Monday, January 8, 2018

Playing in the Subway -- 10 Things I Learned in New York

Part 9 -- Playing in the Subway

    One of my best memories from New York, is of the subway.  I played my fiddle on a subway car (video below).  But my favorite memory isn't of me playing--it's when someone else did.

#AnchoredToAPole #TheSubwayISBumpy
Posted by Elisa Beth Magagna on Sunday, December 24, 2017

     Matted gray hair framed his wind-beaten face, and honestly he smelled of urine.  I'm still not sure why, but just as the subway car's doors were about to close, he jumped into our car.
    His gnarled hands held a fiddle, which he made look much smaller than it actually was. I found it strange how his right hand didn't fully clasp the bow, and his left hand held the fiddle tenderly, like his only remaining lover.
    As the subway bumped along the track, the man stood right next to me and played.  It was a short, sweet song; I recognized it at once as the theme song from Doctor Zhivago.  It ended far too soon, and then he brought his case from person to person.  
    I watched as people raised their noses in disgust.  Others pretended not to see the man.  And finally...sadly, Mike and I were the only passengers who gave him a tip.  
   "Sir," I said, "that was beautiful!  YOU are unforgettable."  He bent down as I placed the money in his case.  Our eyes locked, and there was such a sparkle of mischief in his old, blue eyes.  For that moment, we understood one another, soul to soul.  That man with the weathered, tan skin, and the music which poured from his spirit...he saw my violin case on my back and we suddenly understood one another.  
    I didn't care what he smelled or looked like--and he didn't mind me so much either.  That man was so special; I still can't quite explain it, but he was.  
    And before I could talk to him more, he slipped out at the next stop, the doors closed behind him, and he was gone forever.
    "Wow," I said to Mike, "that man is amazing.  His intonation.  His presence."
    Another passenger looked at me like I was crazy.
    "What?" I said.  "He's phenomenal--not just his playing, but there's something about him."
    "He really was," Mike said.  And when I looked over at my husband, I knew he'd seen the same thing I did.
    Days, and miles away from New York, I'm still wondering what his story is.  How had someone so talented, gotten to a place in life where they smelled of urine and appeared to have nothing but a fiddle?
    I wish I could have heard about his journey, written a book about the man, given him something to help....  Instead all I gave him was what I had: two dollars and a smile. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Most Important Moment of Your Life -- 10 Things I Learned in New York

10 Things I Learned in NewYork -- Part 8

Mike and I heard that the most famous Irish pub in New York is The Dead Rabbit.  A man told us that people get in real bar fights there, others fall in love, but regardless the food is great.
    "Let's go," I told Mike.
    "So you can watch me get in a bar fight?"
    "I'd be more worried about me getting in one!"
    He laughed because apparently I don't look tough at all.
    We sat down on spinny bar stools and both ordered a Guinness.  "Wow, Guinness is different.  Dinner and a beer, all in one!"  Then, I suddenly looked around and nearly choked with excitement.  "Oh my gosh!" I squealed, hearing the conversations around us.  "There are Irish people--actually in this pub!"
    "Yep." Mike smiled.  "Yep, there are.  Irish people in an Irish pub." 
    The point is that I wish I was Irish.  I 'tried' perfecting the dialect for months, even read an entire book to my kids while acting as if Irish blood ran boldly through my veins.  Then I worked on the Scottish dialect, and read them this:
 photo sleekit_zpsmugtgo5d.jpg
Back cover quote:
Ad so the scene is set for a muckle battle between the scunnersome fermers and the tremendous tods. He'll need all his wily wits to escape the fermers' wrath and find a new way to feed his faimlie. But is he sleekit enough to succeed? 

    The whole book is written like that.  After finishing the book, that's about the time my DNA test came back.  I shook, so eager to find out I was really Irish.  But I had 0% Irish.  I'm a whole lot of Italian--which I love--and a whole lot of Scandinavian--go Vikings!
    "You're hilarious," Mike said.  "You want to use your Irish accent, don't you?"
    I nodded.  "But I won't.  That's weird!"
    We hadn't been sitting there long when one man came and introduced himself to Mike.  "I'm from Belfast--I'll answer that right off because people always ask me.  And you?  Where are you from?" 
    He sat by Mike and said, "Oh, the land of potatoes."
    Mike and I smiled at each other.  It doesn't matter how far we go from home, people hear the word 'Idaho' and they know about the potatoes.
    As Mike talked to his new best friend, another man came up to me--straight out of the bathroom.  He shook my hand and said with a slur, "I have herpes, you might want to wash that."
    I kept gripping his hand, not wanting that brute to get a rise out of ME.  "A man takes a piss," I said boldly, "then gets enough balls to try scaring some poor girl.  That's nice."  I refused to break eye contact, a bit worried I'd be in my very first bar fight! 
    "American."  He grinned so wide and slapped me on the back.
    I nodded, and tried not falling off the damn stool.  
    "Only American women respond like that.  I like ya.  I like all of ya."
    "Where are you from?" I asked.
    Then he walked back to his group of rowdies, and when I realized he wasn't looking back at me anymore, I went to the bathroom and washed my hands.  I didn't wanna look idiotic, but I also didn't want herpes!
    Anyway, the night went on, and Mike and Mr. Belfast had the most interesting conversations about war, life, and love.
    We went to another bar and Belfast came along.  I got bangers and mashers, and another beer!  After a moment, Mike went to the bathroom and Belfast and I sat awkwardly next to each other.  
    "Okay, fine," I said.  "I've been dying to ask you a question, so I'm gonna ask it!  Looking back at your exciting life--of travel and adventure--what's your most important memory?"
    He took a long draft of his fourth Guinness, and tapped the table with his free hand.  "All right....  It was over forty years ago, in the yard with my dad.  Before things got weird with growing up, and fighting for different countries.  Before it was hard to always know what's right and what's wrong.... He played football with me--not that American football.  Anyway, we played for hours.  If I could go back to that moment, well...."
    He didn't say anything more for a minute and took a swig of his beer.  "He's gone now, my dad.  But that single moment, playing football with my dad, that was perfect."
    Mike came out and Belfast started saying how he's done things his dad might not be proud of.
    I suddenly felt so impressed to say something, something I couldn't get from my mind.  
    "If you met us for anything, I hope it's for this single statement," I said, "it's time to forgive yourself.  Really, you've been carrying this around for too long.  You know your dad's love.  Forgive yourself.  It's time."
    Mike and I left shortly after that.  But not before I got to practice my Irish accent on the man.  "Oh, shit!" he laughed.  "That was pretty good.  It really was."
    Mike grinned so big that his face turned a bit red and his eyes sparkled with mirth.
    THAT moment was awesome--totally worth MONTHS of practice.    
    When Mike and I returned to our hotel that night, I kept thinking about Belfast's memory: playing football with his dad.  What a powerful thing, to pinpoint the most important memory, and see the value of life so clearly.

   The key moments of life often become painfully clear when those we love pass on. 

