Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Walking the labyrinth

I wrote this about five years ago and thought I might share it again. Marilyn.

So, I’ve been in kind of a funk of sorts lately. Summer is ending. I had a great time at the children’s book conference but the phone hasn’t been ringing off the hook with a publisher wanting me to illustrate the next Caldecott medal award winner or to say, gee Marilyn, we want to you fly out to New York to meet with you about a series of books that we want you to do. Nope, fame and fortune in the book world didn’t have me on speed dial this week.
As I’m looking at this website… and I notice a bit of poking around a labyrinth locator.
I get very excited! There is a labyrinth not ten miles from my house! Spiritual centering and enlightenment await me in big Celtic embossed cups!


Now you have to know that Orange County is not Stonehenge. It’s not even Sedona or Marin. It’s definitely not like that show on TV. It’s a place where it never rains, there’re billboards for discount boob jobs and places named Bobo Loco. As I turn onto Galway Street, nothing looks very much “Galway” at all. Dried out palm trees, graffiti and a notice that the soup kitchen is closed on Wednesdays. The labyrinth spreads over a leaf strewn inner courtyard, the purple paint cracking and faded in the late summer sun.
There are a couple of old guys hanging out in the cool of the corridor behind a metal bar fence. They argue loudly about the war in Iraq. Dang! I had hoped for quiet but hunker down and start walking. Step, step, step. After the first few paces toward the middle the path becomes twisty and turny making me feel like a marching toy soldier as I switch back and forth. The rings smooth out after a while as I wind my way, eyes down over trash, dead leaves, and a long yellow smear of dried hurl. Step, step, one foot then the other, step, step, turn. The labyrinth softens into smoother turns, step, step, step, step, turn.
“Blow them all up,” step, step, step, “our boys over there,” One voice that I’ve dubbed the Loud Guy overpowers all the other murmuring…step, step, turn. Bird crap. Dried leaves. More murmuring and Loud Guy says, “It a maze, I don’t remember what it’s called.”
Shit! I’ve been noticed. I keep my head down and keep walking.
“It goes back to medieval times. It’s for Spiritual Enlightenment.” he explains with knowing conviction. There is silence for a while as we all ponder this comment.
“Spiritual Enlightenment” Is that why I’m here? What the heck am I doing? Step, step, step. My paces lengthen as I reach the outer rings, having to duck under overhanging branches to keep on the path. A few more steps and then suddenly I am winding closer and closer to the middle.
Before I know it I make a last few turns and am standing in the center. The webpage says, “Upon reaching the center, remain there as long as you like. Some like to sit in the center to reflect.” It doesn’t mention that there is a drain grate in the middle. I have a childhood aversion to grates and suddenly I’m five years old up in the mountains and my parents trying to get me to walk over a large snow grate into the lodge. I stand with my red cowgirl boots, dripping slush and phobias as they urge me to cross over. It’s about a mile deep it seems to me and I’m sure there are alligators or grizzly bears down at the bottom. I think my dad finally carried me across.
I look down at the labyrinth grate into the stagnant water below. I don’t think I want to stay very long at all. I like moving better than sitting. After a few deep breaths I begin the winding journey back. Step, step, step. The trip back is freer and my steps are longer. My Labyrinth Guide 101 says, “There are many ways to walk the Labyrinth.” One of which is with a prayer or mantra in mind. Today I don’t particularly have a mantra. I don’t have anything I particularly want other than the really important stuff that I pray for most days, happy home, happy family, to be of some use in a noisy, dusty world. To have my Toymakers book on the New York Times best seller list slips in there from time to time but today I am not asking for anything. Step, step, turn. I hum a few bars to “Be Thou My Vision” which feels about right. The soup kitchen guys are back to talking about politics. Step, step, step, a swoosh and a turn and then with a flash I’m done.
As I’m back in my car driving I smile at the discount boob job billboard girl as she spills out of her strapless satin gown. She smiles back with perfect white bonded teeth and shiny black hair flowing down her arched back. The traffic rumbles along under the freeway past Wal-Mart and Pho soup places, burnt yellow crab grass and carnicerias. I realize that this is my labyrinth, my life, dusty and noisy, filled with too many people and too many cars. I don’t live in some green idyllic place with Celtic harp playing softly in the background. Ah well. I pull a few dried leaves from my hair as I drive. That’s okay with me.

