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Summer Soiree: Library Benefit

I’m so excited to be a guest author at the Summer Soiree to benefit the Laramie County Library Foundation in Cheyenne. I hope to see you there. Bring your book club! Click Here for more info and to sign up.

oin fellow readers, library lovers, and book worms on Sunday, June 27 from 2:00pm–4:00pm at The Office Bar and Grill for Laramie County Library Foundation’s afternoon event celebrating some of Wyoming’s incredible authors! Enjoy appetizers, desserts, and summer drinks while listening to four Wyoming authors discuss their writing and publishing process, sharing how their amazing works make it from pen to print. Bring your favorite books or purchase new ones to be signed by our local authors at the end of the event.

Below is the Summer Soiree author lineup.  Each author will have copies of their books at the event for purchase.

o   Jerimiah Rieman, author of Wyoming Singletrack: A Mountain Bike Trail Guide

o   John W. Haines, author of Never Leaving Laramie

o   Arielle Zibrak, author of Guilty Pleasures

o   Tina Ann Forkner, author of Nashville by Heart and many other books!

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Snowmageddon 2021: I’ve got this.

Photo by Flickr on Pexels.com

Here in Cheyenne, Wyoming we’ve had thirty plus inches of snow. Our doctors and nurses have been catching rides to work on snow mobiles and we’re going on our 3rd school snow day, which never happens here. In this part of Wyoming, as long as the roads are clear, the kids are in school. Here, we even go out for recess, as long as it is above zero degrees and the wind isn’t too terrible. On those days, I like to put snow ambiance on the smart board in our elementary library. My favorites are the forest ones from Chronicles of Narnia, but today there is no need for ambiance. The kids can look out their windows and see over two feet of snow.

It’s beautiful outside, to be sure. Snow always feels like an absolute miracle to me. It looks like a Christmas card in my backyard with trees dripping sparkling snow that looks good enough to eat. I can’t help but think Snowflake Bentley would be camped outside with his camera if he had this kind of snow. After reading the book about the man who first photographed snowflakes in Vermont to my 4th grade classes, I can’t look at snow without thinking of him out in a blizzard paying no mind to the cold. When I was a kid, I barely knew about Vermont, let alone snowflakes.

When I was growing up in Northeastern Oklahoma, My siblings and I would beg God for snow. When we looked outside and saw the flakes swirling through the air, we prayed for a snowday. And when snow managed to stick to the red earth and schools really shut down, we’d spend the few hours it stayed around trying to build a snowman, making snow angels, and creating trails in the woods with a dirt shovel because we didn’t own one for snow. Nobody did, as it was a useless tool where we lived. Later, when I lived in California for a time, I witnessed the snow of the Sierra Nevadas and was so dazzled by it I learned how to ski. A day skiing at Donner Pass when I was a college student was something I thought I’d want to do forever. Later, when I moved to Wyoming, I found all the snow I ever wanted and spent a few years skiing in it. Finally, snow! But that is all in the past.

It may come as a surprise after telling you how much I used to long for snow, but now that I know the difference between a garden shovel and a snow shovel, I’m good. Snow in all its glittering beauty has finally lost its magical effect on me. The little girl that used to grab a garden shovel to make snow tracks is now happy to let her husband grab his real snow shovel and head out to the driveway. It’s true. No matter how many friends I see posting pics of themselves shoveling beside their husbands on social media, I don’t feel at all guilty when my hubby tells me, “I’ve got this,” as he bundles up and pulls on his snow boots. It’s not like he thinks I’m incapable of pushing a snow shovel, but he already knows why it’s not my favorite chore. Trust me, I’ve shoveled my share of snow.

When I was a single mom and later when my husband traveled, I shoveled my way out more than once. When a friend stopped by to help or a neighbor lumbered over with a second shovel, I was always grateful. But I shoveled by myself or with my daughter many times in the past, so now when my husband says he’s got it, I let him. Maybe it’s the empty nester in me, but I feel comfortable in the fact that I know how to shovel my way out of the house just fine, as I’ve done before, but I don’t have to do that anymore.