Saturday, January 6, 2018

Staten Island Musician -- 10 Things I Learned in New York

Part 7 -- Staten Island Musician

Mike and I drank smooth, black coffee on Staten Island, when suddenly a guitar melody drifted from nearby. 
    We followed the notes, and ended up in the large room where droves of people waited for the return ferry to New York.  Almost every person watched a guitarist, playing anything from Jamaican rifts, to a mix of Latino and rock harmonies.
    Anyway, he was astoundingly good, and I wished more than anything that I could jam with him.  So, I went and gave him a tip.  But as I turned to walk away, he saw my violin case, and he stopped playing.  "Are you pretty good?" he asked.
    "I've played since I was 5."
     "You wanna jam?"
     "Oh my gosh!  Are you kidding?!  YES, I want to jam!"
    So I took out my fiddle and we played—right there in front of the ever-growing crowd of people.
    After a couple of measures he leaned over to me and said, "You ARE good.  Let me turn down my guitar so people can actually hear you."

     Here's a picture Mike took while we played:

 photo statenisland_zpsldabwrig.jpg  
    Music is life-changing--it's math that we can hear.  He played a third, so I played a fifth.  Then I knew he'd drop back again, so I countered with a root note.  After a few minutes, my mind stopped making predictions and the music poured straight from my soul.  Toward the end of the third song, I felt so connected with the melodies, it sounded as if this man and I had played together for years.  That's the thing about music, it brings out your soul--all barriers removed--and that's when we can really connect with people, even strangers.  I've always wondered if our true selves come out during music--the best version of ourselves.
    "Oh shoot," I said at the end of the last song.  "Our ferry is almost here.  I've gotta go."
    "But what's your name?  When will you be back?  Who are you?  We need to jam again--we could get a contract!"
     As I continued frantically packing up my fiddle, I felt like Cinderella, leaving the ball.  "I don't live around here."
     "I play at Staten Island every Sunday.  You have to come back.....  Where are you from, anyway?"
    "Idaho?  Huh."  He smiled so big.  Then as I slid my bow into my case, Mike got the guy's number.  
    Before going, I gave the man a huge hug.  "This moment--what you did for me....  Letting me jam with you in front of all these people--I'll never forget it.  You made my entire year.  
    He beamed.  "Keep in touch!"
    As Mike and I boarded the ferry, I asked him if that whole thing amazed him as much as it amazed me.
    "Typical day."  He shrugged.  "Come to a city you've never been in.  Meet some guy.  Get propositioned to play music with him on Staten Island every Sunday.  No, Elisa, I'm done being surprised. Life with you has always been an adventure."
    "You're such a good man to stick by me through all this craziness.  Some people I've been didn't like stuff like this.  Not everyone can be as supportive as you are.  I love you so much, Mike."
    He winked at me and as we sat down on the ferry, I snuggled next to him.
    The South Africans, who we had met on the ferry ride there (that post HERE), well, they found us and sat down.
    "Have you met that guitarist, before today?" the son asked.
    "Nope," I said.  "I can't believe he asked me to jam, right there.  People are so awesome."
     The South African father turned to his son and said quietly,  "See, this is why I brought you to America.  Americans are different people--sometimes they do crazy things.  Fascinating!"
    The son nodded and grinned at me.  "Both of you should come visit us in South Africa.  You would love it there!"
    After we got off the ferry and the South Africans had gone their own way, Mike chuckled so hard.  "Oh, Elisa, I hope they don't think all Americans are like you."
    "What does that mean?!"
    "You're of a kind."
THAT was truly one of the best days of my life!🤗  I'm so grateful that man took a chance and asked me to jam with him.

—If we approach life with arms wide open, 
we’ll be amazed with what follows!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Ferry to the Statue of Liberty -- 10 Things I Learned in New York

    We waited for about half an hour, then boarded the free ferry to Staten Island, and of course I still had my violin with me.  Here's the thing about being a musician.... 

    You know you're a musician when:

    1. You bring your instrument on vacation with you.
    2. Your idea of "fun" is listening to the same song 50 times just so you can catch all of it. (I'm sure my family LOVES it when I do this...those lucky folks.)
    3. You hear other people jam--and can hardly stand not being able to rock-out with them.
    4. You meet strangers--and can almost guess what they play (just by their mannerisms).
    5. You end up playing the table drums far more than you'd like to admit.
    6. You've owned a QUEEN album--or tried to steal one from your brother. 
    7. You can make immediate friends with people, just after hearing they're musicians too.
    8. You've made up random rhythms with your family's best silverware.
    9. You think Johnny Cash is sexy (okay...maybe that's just me).
    And 10. Your crazy schemes of being a full-time musician make NO SENSE to your non-musical friends and family.

    Anyway, enough of THAT.  So, as we rode the ferry and saw the Statue of Liberty (which is actually much smaller than I anticipated), I wanted to break out my violin and play either THE STAR SPANGLED BANNER, or AMERICA.  But, realizing no one on the ferry could voluntarily escape my music--I decided that wouldn't be cool.
    The ferry puttered on, and Mike and I met people from Israel, Australia, Germany, and then South Africa.  
    "New York?"  I asked one of the South Africans.
    "Yeah," Mike said, "what brings you here?"
    The man smiled at the ocean.  The wind tussled his hair as he turned to us.  "This is my son," he said.  "He's eighteen, and getting ready for college in South Africa.  I told him that he needed to see New York now that he's a man."
    We talked to both of them for quite a while, and I found myself so struck by the beauty of the conversation.  For those two, the only thing that mattered then was taking in the world, experiencing New York, and appreciating their time together.
    "You're going to play your violin?" the man asked, after I told him about my instrument.
    "Not on the ferry--but maybe on Staten Island."  I smiled mischievously.
     A man's voice blared through the ferry's speaker system, "Go to your nearest exit.  We've arrived at Staten Island."
   "It was nice to meet both of you," Mike said as we walked toward the exit.  I realized though, both of us looked back at the father and his son.  They pointed at various sites from the ferry.  Both of them laughed, and I could almost catch the hues of happiness emanating from both of them.
    As Mike and I stepped onto Staten Island, I recalled a story from a while back.  A man had lost contact with his son.  They had gotten in a fight and both were too proud to give in.  Anyway, the son died....  The father had told me how devastating it was, because looking back all his son had ever wanted was to be accepted, appreciated, and loved.  But the father had realized all of this too late--he hadn't been really present for his son's childhood, adult years, or really his life.  At that time, the man felt compelled to tell me the importance of always showing people how much we care.
   As I thought about his words, my thoughts went back to the South African father.  He's the epitome of a good person--kind, genuine, selfless--bringing his son across the world, just to show him something special.  That love, well, it was breathtaking and I won't forget it.
    After a few minutes, Mike bought both of us a coffee and we were about to sit down when I heard music drifting from somewhere close by.  That's when my favorite moment in New York happened--right there on Staten Island--and I'm proud to say the South African father and son were part of it!
    To be continued tomorrow.... 

P.S. So many of us just want to feel accepted and loved, by ourselves and others. 