As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth,
so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind.
To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again.
To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over
the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Are you ready for a magical adventure? One that is full of fun and PRIZES? Then come join us for the Ultimate Guide to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory's Golden Ticket Giveaway!

The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory will provide hours of fun for kids and parents alike. Based on the beloved story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the boy who wins the golden ticket and enters the magical world of Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, this beautifully-illustrated and well-written book entices kids to enter that same magical world and join along in the adventure.

The Ultimate Guide to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is an interactive, adventure-filled delight through the Chocolate Factory, with stops along the way to create, laugh and learn. It reawakens the passion and idea of “jumping” inside the pages of this book with the knowledge that each chapter is a gateway into a magical world. Now available on iTunes, it’s your opportunity to truly experience where art, literature and technology meet allowing you to feel the story like never before.

With over 20 crafts and activities for the entire family, the book brings children and parents together to re-live the wonder and amazement that Charlie experienced during his trip through Willy Wonka’s world of magic and chocolate. While meandering through the factory on the Chocolate River, readers stop to learn where chocolate comes from or how gum is made. They work their way through mazes, puzzles and games, and so more much. The best part is that the adventures can be done at the reader’s own pace, providing family fun throughout the summer and beyond.

As an author, parent, and founder of multiple blogs, Audrey Press CEO Valarie Budayr has always been committed to helping families discover the balance between being “connected” and intentionally “unplugged” to create family time and reading opportunities. As an advocate of family reading, Valarie has created the enchanting enhanced digital eBook known as the Ultimate Guide to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory as a way to encourage families to re-discover the joys and benefits of reading and playing together as a family.

Valarie has hand-picked 5 delightful blogs that she feels carries the message of families learning, reading and growing together through play. These very special blogs will be the "keepers" of the much-desired 5 Golden Tickets. Starting today (September 13th), readers are invited to visit the following 5 blogs and locate the Golden Ticket.

·       Visit each one of our 5 hand-picked blogs.(See list below)
·       The Golden Ticket will be in a blog post that was written and created within the last 10 days.
·       One Golden Ticket will be found per blog, so readers will need to visit all 5 blogs to get all 5 Golden Tickets.
·       Locate each Golden Ticket, and make note of the URL of the blog page it was found on.
·       After locating the 5 Golden Tickets on the 5 participating blogs, enter the links within our Rafflecopter Giveaway on our Ultimate Guide to Charlie blog.
·       Once readers enter those 5 links correctly, they are “in to win!” 
·       A Grand Prize Winner and several secondary winners will be chosen September 24th, 2012.

·      Must enter five golden ticket URLs in the five slots in Rafflecopter

BONUS: Tweet the giveaway for an optional Bonus 
                  “Like” The Ultimate Guide to Charlie Facebook Fan Page

WHO are the 5 keepers of the Golden Tickets??

What are the prizes, you say?
 Oohhh, fasten your seat belts..these are GOOD:

First Prize:
A brand new iPad! And not just an iPad, but one also loaded with the Ultimate Guide to Charlie and The Chocolate Factory (a $7.99 value) and other Kite Reader books (a $40.00 value)

Second Prize:
Your choice of a $50 gift card to one of the following places: Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, or an independent bookstore listed at

Third Prize:
$50 gift card to iTunes.

Disclaimers for the Giveaway:
·       *Must be 18 years or older to enter
·       *One entry per household.
·       *Staff and family members of Audrey Press are not eligible.
·       *Grand Prize winner has 48 hours to claim prize
·       *If Grand Prize winner is outside of the US and Canada, they will be given an Apple Gift card to use for their iPad purchase.

 “Watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are hidden in the most unlikely places.” – Roald Dahl