During this Snowmageddon, I like the fact that my hubby is teleworking in the office nearby and that I’m surrounded by mountains of books and research. I like seeing pics of my daughter playing in the snow with college friends over in Laramie, while I sit here watching the ambiance of slowly melting snow outside my window, hearing the rumble of the snow plows finally making their way through town, and the occasional crunch of a snow shovel when my hubby decides he needs a quick break outside.

“I’ve got it,” he says. And I’m happy that everything I love about him can, for a moment, be summed up in that one little phrase.

Tina Ann Forkner is a school librarian, writing instructor, and published author from Wyoming. Learn more about her books here.

Alcoholism · friendship · Grief · Pandemic · writing

One Thing That Changed Me During the Pandemic

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One thing that changed me during the pandemic happened in Spring, not long after the Pandemic began. Like so many empty nesters, two out of three of our adult kids came home after their colleges went online and decided to ride it out with us for a few months. We had a routine established. The kids set up their laptops and work stations in the living room area, located conveniently next to the kitchen. I worked in my office. We all convened for lunch when my husband, one of the few people still allowed to go to work at his state job in Wyoming, came home. In the evenings we watched movies, cooked and ordered in depending on the night, worked on a puzzle, and spent a lot more time together than we had imagined we would be doing when we first made our plans for 2020. To be honest, except for feeling sad about the people who were sick, I found myself cherishing the time with my family. But then one day, I received a phone call and our little pandemic routine was over. Someone was unable to reach my friend, would I go over and check on her?

My gut instinct told me not to go alone, so my husband and I muttered a goodbye to the kids and headed over to her house together. I’d been through this kind of thing with her before – a well-check usually called-in by a mutual friend – but this time it was someone not close to either of us who had called. Images of all the times before ran through my mind alongside newer images from the news; doctors covered from head to toe in protective clothing, masks, and tallies of the dead. I was glad my husband was driving. He tried to reassure me, but he’d been on this drive before, too. His helpful words sort of tumbled out and landed in a heap between us. We both knew better. I hoped with all my heart we were wrong, and would discover that her phone simply needed charging, but my heart thrummed a warning telling me this time was different.

When I got to her house, I peeked through the window. Tears sprang to my eyes when I saw her empty chair. She might be okay! I was happy that I hadn’t found what I was afraid of, but while still standing on the porch ringing the doorbell I received another phone call. She had been found. My friend was in the hospital and had been there for a week. She’d gone to the ER for one thing, and from there everything broke apart. How many people in the past few months had done the same thing? Only this wasn’t COVID.

I had been down this road with my friend before, and we had almost turned a corner before things went wrong again. There had been a few corners and keeping up wasn’t easy, but maybe this turn would convince her to start over. I hoped she might be home again soon and we could start over too. I desperately wanted to begin again with her, but also to get back to the way things used to be. We had only talked occasionally on the phone for the last couple of years, I’d sent her a card just a few months before to let her know I was thinking of and praying for her, but we hadn’t spent time together. There was a reason, and it includes a complex series of realizations and decisions my friend made in her life that I am still grappling with today. I wanted to grab onto the hope I’d had for her in the past, that she’d had for herself, but with every new detail her future became less certain.

The hospital wouldn’t let me see my friend at first, even though she didn’t have other immediate family in town. Only short phone calls during which she was lucid, but fatigued. The doctors told her she might have six months. Another dear friend of mine gently suggested that I not wait six months to say anything to her that was on my heart, and I will always be grateful for that advice. My friend did not have COVID, but she was very sick. By the time I was allowed to see her in person, which is a pandemic miracle I know, she could barely communicate. She was alarmed when she saw me covered with protective garments, a mask, and a face shield. For all I knew the rules could change and I wouldn’t be allowed to visit her again. She wasn’t dying of COVID, so when the caregivers left the room, I raised my face shield and kissed her forehead.

I did get to visit her a few more times, but on one such visit I knew it wouldn’t be much longer, and she passed away not long after I left. We’d had weeks, not months. My friend didn’t die of the virus that was making it so difficult for me to visit her, but of something that has been around a lot longer. Alcoholism stole her from us, from the world, and made her last years sad and difficult. Its hold on her was like a vice grip. The same time that I was being there for my family and celebrating the online graduation of our oldest son during the pandemic, I was also saying goodbye to my friend while wearing a mask.