Being empowered by acceptance and love--that can yield true peace.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Aspiring Rapper -- 10 Things I Learned in New York

An Aspiring Rapper -- Part 5
Mike and I walked into Time Square and I stared, astounded by all the people working for tips.  People strutted around dressed as famous cartoon characters and...the statue of liberty.  A woman sang and strummed her guitar.  A man did handstands, right there on the cold ground.  But as I studied all of those people, smiling and laughing, I caught a sad look from a man in his twenties.  He held a stack of CDs.  As various people passed, he offered them CDs, but no one paid attention to him.  With each person, the man became more and more dejected.
    I grabbed Mike's hand and pulled him in the direction of the guy.  I didn't know who the Hell he was, but we were about to find out.
    "I want a CD," I said.
    "Wait--you do?" the guy asked.
    "Of course!"  
    "Well, okay then.  Okay!"  He brightened.
    Mike smiled at the guy kindly and shook his head at me.
    "So, what's your story?" I asked.  "What's this CD?"
    "I'm a rapper.  I want to go somewhere and I figure this is the way to do it."
    "Hang on!"  I suddenly set my violin case on the ground and opened it up.  I gave him the cash I had earned earlier from playing in Central Park (that story HERE). 
    "Hold up," he said.  "You're giving me the tips YOU made."
    "And why not!  People wanted to give them to me--now I want to give 'em to you.  A dream for a dream."
    He smiled so big and laughed.  
    "But you have to sign the CD!  To Elisa and Mike."
    He pulled out a magic marker--from his pocket--because ninjas carry markers!
    After Mike and I were a way up the street, I looked at the CD and burst out laughing.  "Oh my Gosh, Mike!  Look who he signed the CD to."
     "Does that say Eloise?"  Mike laughed pretty hard too!  "To Eloise and Big Mike."
    "I love it!" I said.

    I thought that guy was pretty awesome. Who carries a marker around, just waiting to sign stuff--that guy.  I wish him all of the success in the world; I really do.  He's one of the good ones.

    Thought for the day:  If we can't support each other, we ain't got nothin'!

Here's a picture of me playing my violin shortly after Mike and I met the rapper:
 photo A367DDFA-2CE5-4A2A-A43A-271C1E7BC312_zpsjfsi2x2h.jpeg 

Have an amazing day!

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Symphony Violinist -- 10 Things I Learned in New York

 Part 4 -- 10 Things I Learned in New York

My bucket list contains some pretty strange things, but each of them has the capability of making a great memory for myself--and hopefully people around me.
    So, one of the items is: play my violin on the streets of New York.
    For Christmas, Mike bought us tickets to New York.  The first place we visited with my violin was Central Park.
    The weather bit at my fingers, freezing cold.  But after I began playing my violin, nothing else existed except the wind and the melodies.  The music wrapped around me, a symphony let loose from my fingers.  It not only warmed my soul, but the air around me as well.  
    When I really get into music, it leads me--I don't lead it.  And I can't help getting lost in the eye of the hurricane.  When that happens, I remember the first time I played by ear--after years of taking lessons.  Like a bride with the veil removed...a person seeing color for the first time...a child who can't just walk--but can finally run....
    I smiled then, dancing right there to my own music.  After a time, I opened my eyes and realized people watched me as they passed by in horse-drawn carriages.  Some hotdog vendors nodded to me as I continued jamming on.  And Mike--that kind, selfless man--waved to me happily knowing he'd made one of my biggest dreams come true.  
    It wasn't until the end of my second song that an elderly woman came up and put some money in my case.
    "Oh, thank you."  I smiled so brightly at her.  
    "It's beautiful," she said.  "Absolutely beautiful."
    "You play something too, don't you?"  I caught a sparkle in her eye--one that matched my own.
    "Why yes, I do. I play the violin."
    "And I bet you're amazing!"
    "Well, for years I played with the New York Symphony."
    I gasped.  "And YOU gave me a tip?!"
    She winked at me, then before turning and sauntering away, she said, "You're good, kid.  Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.  Shoot for the stars."
    I beamed so big, feeling like I'd met an angel--right there in Central Park.

    The actions of strangers can completely make or break a day.  
    Encouragement--sometimes it's the fuel we need to accept AND give freely to others as well.  :)

Monday, January 1, 2018

10 Things I Learned in New York -- The Italian Restaurant

The Italian Restaurant -- Part 3

He brought us water in a wine bottle, and a plate loaded with the most delicious bread I've ever tasted.  I smiled widely at him, simply jazzed to still be in New York.
    "You aren't...from here," he said to me, and hesitantly refilled our waters.
    "Is it that obvious?" I asked.
    "Yes, it is."
    "Fine, so what should I do to fit in?" I asked.
    "Well, for one," the waiter said, glancing from me to Mike, "you shouldn't smile--at everyone.  And you shouldn't make eye contact--with many people."
    "Don't people smile in New York?"
    "Yeah, but not like you do, honey.  They'd have to smear vaseline on their teeth, just to remember to smile that big."  He stared at me and suddenly laughed.  "God, doesn't your face get tired?"
    "She smiles a lot.  Practice makes perfect," Mike said and winked at me.
    As the waiter walked away I thought about something I've been dealing with lately.  A couple of years ago, my parents, brother, sister, and all of our spouses sat at dinner.  My dad always thinks of the best topics, and that night he said we should go around the table and say which animals we represent.  Well, someone was a mountain lion, a powerful moose, and a wild mustang.  When everyone got to my sister they said how she's a leader, someone who everyone looks up to--SHE is a lioness.  I got so excited at this point--I could hardly wait to see what they thought I was.  And soon it was my turn.  I nearly shook with excitement when my brother said, "Elisa, you're a cute little otter."
    "What?!  An otter?"
    "Yeah!" everyone agreed.
    "I can see it," even Mike said.
    "Otters are awesome!  They're so happy and fun.  They make everyone around them happy," my brother said.
    And as Mike and I sat in the Italian restaurant in New York, I kept thinking about the waiter's words.  I didn't fit into New York because I'm such an otter.
    When the waiter came back, Mike asked him about his past and his city dreams.  He'd lived in California, but went out to New York to pursue a singing career.
    "I suddenly felt so compelled to tell him how he was there for a reason.  That if he was doubting himself, he didn't need to.  It would all work out."
    He looked down at me as he cleared our plates--and he actually wore one of those vaseline smiles.  "I needed to hear that more than you know."
    As he began walking away, he turned back.  "I used to smile like you do--really.  I guess I just stopped because I've gone through life exhausting so much energy getting from point A to point B.  I hire a cab just to get to work every day because the Subway is such a mess of construction right now.  Anyway, what you said to me--don't change.  Don't ever make it so you need vaseline just to smile."
    Mike and I both gave him odds looks.
    "You know what I mean."  He laughed.
    When Mike and I got back to the room I looked up what otters mean.  It said otters help give people what they need to discover their true selves--and that's what makes people happy.
    I might not be an amazing lioness, or a bear, or someone epic who fits in at The City--but being myself comes so naturally.  I guess if that means I'm an otter--I'll try to be the best damn otter you've ever seen!


