Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Karen Donaldson from Susan Law Corpany'sLucky Change. Sit back, relax, but first grab your popcorn, because we're in for a real treat!
Karen, thank you for letting sit on her comfy couch for this interview. I'll try not to take too much of your time, seeing your kids may need you at any time.
E: I’ve heard a lot about you—but what strikes me most is how good you are with children. I’m like you, where I’d rather spend my time with my kids than my house—they can pick up after themselves (90% of the mess, anyway).
Well, my kids have been my life. My ex-husband left me when they was little. I ain't never dated much or anything. I just figgered God gave me these two kids to raise and that was my most important life's work. Of course, I ain't never had a great career or nothin' that would make anybody sit up and take notice, just checkin' out the groceries there at Smith's Food King. And yeah, I love the kids in Primary. My church job is teachin' them to sing. Them Primary songs, that's how little testimonies start, singin' about Jesus. So yep, I love kids. They're the best!
E: Tell me about your childhood. What is your best memory? Your worst?
My best memory of childhood is the year my mom made me a bunch of doll furniture for Christmas out of odds and ends she had around the house. We never had a lot of money, but my doll furniture was so cool. It was mostly cardboard and wallpaper and fabric glued together. I still have it in a box in my garage. That's my mother's love made visible. I guess that kinda sums up my childhood--learning to make do and be happy.
One of my worst memories was when I came home from school sad one day because some kid in my class made fun of me because I wasn't pretty. I used to play pretend games, pretend that I was a beautiful fairy princess, but I never played that again after that boy said those mean things to me. But it turned into a good memory, because my mother never let us have pity parties for very long. She told me he was right, that I wasn't the prettiest girl in school and that I never would be. Then she told me that since there were so many girls trying so hard to be the prettiest, I should find something different where there wasn't so much competition. She told me I could be the nicest girl and the friendliest girl. So after that, I tried to be friendly to everybody. I think that's why I am always voted "Most Friendly Cashier" at the grocery store, because I followed my mom's advice.
E: How were your parents an influence to the person you are today?
I think I just answered that. My dad, he was an example to me of somebody who worked hard to take care of his family, even if he didn't make a lot of money. My mom, she was an example to me of never letting your circumstances get you down. Even when I got rich, my mom didn't want no help from me. She has always been one to take care of her own family and even though we was poor growing up, my mom never let on to that. She used to keep a box by the door where we put stuff we didn't need and it said "For the poor." That was Mom's way of not lettin' us think we was poor, because there had to be somebody somewhere had it worse than we did and we was gonna help them. She never let us feel sorry for ourselves.
E: Tell me about Coalville, Utah.
Coalville was a fun place to grow up, a small town where everybody knew everybody. We had cousins nearby and grew up mostly with the same people from kindergarten to high school. Goin' to Salt Lake was a big deal for us, a trip to the big city. Coalville has grown a lot, but I could still go back there today and find a whole buncha people I knew growin' up that's never left the place. My mom still lives there, so I visit regular-like.
E: Do you plan to marry again?
Like I said before, I ain't dated hardly at all since Ray left me. And I don't wanna give away stuff that is in the book. Let's just say that I never thought I would consider gettin' married again, but things can change. I never knew my life would change in a way that'd make a buncha guys wanna marry me. I figgered I was lucky gettin' one guy to wanna marry me, back in the day. Like I told Bishop Parley, I ain't no spring chicken.
E: Tell me about Delia. Austin?
Dee's a good kid who kinda got off track. Some of the kids at school and church weren't very acceptin' of her, and she quit goin' to church and got runnin' around with kids I really didn't approve of. But she's doin' a lot better. I knew we was makin' progress when she donated a bunch of her old clothes to the Deseret Industries, stuff that wasn't very modest, when she finally looked like she was growin' up, realizin' she's a mother, ya know, and tryin' to be a better example to her daughter. Like when I watch TV sometimes, I wonder about people like Britney Spears, like if she ever thinks when she's dancin' in her skivvies, if she ever thinks about that she's a mom and that her kids are watchin' her for an example of how to be.
Austin, he's my missionary. I'm so proud of him! He almost didn't go. Neither of my kids have had it easy. Austin got his heart broke six ways from Sunday every time ya turned around. And even if other people couldn't always see it, he's always been full of a lot of anger, mostly at his dad for not bein' around to help make our life easier. He's made a lot of progress lettin' go of some of that, realized he couldn't take all that anger into the mission field. He's always been my protector, my little man. Poor kid had too much responsibility at a young age, feelin' like he was the man of the house.
E: Who was there for you in your darkest hour? How did you manage a family, house and job by yourself?
