmer's Creek and built a house across the draw from Hans.

Before Farm Girl, Karen Walstad was just a name on a genealogy sheet, a name I heard occasionally in passing from my mother. It wasn't until I got her story written, at least in part, that she became real to me.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for the Juice that makes you smarter and more attractive

We have a pear tree, and one year it was exploding with fruit. I ran a lot of it through my juicer while the family sat around waiting to see what it tasted like. Let me tell you, it was nothing like the so-called "pear juice" one buys in the store or that comes inside a can of pears.

It looked very brown and thick but tasted like nectar of the gods. And not only that, but after drinking it we found fatigue evaporated, our conversation became more intelligent and clever, we stood straighter and generally felt like we could do anything. We all felt incredibly attractive and cured of any ailments. Healing, restorative powers-- that's what this pear juice had.

So it's become a traditional saying in our home now. When someone has finals coming up or a job interview, we say, "Drink pear juice." We don't have the real good stuff anymore, but I figure eating pears will have a similar effect, even if somewhat watered down.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for Industrious

Industrious is what I am not being today. Industrious would be cleaning the kitchen, returning library books a month overdue, going to get more boxes for packing, packing said boxes I don't yet have, getting a shower....

Instead I am Twittering, blogging, daydreaming, and in between my major social media activities, telling my son how to pack the books because seriously I just can't face that task. He is being very industrious today, which is good, because I'm not. Peace Out. Time to at least get the shower.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

H is for Hugs

Some people like and need hugs, others avoid them. I'm somewhere in the middle. Mostly I avoid them but there are times when a hug is just the thing. Other times I would prefer some good solid assistance, like with the dishes, or picking up your garbage you leave everywhere, or bringing me food.

I have a son who used to say to me when I was crabby, "Aw, someone needs a hug." No, I don't need a hug, I need this kitchen floor mopped now get out of my way.

It's not that I am anti-hug. That would be like being anti-teddy bear or anti-cute adorable baby. But there are times when a hug just gets in the way of what really needs to happen. You know what I mean?

Friday, April 8, 2011

G is for Gowen Fam

We are the Gowens. We are 12 strong, without counting son and daughter-in-laws and grandchildren. There are my husband and me, eight sons and two daughters. If we were in politics and had money, we'd be the Kennedys. If we were musical and ambitious, we'd be the Osmonds.

My semi-autobiographical novel, Uncut Diamonds, is about the beginning of our family-- it begins with Marcie and Shawn McGill and their four young children. By the time the novel ends, they have six. In House of Diamonds, due out this year, the McGills have seven. My count could be wrong, I cut down the number of children the McGills have because I didn't want the books to just be Marcie always pregnant. But yeah, my husband and me have created a dynasty. The Gowens are known far and wide. I can't believe Oprah hasn't called yet. I can't even count how many people have said to me, "I wish I were a Gowen." Excuse my bragging but it is a G day and so I'm entitled.

This is one of my favorite photos of a few of the Gowen boys. No daughters are pictured, and two boys are missing, as one was in Air Force basic training and another in South Africa on a mission. So it's me and 6 of my boys. I love this picture, it gives an informal glimpse into who we are. It shows that the Gowens are a force to be reckoned with. Don't mess with me cuz I got a bunch of six foot sons. And one's a Marine.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

ummm FRUIT, yum!

This post is inspired by an F is for Fruit post here. I wrote a long comment about fruit and decided to make it a post, it was so long! Yes I know, I need to be more brief when blogging.

I always loved fruit as a kid, what kid doesn't? My mom would portion it out like it was priceless jewels. Six grapes-- there you go, enjoy. Four blueberries-- that's all there is, make it last. I never got enough fruit! I always craved it, which might be why I ended up with such a sweet fix for candy of all kinds. Candy, the easy to get but bad for you fruit substitute.

Then I married my husband who was raised on a fruit orchard in the Santa Clara Valley. The week before we got married, I roamed through the orchards while he was at work gorging myself on fresh prunes (fyi they are called prunes not plums, he is very clear on that subject), fresh cherries and apricots and peaches right from the tree. I was in heaven. Fruit heaven. It's all I ate. Then we got married and went back to college and were on a strict budget. Back to the fruitless life of the poverty-stricken.

I remember an episode of Mad About You, where Helen Hunt has $10 squirreled away. Her husband asks what's that for, he needs the money for something important. She says, "No, it's for an emergency." He says, "But this is an emergency, why can't we use it?" And she says "It's for a fruit emergency." LOL, I could totally identify with that!!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

E is for Extraction

Last week I had a tooth pulled-- the front one on the bottom. Right there where everyone can see. When I first went in, the dentist told me the bone was decayed and I needed an extraction, a bone graft and an implant but first an extraction.

He said, "After the extraction and bone graft, it will take about 5 months to heal before we can put in the implant."