Which animal are you most like?    

Sunday, December 31, 2017

10 Things I Learned in New York -- Front Desk Clerk

Part 2 -- Front Desk Clerk

The hotels--and buildings in New York--were a lot different from what I expected.  For one, they're super compact.  The elevator in our hotel even had a sign announcing it is "consolidated": fancy word meaning 2 people will physically fit there, even if the sign reads "limit 7."  That saying "packed like sardines in a can," well, it must've come from New York!
     In the cheap hotel we picked, people plastered themselves against the wall just to let others pass by.  And my husband, a man of average height yet exceptionally broad shoulders, only had a couple inches of clearance on each side of him in the hallway.  
    Anyway, after arriving at the hotel, the front desk clerk looked at me strangely as I continued waving at him until he gave me his full attention.  "Ummm, can you?" he asked.
    "I just wanted to see how your day's going."
    "Well, it's average...."
    "Average?!  Are you kidding me?  You work in New York.  You, my friend, you're livin' the dream."
    At this point, Mike (my husband) chuckled. I remind him daily--he got into this marriage voluntarily!
    "This isn't the dream, ma'am."
    I set my suitcase (which would hardly fit through the teensy hallway) next to Mike.  My feet sprinted over to the front desk clerk and then I faced the same direction as him.  "You see out that door?"
    He nodded warily.
    "Out there is so much excitement.  It's just waiting for YOU!"
    The man snorted and couldn't help smiling.
    "You're not from here, are you?"
     "You from Texas?"  
     "No--I'm from Idaho!"
     "And, you, lady from Idaho?  Are you livin' the dream?" he asked.
     "We all are."  I grinned.  "It happens when you simply realize it.  Life can get so messy, so miserable, so hard.  But it can also be amazing...if we embrace it.  We're still alive aren't we--it's a good time to act like it!"
     He quieted and instead of looking patronizing, his eyes studied me and then he nodded.  "Okay." He looked from me to Mike and laughed.
    "Goodnight," Mike said in his low voice.
    "Have a good one," the front desk clerk said.
    As we waited for our tiny elevator, I heard another tourist ask the desk clerk how he was doing, I couldn't help grinning when he told them he was "livin' the dream."

What I learned from him: people can be in the best place ever--the land of opportunity--and not even realize how amazing that is.      
    Sometimes we all need a reminder that life can be crap, but it can also be the best thing ever.  

Perspective has the power to change the quality of our lives.

Signing Off for Today,
EC Stilson 

To read Part 1 of this series, please click HERE.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

10 Things I Learned in New York -- The Taxi Driver

Part 1 -- A Taxi Driver

Mike and I arrived in New York while darkness ate even the stars.  Lights shone brightly from looming buildings, and even though I felt like an ant, I couldn't wait to see everything and meet everyone!
    A taxi driver pulled to the curb at the airport.  Mike had called him shortly after we landed, so we didn't have to flag anyone down.  The drive to the hotel was a bit crazy--and long; cars jerked back and forth; the driving lanes seemed much smaller than the kind we have in Idaho.
    After a while, the driver asked us where we're from.  
    "Idaho," Mike said.
    "Are the freeways different over there?"
   "Oh, yeah!" Mike said.
    I laughed so hard--I nearly choked.  "Idaho...doesn't have rush hour.  Idaho has mostly two-lane freeways.  We don't have traffic--we have potatoes.  Potatoes and deer."
    The driver glanced at us in the rearview mirror and smiled.  "So, what brought you to The City?"
    "He bought me a ticket to New York for Christmas.  I have a kind of strange bucket list--and one of the items on it is playing my violin on the streets of New York."
    "You're too young to have a bucket list," he said.
    "Not in this traffic!" I said.
    "The violin, huh?  You're in a band."
    "A huh," I said.  "And you play something too?!" I could tell by how he gripped the wheel. Years of playing an instrument, well that changes how people hold things. 
    "The drums," he said.  "I used to be in a band--thought we'd go somewhere.  But I'm too old now, so I quit."
    "You're never too old." It was a stark rebuttal--but I meant it.
    Mike and I held hands in the back seat, and I smiled at my sexy Italian.  I couldn't believe I married a man who gives me my dreams for Christmas.
    "So," I finally said to the cabbie, "if you could give us one piece of advice--one thing for us to remember from this ride--what would you tell us?"
    He thought for a minute before responding. "Well.... I've been married for almost 30 years.  My wife, she might be opinionated, and I might have to give in...a lot, but Heaven brought that woman to me.  When I was young, I had more women than I wanted.  I'd go out in this crazy city--and girls would just find me.  And then I started getting older...and it's strange what time can do to a man. Once I couldn't have enough women.  Then I started wanting something different.  Just one, you know?
    "So I tried giving my ex a call.  Was gonna tell her I wanted to settle down.  But I dialed one wrong number.  You know we didn't have cell phones, or even those cordless ones. It was one of them rotary phones.  Well, I dialed the wrong number and a girl answered.  I married that girl a while later and now it's been almost thirty years."
     I could see his eyes; he stared out the windshield nostalgically, probably thinking about all the years with his wife.  "Sometimes in life you might think you got the wrong number, but you actually got the right one.  People think they should: go back and make other choices, change things, be different. If we accept mistakes, they can make our lives better than before.  You remember that--it's coming from a has-been musician who drives cabs to put his daughters through college!"
    As he pulled up to our hotel, I thought of that saying: God doesn't always give us what we want. He gives us what we need."
    "Thank you," Mike and I both told as we got out of the cab. 
    "I'll never forget what you said." I waved.  "And I want you to remember something from me too--you're not too old to play the drums.  Maybe you met us so we could hear your story, and then I could tell you to pick your drums back up again!"
    "Okay," he smiled fondly.  "Have a great time in New York." 
    We shut the door, and he sped off between those mammoth buildings.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

I Am Scared to Die. Are you?

    Last night I woke up with the strangest sensation--something I haven't felt in over 15 years.  I woke up, scared to die.
    Woody Allen once said, "I'm not afraid to die, I just don't want to be there when it happens."  That's how I've felt for quite some time...until last night.
    You see, yesterday was my angel baby's birthday.  He would have been 15.  And while it doesn't hurt like it used to, I still miss him.  Yesterday, Mike took me to lunch to cheer me up.  I'm remarried and Mike never met Zeke.  I don't tell him too much about my angel baby, but for some reason yesterday I did.  I told him how the doctors knew Zeke might not make it, so they had me deliver him in a room directly connected to the NICU by a window. When he was born they whisked him through the window and put him on life support.  They ended up taking me to a recovery room and told me I couldn't move for a while.  Well, those schmucks were wrong--it would take a lot more than THAT to keep me from my baby.  I hijacked a wheelchair when no one was lookin' and several minutes later one of the nurses found me struggling down the hall.  She took pity on me, and even though she wasn't supposed to, she brought me to see my baby. 
   After sharing all of that, I searched Mike's eyes.  We were sitting in the middle of a diner, eating soup and salad. I suddenly felt my face warm from the tears I tried to keep at bay.  My lips trembled, and I raised a fist to cover my face.  "Nothing could keep me from my baby: not doctors, not stupid rules...  The only thing that kept me from him was death."  Then I cried and cried, on his 15th birthday, right in the middle of that damn restaurant in Pocatello, Idaho.
    A few people looked at me sympathetically.  I didn't want to cry anymore, so I whispered to Mike, "I feel bad for you--they probably think you're breaking up with me over something stupid."
    He held my hand, squeezing it like he'd never let me go, then he smiled. 