I am still coming to terms with the fact that my brilliant soul of a friend died of alcoholism. I wonder every single day if I did something wrong, if I could have done something different, if I did anything right with her at all. It has ripped a hole in the fabric of my life that can’t be easily stitched with poring over photo albums of her when she was healthy, independent, and joyful. Now I am haunted by the difference between the friend from twenty years ago and my friend who died almost one year ago. It’s as if they were two different people.

Now, when I consider alcohol, I see it differently than I did before. I wonder how many alcoholics have been created during this Pandemic? How many people accidentally triggered that darkness inside of them by drinking too much when they were lonely? What if this were to happen to one of my children someday? It’s not that I don’t drink wine during this Pandemic, because I have and do, but I know now that if we aren’t careful, it can snag us without our noticing. It can snatch our friends and loved ones right out of our lives.

As with everything, writing helps those of us who love words, so here I am letting my thoughts about my friendship with an alcholic unravel just a little bit here for the first time. I am only just starting to write about my feelings about this topic, just as I am only beginning to understand alcoholism and its toll. This disease is ages old. The pandemic life has simply made it harder to bear.

So many things are different now. I wonder, probably like you, what will change and what will stay the same? I think of my kids as they waited all those months ago at home for my husband and I to return from the funeral, so we could continue at-home graduation festivities. How strange it must have been for them. What have they learned from my friend’s journey? From this pandemic? I pray they are changed for the better. I pray that I am too.

I am certain that I will never be the same for coming face to face with my friend’s alcoholism, and the pandemic magnified the effect and meaning it had on my friendship and in my life. I’ve learned a sad lesson that now, more than ever, we need to communicate with our loved ones, check on those who are alone, and instead of reaching for a bottle of comfort, reach for things in our lives that can truly bring us joy.

Tina Ann Forkner is a school librarian, writing instructor, and published author from Wyoming. Learn more about her books here.

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Remember Blogging?

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Remember blogging? When I first started, most people in my hometown had barely heard of it. Now numerous people have started blogging, stopped, and already moved on to Instagram or some other social media. It is difficult to follow how quickly social media has caught on, and moved on, to the next new platform. Everyone is on board now. Our children think they invented it. Mellenials are going around owning it like we Gen-Xers only had black and white television or something. Nevermind the fact that computers began before either of our generations, as I was reminded last week when I read Grace Hopper, the Queen of Computer Code by Laurie Wallmark and Katy Wu to my fourth grade library students. Not that my grandparents would have known much about computers. They didn’t have access, so they still had to write with pencils and pens.

When I was a kid, my grandmother loved that I wrote stories in notebooks and kept a diary. I had a computer in high school with a DOS Prompt, but I couldn’t take it home with me. They weren’t even portable, yet. When I moved across the ocean she wasn’t all that thrilled that I got married so young (she knew stuff I didn’t – but that’s another story), but she was possibly the biggest letter writer besides my little sister. I kept up letter writing for a long time, even after my grandmother passed away. I wrote to my parents, friends, nieces and nephews, my little sister, and occasionaly to my aunts. Sadly, I got out of the habit. I am not sure what happened, but I think I can blame technology for a big part of how I began to communicate with friends and family. Even journal writing changed. But then came a new way to journal. Remember blogging?

I loved blogging, at first. It was like writing a column since it was public, but less formal, like a journal. When I first started doing it, I had lots of heartfelt things to share with my 10 readers, but nothing lasts forever, as they say. I got a book deal, and while I lived out my dream, some things didn’t change for the better. For one thing, I am still not dripping with diamonds, go figure, but I also didn’t become a prolific writer. Even my library kids recently asked me why I only had 5 books for their moms to read, when I’ve been published since 2008. A question I have asked myself many times. But seriously, there was something about being published that made me feel like I was writing on demand. There wasn’t time for talking about everyday life in a simple blog, anymore. My publisher wanted me to use my blog to promote my books, and then came other kinds of social media. At some point, many of us kind of forgot about blogging.

I would like to see blogging make a comeback. Or has it already, and I missed it? After all, I AM a Gen-Xer, so perhaps it’s back in style with Aqua Net hairspray and nobody told me. Kind of like the fact that I am still wearing skinny jeans even though today I read that they are supposed to be out again.

Anyway, I still remember blogging. Maybe I’ll start doing it again.