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Local authors focus on caretakers, sandwich generation during Arlington Heights event

Time:2017-02-24 13:30wine - Red wine life health Click:

book club Here in The Middle Tuscan Market author Katherine Mikkelson

Author Christine Organ, an Arlington Heights resident, wanted to give voice to a generation of women who feel pulled between their children and aging parents.

That voice was heard loud and clear Feb. 11, when Organ appeared at a launch in downtown Arlington Heights for the book, "Here in The Middle: Stories of Love, Loss, and Connection from the Ones Sandwiched in Between."

More than 30 friends and family gathered at the Tuscan Market and Wine Shop to support Organ, who edited and curated the book with Julie Jo Severson, along with Organ's neighbor and fellow author Katherine Mikkelson.

Five of the 32 essayists who contributed to the book also were on hand to sign and share their personal stories.

"There's a lot of how-to books out there to be a good caregiver but not a lot of books giving voice to the story, the emotion and the complexity of it," said Organ.

The 39-year-old mother of two young sons considers herself in the "sandwich generation," covering the ages between 30 and 60 years old.

"There's a story that will resonate with anyone in here," Organ said.

The stories range from women dealing with the health issues of an aging parent to grieving after their death, as well as surviving breast cancer, balancing career, marriage and kids.

"There's a definite need to want to tell their stories and people need to read their stories," said Organ, a former lawyer turned two-time book author and contributing writer to scarymommy.com and Disney's babble.com. "So many people are affected by these issues and everyone wants to have the feeling that they are not alone."

The idea for the book came to Organ about a year ago, when she found herself being a working parent while dealing with the health issues of her parents.

She worked with Severson, of Minnesota, to put out a call for essayists last April.

They received more than 200 submissions, choosing 30 essayists to join them in the book that published Dec. 1.

Mikkelson said she was glad her book club buddy gave her a nudge to contribute.

"The story is about the things you do because you love your kids and parents," said Mikkelson, 51, who wrote the piece, "The Things You Do For Love" for the book. "My teenage son used to fence and I had no idea what was going on. I dreaded it. But that's what you do as a parent, you sit through the swim meets, the daylong gymnastics tournaments or basketball tournaments. Then, there's my mom who loves to visit every garden in America. She's dragged me to see gardens over the world."

Although she admits she isn't a fan of gardening, Mikkelson knew it would make her mother happy to attend.

The former employment attorney, who turned into a full-time writer 20 years ago, also has contributed to another anthology and published her own book based on her experience as a mother of two adopted children from Korea.

Another essayist who was signing books was Jackie Pick, 44, of Northfield, who wrote the piece, "Grandparent Privilege" about her whimsical look at "being the odd man out in a relationship between my parents and my children."

"It just seems like the relationship they have puts me somewhere between jealousy and awe," said Pick, a mother of twin 8-year-old boys and a 4-year-old girl.

Her parents, Richard and Pamela Schlosberg, live in Highland Park and often book their own "playdates" with their grandchildren. She said she realizes they enjoy "all of the sweetness without the stickiness of a parent-and-child relationship."

Kim Bless, 49, of Arlington Heights, came out to support the essayists and her friend, Mikkelson, and pick up a copy of the book.

"It's very relatable to us because we're all about the same age," said Bless, a mother of triplet 18-year-old boys and a college student who has parents in their 70s. "I've gone through the same."

Another friend who can relate was Leslie Meredith.

"I joke I could write half the chapters in the book," said Meredith, 51, who returned from Europe a single parent to be with her dad turned nanny in Arlington Heights. "It's clearly a relevant theme."

Elizabeth Owens-Schiele is a freelance reporter for Pioneer Press.


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