    I normally think about death as a reunion, a reward after patiently waiting to reconnect with those we love.  I could see my baby, my family who has passed on (especially my grandparents), my best friend who died 2 years ago....
    But last night was different. I thought of death as one thinks of stepping in front of a train.  It's so final, so gloomy, so quick.  You can't have someone hold your hand.  You go all alone into the unknown.  And good luck listening to advice from everyone else--everybody has a different spin on death.
    As I sat up in bed last night, my blanket clutched to my neck, I suddenly thought of how many funerals I've played the violin at.  Hell, I've even played for people right before they died in the hospital.  And the look of peace on their they didn't give a damn about the final adventure; they were simply ready.
    Maybe I shouldn't be scared. Life could be like pregnancy?  I didn't want to go through labor--I wanted to see my babies (all 5 of them), but I NEVER wanted to go through labor.  'Cept at the point your skin is stretched to oblivion, you can't even bend over to tie your shoes (let alone shave your legs) AND you feel like you're starring in a sequel to aliens....  At THAT point, labor sounds easy.  
   Maybe death will sound easy when I'm ready.  But right now, going into the unknown alone...even if I will get to see God (and He doesn't give me the smack-down), traveling alone to the afterlife does NOT sound fun.
    Moral of the story, I guess I'll stick around.  I can live with that!

    Have you ever felt like this?

A very much happy-to-be-alive,

P.S. Silly moment of the day--I googled "I am scared to die," and one of the most popular searches is currently "I am scared to die on a treadmill."  Treadmills--now, maybe that's what I should actually be scared of! 

Thursday, June 1, 2017

A Lesson--Cherish the Time You Have

We’re sitting at an old Chinese restaurant.  It’s so dilapidated, the chime no longer works at the front door.  I look at you, your bright eyes smiling back at me because you’ve been waiting weeks for this date out with Mama.  Your chubby hands grip the water glass in front of you, and your darling sandaled shoes kick rhythmically under the table.
    “We don’t have much money,” I say, “so we’re gonna share a cup of soup.”
    Your eyes light with excitement because you don’t worry about money; you’re a seven-year-old who’s ready for adventure.
    “We’d like a cup of egg-drop soup,” I tell the young waitress. “That’s all.”
    “We’re going to share it!” you squeal, eager to spill our secret.
    The waitress studies us, doesn’t write anything in her notebook, and walks away.
     As we wait for our soup, we talk about the beautiful stringy lights, the slippery red seats, and the soft music playing around us.  I’m totally in the moment then, so part of that place even the smallest details are committed to memory.
    “Mama, you’re the best,” you say.

    “No--you are.” 
    You giggle.
    The waitress arrives then, holding an enormous bowl of soup and two little cups to go with it.  She sets it down with such kindness. “One small cup of soup.”
    I know it’s not their “small” size, and I’m taken aback.  You on the other hand think it’s amazing.  You don’t even notice the waitress has walked away because your eyes are glued to the huge bowl of egg-drop soup—your favorite.  “She’s so nice, Mama!  Look what she did—she made it big this time.”  You can hardly stop talking, even to drink your water or eat your soup.  You tell me about friends, math, books, life…. After a moment you stare at your water flabbergasted, “You know, this is the best water ever!  This is the best day ever.”
    I realize the waitress sits in the corner; she's listening to ever word as she’s rolling silverware.
    We pay the check, before the waitress pulls me aside. “You are both so grateful—you’ve taught me something today.  Even the simplest things, can be the best ever if it’s with someone you love.”   
    I walk out, a bit changed.  I’m not quite sure why it was so magical, but it was.  Sometimes simple truths are that way.
    “That was the best date ever,” you say. 
    I nod.  “Yes, it was.  And it hardly cost anything.”  I realize then, as I gaze down at your sparkling blue eyes, all you’d really wanted…was time.

    We got some devastating news last week, something I can’t write about.  And the point is, some things are truly too sad to express.  As I think about an uncertain future, or how much the hearts of my children are hurting—and how much mine is hurting too—I keep remembering the waitress at the Chinese restaurant.  “Even the simplest things, can be the best ever if it’s with someone you love.”  Please cherish those who matter most to you.  Why not take a moment today to do something nice for them; I bet it would make their day, the best ever. Sometimes all people want is time….  

Monday, May 15, 2017

The Zombie, a TUNG Brush, and Some Bullies

We all know kids can be cruel, but when my 8-year-old Zombie came home the other day and told me a story, I was shocked....
    "Mom, I was at recess and the popular boys were picking on Jeremy."
    "What did they do?" I asked.
    "Kicked him, and punched him.  It got really bad because they even picked him up and swung him into a pole."
    I blinked, completely speechless.  
    After a minute, the Zombie continued.  "It was really hard, Mom, but I stood up to them.  I didn't know if they'd start beating me up too....  Or calling me mean names like they have in the past.  Plus, there were a lot of them."
    The Zombie is really big for his age, but he's the sweetest kid.  I wondered where this story would go, or if any of them would really mess with my boy because he looks so intimidating.
    "I finally went right in the middle of them and yelled," he said.  "I asked why they were hurting him.  Carter said it's 'cause he's a whimp.... Because he's a pansy, and he's different from the rest of us."  The Zombie took a deep breath, and looked down.  "I got so mad, Mom.  They looked like they would start hurting him again, so I stood between him and them.  I was so angry--I couldn't believe they threw him into a pole just because he's different! And for some reason, I screamed, 'HE'S SENSITIVE! SO WHAT?!'"
    We both sat, silent for a while.  I digested his words; he'd gotten to the heart of the matter in just a few seconds.  We ALL should be treated with respect--and appreciated for our differences--thank God my boy was brave enough to stand up for little Jeremy. "Did they stop after that?" I asked.
    "Yeah, they kinda seemed surprised.  So I brought Jeremy into the classroom for the rest of recess and the teacher let us hang out there.  We stayed in the classroom for lunch and ate together too."
    "You're a good kid," I said.  "I'm so proud of you, Zombie.  Did you tell your teacher?"
    "No!" he said.  "I'm no tattle-tale!  I stood up for him, and it wasn't a big deal.  Those kids are mean.  They'll make fun of people for anything.  One day they kept saying I have bad breath and calling me names."
    I raised a brow.  "Kids will be mean about anything.  When I was your age my last name was Stilson.  Kids used to call me Rumpelstiltskin--and then at one point it just turned into Rumple.  They'd say it all recess long.  No one wants to be nicknamed one."
    "Yeah, and no one wants to be called liver-breath."
    "Liver breath?  You're right, that is worse than Rumple."
    "Mom," he looked seriously perturbed, like this had bugged him for ages, "I brush my teeth every day, maybe we need to get new toothpaste.  Maybe I do have liver breath."  
    I momentarily remembered how hard it was dealing with kids in elementary school and junior high.  "Sure, kid.  We can get you new toothpaste...or something."
    He sighed.  "I do have liver breath.  Anyway, I beat everyone in the long jump last week.  I was 7 percent popular, now I'm back down to 0 percent and they're probably gonna start calling me liver breath again."
    "We'll see what we can do about your tooth paste, don't worry about that.  And don't worry about the zero percent thing either.  You did the right thing.  That's worth a lot more than being popular."

