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Honest and candid autobiographical sketch by Caryn West. Life’s hardships and joys leading to her celebrated book

 The Trouble with the Alphabet: Through the Eyes of Innocence

By Caryn West

Caryn West

I was not an activist. Hell, I wasn’t even politically savvy. In truth I was ordinary in the sense that while educated, I was detached and yes, somewhat uninterested in the world beyond what affected me personally. I lived to survive and quite honestly this kept my plate full–in a sort of unappetizing way. Life was hard. How to get ahead, how to stabilize our very unstable grasp on staying afloat, this was the core of everyday life; two small children, a teenager and both parents struggling to find their way.

For twelve years I treaded water as a single mom, before meeting my second husband and the father of my two young boys. In the five years we’ve been together things haven’t exactly gotten easier. After spending nine months designing two restaurant franchises from the ground up, we found ourselves on the losing end of a verbal agreement. Unpaid, un-credited, and broke, the venture came to a close with a finale that included a miscarriage and the forced sale of our home in Boulder City, Nevada. From there we moved to Kelowna, British Columbia, with aspirations of starting an eco-friendly resort on 155 acre property overlooking the Okanagan Lake. Four days after arriving in Canada, our dreams and land went up in smoke…literally in the historic Okanagan Mountain fire (the biggest fire in Canadian history). For two years we fought to maintain a resilient optimism, surprising everyone by forging ahead and putting a manufactured home on our scorched property. Soon, I gave birth to our first son, whom fittingly was named Blaze. By the time he turned one we were ready to admit defeat, the eco-friendly resort would never be and our ability to get legal status in Canada by having a viable business plan was gone as well.

We sold our once spectacular property to a gravel operation and moved to Evergreen Colorado, for no other reason than it looked like a good place to live. We loved the mountains, albeit not when they are burning and with renewed optimism we started over. In the ensuing two years we had another child, Cruz Easton, two failed businesses a near fatal car accident (I broke my larynx) and a mountain of debt. It was shortly after the car accident and while creating an alphabet painted on canvasses for my son’s rooms, that real inspiration hit me and I started to realize what I wanted...what mattered.

Vietnam - Caryn West
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My whole life, the two things I had were talent and a huge heart. What I didn’t seem to have was the aggressive drive that fuels the career minded individual, or whatever it is that causes an artist to want to create in a prolific manner. In November of 2006, in a surge of creative energy that had been simmering my entire life I quickly put together some comps to show my husband and The Trouble with the Alphabet was born. For the next year and a half, seven days a week 10-20 hours a day, I tapped into everything within me to execute my vision and in the process discovered not only myself but the world and the under-appreciated concept of activism.

I didn’t stop for anything even in the gloom of our crumbling economic forecast. Nothing derailed me or altered my focus, not the ringing of the doorbell when they were shutting off our power, not the repo- man hauling away my husband’s prized ski boat or the deep sense that we were failing miserably, unable to pay our medical bills and even losing our health insurance. In my gut I knew I was doing the right thing–I knew I was doing what I was put here to do, even if it didn’t make sense or seem practical to the critics–otherwise known as my family (not the family I created and lived with, the family I grew up with.)

At about the same time that the foreclosure of our home became imminent; we met a director of an Evergreen based organization providing micro-loans to Guatemalan Women. Our first meeting was simply to offer the organization a page in the book; a book that I intended to publish myself, though I had no idea how that intention would be funded. During this first meeting, as I passionately poured out my vision and presented a concept and body of work that was becoming increasingly more impressive, the director looked at me and said “Cut to the chase, what do you really need?”

Indonesia - Caryn West
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Out of that question came the big break, for me, for my family and for this project. A week later in another meeting, after the director grilled me with some tough questions, our world changed in a heartbeat when he looked at me and said “I’m your money.” He committed to funding the project over $100,000, and made a point of letting me know he was investing in me…in my passion. He has made good on his commitment, become a good friend, business advisor and mentor. More importantly he has set an example; one I intend to repeat…an example of helping an individual to realize not only their potential but to enable them to reach it.

Even though we still lost our home, I managed to stay focused. I continued to work as my husband emptied the house around me, only reluctantly putting down the brushes, long enough to allow him to move my studio. No tears, no time to say goodbye to the home we loved, just conviction that for once I was pursuing the “right” dream.

I’ve stopped questioning why it’s so hard…some things we will never understand. But to those opposing forces out there that think they can beat me…you won’t because this is what I was put here to do…PERIOD.

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"The Trouble with the Alphabet" "Through the Eyes of Innocence" (Volume 1)
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