Long thoughtful pause from me. "So I'll have no tooth right there in front?"

He hurried to say, "No one leaves this office without a tooth. You will have a temporary replacement fitted to your mouth."

So all went well, and I have a lovely false tooth attached to a retainer that I put in and out of my mouth. But the best part of this whole process was the Valium. He prescribed two pills the night before, and two the morning of the procedure. My normal anxiety (about everything not just dental work) completely evaporated. I can see why women of the Fifties and Sixties went nuts over Valium.  Good thing it's no longer readily prescribed by family doctors or I would be hooked for sure.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

D is for Done

Being done is an interesting thing. Sometimes I know I'm done, and it's up to me. Like when I worked at Costco. I could have stayed there as long as I wanted, I'd been there 5 years, but one day I knew it was time to move on. Sometimes it isn't up to the individual. When my father-in-law died, my mother-in-law was devastated. A 58- year-old widow, she was done with life. She couldn't understand what more she had to do, and she wanted out. It took 15 more years before God determined she was done, even though she had determined it well before hand.

Recently my husband's business of 20 years was done. It was determined by the economy. He had been a mortgage broker and the mortgage industry changed so drastically three years ago that his business was essentially done. It dried up. So that was a decision based on economic factors as well as his own judgment of where things stood. He knew he was done.

There are a few things I will never be done with by choice: my marriage, my kids, my life. It was the same with my mother. She didn't have the happiest marriage in the world, but she stayed with my dad through all the hard times, and in later years they worked out their problems and were very happy. She fought for life after having two strokes, wanting to eat, to talk, to go back to her apartment. She never gave up until the very end, and even then she didn't give up-- she just went when her time came. A nurse came in and brushed her hair. Mom opened her eyes, and was gone. As my husband says, "Her hair was combed, she was now ready." She was never done as a mom or a grandmother. She cared for everyone until the end. She had money set aside for everyone so each grandchild would get a little something from her.

Sometimes it takes courage to say, "Yes, I am now done." Sometimes it takes courage to keep fighting and not give up. I could write so much about being done. There is just so much to say about it. But, I am now done with this post.

Monday, April 4, 2011

C is for Celery Tree and for Concept

Celerytree.com is a coming website for authors that I founded along with my daughter, L.A. DeVaul, and a few other super awesome and talented people. Liesel (L.A.) and I currently maintain a blog, Celery Tree, to provide information about the website prior to launch. She is participating in the A to Z Challenge as well. So that makes all three of my blogs taking part in this Challenge in April! Thank you Liesel for taking care of it on the Celery Tree blog!

I posted about Celerytree.com on my other blog as well for the C word. So if you are intrigued you can go here and read more about it! I can tell you one thing-- having a concept and actually getting all the parts and pieces together in a way that works effectively are two entirely different processes. I'm an idea person and getting concepts comes easy to me. Then there's the work involved in making that concept a reality. In  creating a website, that means you need a designer, a developer, a programmer, a business head, a marketing team-- a lot of different people with talents that can be utilized to make the concept work.

And it takes time to do it right. Liesel and I, two impatient ideas people, are very eager for the site to launch. I can't wait for the day to come when I can officially announce the launch date. Hopefully very soon. We have some fabulous authors on board, we currently are not taking more, but once it is live, we hope that new memberships soar!

Fantasy author, N.R. Williams is also blogging about Celery Tree for her C word.  

Saturday, April 2, 2011

B is for Boxes

Yes, I am certifiably insane. I signed my second blog up for the A to Z Challenge. Gah!@!! Oh well it will take my mind off the stress of moving, and so my B word is BOXES.

When you are moving, boxes is all you can think about. I need boxes. Where can I get boxes? Hey, can I have that box? Does it have flaps? It's the perfect size, I must have it! Give me ten.

Then once you're in, the love affair with boxes is over. You can't get rid of them fast enough. I'm now in the please I need more boxes phase. Really, do you have boxes? Because I need them. Bad.

One Crazy Blogfest

As most of you know, I have another blog persona, KarenG at Coming Down the Mountain. As KarenG, I was asked to be a host for the A to Z Challenge in April. I didn't sign up with this blog because well, that's just insane! It's insane anyway, because over 1000 bloggers have now signed up for this. I believe they're leaving it open until April 4 then cutting off the sign up links.

So if you don't see me posting much here in April, that is why! I'm out there visiting hundreds of new  blogs and following as KarenG. Are you involved with the A to Z Challenge? I remember last year I didn't do it, but it was fun to see what so many came up with for their letter a day posts. And then I was glad when April ended and blogs got back to "normal" posting schedules. I'm sure I'll feel the same way this year! Whew, what a ride!

hey, I just got a crazy idea! What if I sign up as this blog, too? How crazy would that be? K bye.