I ended up having the Zombie try this thing called a TUNG brush--after watching this video:

"If You Don't Clean Your Tongue...It Will Smell Like Bum"

The TUNG brush came with it's own kind of tongue gel and everything.  The kids can't (truthfully) call him liver-breath anymore--and he's feeling more confident.
    You can check that out, or get your own for free brush with this code:

Code: 97H86K
Also, the Zombie had a much better week last week.  He said it's crazy how fast the boys forgot.      
    "I think I have a new friend," he said.  "Jeremy is great at building things AND he's nice.  Who knows, maybe we'll be friends for a long time."
    "Maybe." I smiled.
    "I'm not back to being 7 percent popular, but I'm probably at 6 percent."
    "Oh?" I asked.  "How do you know?"
    "'Cause a cute girl told me I smell nice.  I think it's my breath, and because I used that bottle Mike has on his dresser."
    Mike's cologne....  I swear, you never know what will happen around this place!
     So all in all May has been a good month: the Zombie was a hero, he got good breath, a friend, and maybe even a girlfriend.  And me, well, I'm excited for school to get out!
Have a great day.
Signing Off,

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why is Society So Cruel

Guestpost from my twelve-year-old, The Hippie
Why is Society So Cruel?

I feel like sometimes people don't realize what they say when they say something... one word can ruin, or make someone's day. You can make a difference between somebody's life or death... you may not know it but you affect everyone with your mood, actions, and thoughts. 
    Some people are going through stuff that you cannot even imagine. So why do you have to put them down? It's not funny to mess with someone's emotions, to mess with their feelings, to mess with their pain or their happiness. So why do people still do it? 
Why is society so cruel that they can't realize that one action, one word, one glare, one smirk, one laugh can end a life? Can end a story that never got a chance to start. 
    I have seen so much negativity being passed around. So much cruel language, so many rude thoughts, so much negative energy that I don't even know what is happening to people. 
    Society acts like emotions are a joke, like they don't even matter. But would they matter if they were yours? If you got pulled into that person's position? Society puts people down. They keep building negative thoughts over and over again. Until finally you crack... you're done... and that's when they realize their mistake... 
    I have an amazing family, amazing parents, and an amazing life. I'm not saying that any of this is representing me, because it's not, but I just want to make everyone aware that people are becoming so negative. And the saddest part of all is that nobody is realizing it.     
    I was looking through old family pictures, looking at old friends, and that's when it hit me.. why have I become so negative? Why has everyone become so negative? All I've figured out is what the problem is... but unfortunately I haven't found a solution.... 

- A Concerned Soul
The Hippie

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A True Example of God's Kindness--and I Didn't Deserve That At All

    On Sunday, let's face it, I was a jerk. I'm still not sure why, but I went into full-on beast mode with my husband (and not in a good way).  So, yesterday, Monday, when I got home from work, I expected for him to treat me the same way....  I was almost ready to be "on the fight."
    Instead, he'd made a crock-pot dinner, and cleaned the house and garage.
    I was so stunned.  "Why?" my voice nearly choked on the word.  "Why are you so kind to me?"
    Instead of yelling, or being rude, he gave me a huge hug and said how much he loves me.  "Elisa," he said, "you're stressed. I figured you needed my help.  Maybe you'll feel a little bit better now."
    He went to work and I just thought about how he'd responded to my own actions. 
    "Wanna play Yahtzee?" the Hippie asked.
    "What are you thinking about?" she finally asked, after rolling yet another full house.
    "Just how I need to be a better person sometimes. I was so mean to Mike on Sunday, and look at everything he did to help me today."
   "You weren't that bad, Mom.  But I know what you mean.  He's a good guy."  She handed me the cup with the dice in it  "Today I asked him what he would do if he won a million dollars.  You know what he said--without even thinking about it?"
    "What?" I asked.
    "He said, you'd be able to be a stay-at-home mom, and you could write.  He thought about what we would want--instead of himself."
    I couldn't even shake the dice because I felt guilty. "I can be so spicy," I said.  "But he doesn't feed the fire.  He'll just cross his arms and ask if I'm done yet."
    She laughed.  "I think that drives you crazy."
    "It does!  But he's good for me; it's not very fun fighting with a brick wall.  You know what's so strange about all of this?" I asked.
    The Hippie shook her head, her bright, blue eyes shining.
    "Mike doesn't believe in God, but he's one of the biggest examples of God's kindness in my life.  That's pretty ironic, huh?"
    "I know what you mean," she said.  "He's been really good to me too.  He came into our lives right when we needed him."
    "I should be a better person," I said, thinking how strange life is, and how miracles are around us every day.  His actions not only made me feel better, they made me want to rise to the occasion.
    I rolled my dice, smiled, and got absolutely nothing except a score of 23 for "chance."  I love rolling for my "chance" score--it's the best part of that game.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Saying Goodbye to a Friend Taken Too Soon

    When I was at the darkest time of my life, you reached out to me; we hadn't talked for years, yet somehow you knew I needed help.
    You called every night after that.  I was a single mom, working grave shifts; you just wanted to make sure I'd made it safely into the building.
    You were there, and even became my best friend through those terrible times, because I knew you had my back, like I had yours.
    We even told each other things: The terrible secrets of what we'd been through.  I shared your terrors and your triumphs as your shared mine.  I was always proud of you, always there to cheer you on...until you fell farther than I could reach. 
    Dear friend, I should have held on, but some weights are more than any human can carry for someone else.  Those are the weights we must carry ourselves, and throw off.  And like a person descending to the depths of the deepest ocean, I could no longer help.
    I wish I could change the past. Be stronger.  Somehow fight fate, and prevent your untimely death.  We all know you left this world too early.
    I always thought we'd reconnect, after circumstances no longer threatened to drown you.  After you had fought the fight...and won.
    You will never call and check up on me again.
    Never be there through the good or bad times.
    Never play chess and drink coffee with me, making even the burnt taste unnoticeable because we were laughing so hard about how you always killed my queen.  But no one kills my queen now.  I don't play chess anymore.
    I miss you, friend, your kind words, wit, and laughter.
    I hope they have chess in Heaven.