I ain't sure which was my darkest hour, ya know. My life, it was kinda like when the electric company does rolling blackouts. Ya know there are gonna be dark days, but you ain't sure when they're comin'. I gotta say Jesus. I have just always reminded myself that Heavenly Father and Jesus was there for me when things got tough. As far as managin' the house and job my myself, same thing. I knew I wasn't alone. When Austin was little, he thought the Lord's prayer was "Give us this day our day-old bread" because I always brought home day-old bread from the store, when they was puttin' the new stuff out. But that was kinda how we did it, a day at a time. I didn't worry about the future. I just knew that every day God blessed us with our daily bread. We always had a house. I know I was led to find the Thompson's who rented to us, and they never raised my rent in all them years we lived in their basement. And because of the generous people in that ward, we always had the things we needed. It wasn't easy. It wasn't like when I was growin' up. Surrounded by people who had so much more than they did, my kids knew we was poor.
E: I understand that you are LDS, or Mormon. How did you realize that it was the church your heart belonged to? Was there ever a time where you doubted?
I don't remember a time when the Church wasn't part of my life. Nope, I ain't never doubted. Sometimes I doubted how well some people was livin' the gospel, but then I ain't perfect neither. I couldn't doubt, because I needed something to hang onto, something to believe in. I think everybody has times when they wonder if God is really there, but then if they take an honest look, I think they'll see times when they can't deny He was there, watchin' over 'em.
E: Where did you live before you moved into your current ward? How do you feel about this one?
When me and Ray was first married, we had a little apartment. It wasn't in the most safe part of town. Once he was gone, I didn't feel real safe there with just me and my babies, but I couldn't really afford to move, either. That's when I met Sister Thompson at the grocery store, came and asked me where she could hang up a flyer about a basement apartment for rent. Never did end up hanging up that flyer. We just made a deal right then and there. Of course, I told her maybe she was the answer to my prayers. Soon as I said that, she just crumpled up that flyer right then and there and tossed it into my trash can. She don't know, but I fished it out later and looked at it. The rent they was gonna ask was twice as much as what she charged me. I never let on that I knew that, but they was angels in our lives, the Thompson family.
It was hard sometimes livin' in a ward where we was the only ones strugglin'. I know it was hard on the kids. But I love the people in that ward. They was always thinkin' of us and givin' us used cars and old furniture they didn't need no more. Bishop Parley is the best! He took such good care of us. How he handled a couple of sensitive things with Dee made a big difference in her comin' around eventually. Good people! See, sure I could tell you about some slights and some attitudes that wasn't always very Christlike, but I think they are like all of us, doin' the best they know how with what they have. Like I told Dee, "There ain't a Snobs Anonymous for people like Allison to go get help."
E: How do you enjoy leading the music in Primary? How do you get the kids to participate?
Oh, you know that's the very best calling in the Church. I love it! I do all the usual things, visual aids and stuff, but mostly I just think I show 'em that I love those songs and it's contagious. I tell 'em you don't hafta be the best singer, because ya can sing with your heart. I hope I'm teachin' them to worship through music. I love music. I do wish I'd had the chance to learn to play the piano when I was little, but I'm takin' lessons now. My friend Toni Cirroni, she's gonna give me piano lessons.
E: Who is Olive Arletti? She seems to focus on your quirks, how do you deal with that? What do you think about her housekeeping? What would you like to tell her (don’t worry, you’re quite safe here on my blog!)?
Well, first, I love Olive. She's my sister, but I guess I don't understand her any more than she understands me. See, she obsesses about havin' everything clean and me, I could not care less about that. I had to decide early on whether I was gonna spend my free time dustin' or playin' with my kids. Our place was small, so we lived in our "living room." I think a home is meant to serve the people who live there and people like Olive, well it looks to me like Olive serves her home. Don't get me wrong. I know I could do better. A cluttery home don't serve ya very well, either, but I learned early on not to sweat the small stuff. Olive, that's her whole life, sweatin' the small stuff. But we're workin' together on a project, so you never know. We might rub off on each other, and that'd prob'ly be a good thing for both of us.
E: What is your favorite quote?
"Two people can do anything, as long as one of them is God."
E: Is there anything you’d like your readers to know?
If they want to get to know me better, and get some of my brand of housekeepin' hints, tell them to pick up "Lucky Change." It ain't in Deseret Book or Seagull, because somebody down there judged a book by its cover and decided the book promotes gamblin'. People will have to read it for themselves to find out if that is true. It is available at the BYU Bookstore and Amazon.com. It is a finalist for a Whitney Award. Maybe it'll even be a winner by the time people read this. But if it ain't, well, it was an honor just to be nominated. Personally, I think this book should get the Whitney "Miss Congeniality" Award, if there was such a thing, because it's so funny. I've heard a lot of people say that when they are reading it, they have to stop and read the funny parts to other people, mostly because those people want to know what they are laughing about.
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