 Until we meet again,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Feeling Like Giving Up

Have you ever felt like you had a purpose, but no real way to get there: a traveler without a destination, a road without an end, a passenger blindly wishing for the guide's control?  I'm on this path, reaching for a lifeline.
    I knew I was a writer at age nine, when I wrote an amateurish ninety-page story that later ended up in the trash.  A teacher told me I wasn't meant to be a writer...she really taught me something--to try harder.
    When I was ten, I ripped the top from a big rectangular box and told myself to sit there and write. I'd stay box-bound for hours each day, reading, penning stories, and dreaming.  I did that for weeks, until finding a spider in a dark corner of the cardboard, and disavowing writing nooks forever.
    I've grown up now, and I don't need to make myself write anymore.  The words just come--like a monster begging to be released from a host.  These are words from stories, not fully discovered yet.     
    A dear friend of mine says every person has a least one book in them. One day she said I must have dozens; I wish she would've known, so she could tell me.  Then I could stop wondering over my literary purpose and just know exactly. 
    I love writing almost more than I love breathing.  But more than that, I NEED to write.  It's been said that over 350 billion people have lived since Adam.  How does that make you feel?  350 BILLION.  That's why I need my damn writing.  It's part of my ignition, what makes me feel valid, special, like my voice amongst billions, matters....  As if God will take notice, to a nothing like me.
    But lately I feel like I should stop writing, stop dreaming.  It's a sad thing when doubt quenches who we are, and a once raging fire begins dying out.  One day, several years ago, I'd hiked to the base of a waterfall. I sat by myself and wrote about my journey up the mountain. I remember traipsing down that trail, notebook in hand, thinking I'd rarely been part of such a beautiful moment, with just me, God, nature, a story...and that was enough.
    When did writing become more to me?  That I longed to be society's definition of a "real" author?  That I hoped for it so bad my heart physically hurt because another "author" had been snobby, or a local bookstore owner said I wasn't popular enough to have a signing in his small store.  After that, I wanted the damn respect.  I wanted to be read more than ever. I envied writers who made a living with their stories--and could afford more than dollar items at McDonald's, like I could. 
    Instead of enjoying writing at the base of a waterfall, it turned into something I despise AND love.
    Truth is, we each win little battles every day.  Sometimes it's the little battles with big wins that make the difference: the buoy of a dying soul.
    I keep struggling, like we all do.  Yet today, I'm really doubting myself.  For just a moment I'm tired of fighting, hoping, wishing and dreaming.  This let-down about writing has made me think about so many other things.  My last book took over 3 years to write, over 3,000 hours of sweat and carpal-tunnel aches from my keyboard-fingers.
    I'm not soliciting sympathy; don't get me wrong.  I just wanted to say that I'm doubting myself today--guts out.  I don't know if my writing will every truly go "anywhere."  I just need to have faith that it's gone where it needs to, and will continue to.  After all, I've had so many odd successes--met strangers who have read my books, discovered I had the stamina to keep trying even after one-hundred queries returned to me as rejections instead of offers. 
    And through this, it's still hard to contain the words inside, even when some people have told me maybe it's time to stop....
    So, today I did what I can't avoid--despite some people's advice. I started on something that's been haunting me, a memory...clinging to my hair, my clothes, my skin, like a sickeningly-sweet smell of an old lover, or an abandoned room I never want to revisit again.  The smell of iodine from a dying person's room.  The taste of whiskey after the ultimate betrayal.  Hatred burned from a soul, because the pity was too strong.  And that's what I feel today, pity for myself, for lost dreams, for the fact that today...I am sad. 
    We can have dreams, 1 out of 350 billion, but if everyone got their exact dreams, maybe they wouldn't be quite so valuable after all....

A very uncharacteristic,

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Scribe's Mama and a Baseball

"I'm not like anyone in this family," she said.
    I smiled, remembering something I did in fifth grade.  "Oh yes you are.  I was always hatching crazy schemes."
    "You were?"
    "Yep.  Do you want to hear a story about how I tricked the boys into letting me play baseball with them?"
    She wiped her tears and nodded.
    "All right, well one day . . ."

    I never thought the story was anything special--not until the Scribe heard it.

    I was a dorky twig, far better at playing sports than playing dolls.  I knew I'd be a star on the boys' team if they just let me play, but those jerks were too good for me--a girl.  
    "We don't let girls play with us. Girls are bad luck."  
    That just proved it; they were idiots.  The only time girls are unlucky is when you make them mad!


    I started practicing baseball then, every day after school, until the sun went down.  I got pretty good.  My mom, dad and brother all taught me how to hit and pitch.  I went through training--no kidding.  If those boys would just say 'yes,' they wouldn't know what hit 'em.  
    But the idiots kept saying 'NO!'  
    My dream almost ended.  I could have stayed friendless and sad.  Or I could've stooped to ultimate evilness and played dolls with Wendy Smith and her posse of girlie girls!  That wasn't for me though.  Too bad I hate giving up easily AND dressing dolls.
    I watched the boys' whole setup one day after they said 'no' . . . again.  The leader (Jeff) always brought the ball and the bat.  He'd put it out in the hall during class, then at recess, all the boys would go and play.
    Stealing that ball was easier than taking candy from a baby-brat.  I still remember it.  I raised my hand and told the teacher I needed to use the bathroom.  That was a lie--a terribly sweet lie.  I ran into the hall, looked back and forth, then stole Jeff's ball, not even thinkin' it was sinful to steal from an idiot.  The prize fit great with my stuff in the hallway and no one even saw me!  I wanted to give thanks to God, for helping me steal, so I went and used the bathroom since that's what I'd told the teacher.  Maybe I didn't really have to go, but I sure tried anyway.  It wouldn't be good to lie AND steal on the same damn day.
    Well, when the recess bell rang, those boys scrambled and hooted.  Everyone got out to the field.  For once I stayed back, just watching.  Jeff came out last.  He explained something to the boys who looked awfully mad.  They were just about to leave the field when I walked closer.
    "Who would-a thunk he'd leave the ball home?" a kid whined.
    I threw the ball up and down.  Not to brag, but I caught the sucker every time.  "Funny thing," I said to the boys.  "I brought a ball today.  What are the odds?"  I tried spitting but I'd never done it before and the stuff turned to spittle.  I wiped it away fast and cursed all those old movies for making spitting look easy.
    "Give us the ball!" a boy screamed--good thing I didn't marry that dictator!
    "Sure," I pulled it away, "on one condition."
    "Name it," Jeff said.  He walked closer.
    "That you let me play."
    All the idiots groaned, apparently idiots are great at whining and groaning.  "But that's bad luck to play with a girl."
    "Is it better to not play at all?" I asked and they FINALLY let me play.
    I'd like to say I got a home run, even though I didn't.  But I will say that I proved myself and they seemed really impressed.  Jeff walked with me after last recess and smiled.  "You know, this ball looks an awful lot like the one I bring."
    I had to think fast.  I looked up at him.  My face couldn't charm him--too bad for the 'ugly phase.'  But at least I could win him over with my wit.  "You're pretty good at ball."  I paused.  "Well, so am I.  Does it really surprise you that we both have such good taste?"
    He laughed and hit me on the back.  "You're all right, Stilson.  You're all right."  It was the first time someone called me by my last name and the first time a fellow classmate hit me on the back--it WAS epic.
    The next day when Jeff's ball showed up by his stuff in the hall, he didn't even seem surprised.  I went and stood by the field, a bit sad that I'd never get to play again.  Maybe I should have just reconciled to playing dolls with Wendy Smith . . . forever.
    I sat down on the grass and prepared to watch the boys forming their teams.  It was time for the captains to pick their star players.  John 'the cherry picker' went first--don't even ask how he got his nickname, let's just say no one wanted to shake HIS hand.  When it was Jeff's turn, he smiled right at me and pointed.  "Stilson, for first pick because that girl really knows how to hit a ball.  And because she didn't give up."
    I stood by him and beamed.  "Isn't it funny how my ball just showed up today?" he whispered.
    "Yeah," I nodded. "What are the odds?"

    "So, that's how I started playing baseball with the boys," I told the Scribe.
    "It sounds like something I would do!  Mama," she said seriously, "you're all right."
    "You too."  I smiled, then patted her on the back and thought I just might start calling her by our last name.  She's always doing crazy things like scaring children and holding fundraisers FOR HERSELF, but she's one hilarious child.  She makes life fun.  I'm thankful for her and her siblings every day.

For another post about the Scribe, please go here:  The Scribe and a Scheme

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Someday I'll See Him Again--Beneath a Golden Sky

We're walking along a beach.  I find myself holding his hand even though we haven't seen each other in years.  I keep gazing up at him and smiling.  "I've dreamed about this," I say, tears in my eyes.
    "So have I."
    We keep walking, for miles and miles.  My hair is well past my shoulders.  It flutters as we walk.  A bit of sand gets between my toes, and I would have giggled, but this moment calls for quiet--for peace.  A chill runs through my body and I use my free hand to pull a shawl closer to my shoulders.  I should have fastened it with both hands, but I'd rather die than lose contact with him now.
    After we've traveled a while, we both turn to the sunset.  "It's beautiful," I say.
    "And it brings a memory with it," he says, knowing more about me than any living person.
    "Will you tell me?" he asks, like a child.
    I can't help but say yes; he holds my heart. "Once, when I was very young, when colors seemed more important than a career, and playing the violin in a nearby cave was more desirable than anything, I said a prayer."
    He smiles.  "And what did you pray?"
    I look out at the waves tumbling from miles away.  "I asked God to give me a sign that He still loved me."
    We remain quiet.  I bathe in our silence and will the moment to never end.
    "Did you doubt His love so much?" he asks.
    "I guess I did."
    I paused, wondering over the small moments that make up our lives. "Well, nothing happened for the entire day that I prayed.  I painted and drew.  I went to my cave and played my violin.  At one point, I knelt next to a rock and so much sadness overcame me.  'God, don't you love me anymore?' I asked.
    "The voice seemed still, small. I didn't hear it at first because it was just a nudge. But before long the words filled my very being and I FELT them.  'Of course,' a voice replied and the air smelled of incense.  'Look,' the voice said.
    "I looked at the sunset and my breath stopped.  It was unlike anything I'd ever seen in that area.  The clouds stretched orange and gold.  They were amazing and beautiful. They were my favorite color, chosen as my favorite not because of its hue but because of its representation."
    "What does orange represent, to you?" he asks.
    "Eternity." It's a simple reply, yet I know he understands. It tells more about me--about the desires of my heart--than almost anything.
    "How interesting; eternity is what you long for more than anything," he says.  "Some wish only for fame, fortune, or even death after years on Earth--you . . . You, seek eternal life." He pauses, still holding my hand gently. "And you knew God loved you . . . Because of the beautiful, orange sky?  You thought he answered your prayer?"
    "Yes," I said.  "I knew He answered it.  In some way, it made me realize how He painted the sky for me . . . for each of us, every single day.  His love shines everywhere, through almost everything."
    "And that's what you hold onto whenever bad things happen in your life?"  He studies a shell by our feet and I don't say a word.  "You remembered that, even when I died . . ."
    I don't want to talk about his death, not when he's standing beside me. I need to answer his question though. He deserves the truth. "Not at first, but yes.  I remembered that sky.  I knew how much God loved me, and all of us. I couldn't lose sight of His answer to my prayer or the gifts God has given me each day of my life."
    Zeke--MY son just nods. I can tell he's thinking hard about something before he breaks the silence.  "I'm glad God picked you to be my mom."
    His words hit me like a hot iron, shaking my very core--they're something I always longed for, but never thought I'd hear, even in my dreams.
    "But we will see each other again," he continues.  "Orange is my favorite color now, too, a reminder that someday we'll be together in eternity."
    Tears fill my eyes. He's so strong and healthy, much different from the infant who died after two and a half months of being in the hospital.
    He did love me.  He WAS proud, although I let him go and pulled the plug.  I remember how hard he fought to live--even as he took his last breath in my arms.
    "I'm so proud you're my son. You never gave up on life. You never would have given up on me." I try acting brave in that moment, so my pain, guilt and regrets can't hurt him. "I've done everything I can so people will know you; your life won't be forgotten.  I can't make up for the past, but I'm trying my best for the future.  Every day I spent putting my journal--the moments from your life--into the computer . . . Every moment brought pain, but with it, you came back, just like today."
    My eyes close and a deep part of myself starts fading. A heart once full, seems a bit empty, and my fingers close on themselves because HE's no longer holding my hand.
    I breathe slowly, willing peace to come again. 
    It's okay, though. The warmth of his touch stays on my skin like perfume, and somehow it will never leave. "Please know I won't forget you," my voice drifts away just like my son did.
    I look back, but Zeke really is gone, washed away with the wind and the waves.
    As I turn to the crazy ocean, I don't feel quite as sad or alone anymore because the setting sun proves I'll see Zeke again.
    I let go of my shawl and the wind carries it away along with my regrets and pain. My hands fold as if in prayer since the warmth of his touch still lingers.
    "Zeke, I love you.  Always will."  My heartbeat slows and I speak the one question that always plagues me.  "Do you still love me?" I ask although he's gone and he's been dead for years.
    Then, I feel something--it's just a nudge at first, but so much peace comes as I hear his words.  "Of course, I love you, Mama," says a still, small voice. "Look."
    My eyes turn forward.  The sunset is so warm and vibrant, those colors wrap around me, giving me new reasons to live. I no longer simply long for eternity, but I realize the truth in its meaning--eternity is part of right now, just like my memories and my dreams.

    My spirit wakes up and the moment ends. For some reason, I'll never forget it; I saw Zeke as a healthy man--everything I wanted him to become. Plus, he made a promise and I know that kid wouldn't break his word. Someday we'll see each other again, someday beneath a golden sky.

To read more about the book I wrote for Zeke, please click here: