Sunday, November 18, 2018

Do you believe in miracles or coincidence?

Years after my son died, a neighbor gave me a statue, saying she felt compelled to.  I always had it displayed--because the statue looked ironically like Zeke, my angel baby.  I anchored myself by pretending his presence lingered in the statue even though his body had died.  And I went a lot of years, imagining he was there, experiencing our joys, triumphs, even our tragedies.  But he wasn't there, and when the statue broke several years later, I felt my own fortitude crumble as well.

In 2015, I remarried and the kids and I moved to Idaho with my husband.  After a few months had passed, I still didn't feel like I belonged in a place so different from my hometown.  So much had changed, and Zeke's statue was no longer there to weather the journey of life with me.  

In February, 2016, I walked toward my house and prayed that God would give me a sign that we should be there--in down-to-earth Idaho.  My house rested almost a mile up a hill, and the cold air stiffened my lungs.  But I didn't think about the cold; I feared what change would bring--and remembered how hard it is losing memorabilia that keeps us strong.  

A couple of minutes later, as I ascended the last road's bend before my house, I glanced to the left and spotted a tiny stone statue, shaded by a pine tree.  I froze, completely stunned by an exact replica of Zeke and a statue I'd had for so many years before.

I can't tell you how much peace this coincidence has given me--for nearly three years.  Today, on Zeke's sixteenth birthday, I sat down and told my family again about the statue.  "It's like he's still here, watching over us."  

My little boy frowned with concern, obviously not wanting to tell me something.  "Mama," he finally whispered, "I look at that statue every day when we go by it.  You know, it's been gone since Monday."

"Seriously?"  I said.  And for some damn reason tears filled my eyes.  "But it felt like he was watching over us.  It really did.  We have to go look!  Will you go with me?" 

As we got in the car, I wiped my face and continued babbling.  "I can't believe it's gone--the same week as his birthday."

So, we drove slowly out of our driveway, and my husband kept concernedly glancing at me.  

It only took a second to drive to the neighbor's house.  "Oh my gosh," my daughter said.  "The statue is gone, but look!"

I covered my mouth and gasped.  "They replaced it...with a statue of a man?  He looks young!"

After a moment, I turned to Mike, seriously not knowing what to say.

"I have to admit," he said, "it is awfully strange that happened the week of his sixteenth birthday."

Each of my kids' eyes widened.       

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Interview About Being Homeless in Hawaii

I was just interviewed on #ExcelsiorJourneys . We talked about my #NaNoWriMo experience, the various causes I’ve donated to (through my writing), my time spent homeless in Hawaii, and more. 

To hear the interview, please click here:

Episode 7 - EC Stilson

Monday, September 10, 2018

Playing the Fiddle for a Dying Soul

    I stepped into a bedroom with a four-poster bed and a poofy white comforter.  A little head stuck from the top of the comforter.  She was smoking, completely horizontally, and with her head barely visible!  A bottle of whiskey sat on her end-table, but it looked pretty full.  I blinked hard, then stared--this must be the cantankerous DYING woman. What was she, recovering from a frat party?
    "So you're the fiddle lady?  You're not what I expected at all. You're much older."
    I studied her, then before stopping myself, responded with, "You're not what I expected either.  You don't even look like you're dying."
    Her daughter, who had led me into the room, turned very pale. Then, so did I--the queen of saying the wrong crap, always. 
    I thought I'd get the smack-down from "Old Smokey," who still puffed away at that Camel Gold, but as she looked at my apologetic face, she suddenly burst out laughing...and coughing, and laughing again.
    "Awe, kid. You're too damn honest. But so am I."
    I bit my lip and smiled at her. "Mrs. Beck, I like you." 
    "Ya, that happens from time to time.  I'm usually an acquired taste, but the people who like me right off, I figure those are the good ones."  She grinned so wide, showing several missing teeth and even a big silver one that Lil Wayne woulda gone crazy for! "So what do you got, kid?" she asked, and I bent over to begin taking my violin from the case.
    "I'm gonna play some oldies. That's what I heard you like."  I snapped my shoulder rest into place, tightened my bow, and was ready in 20 seconds flat!  "Mrs. Beck," I said, because I'm super direct, "you keep calling me kid, but you said I'm older than you expected."
    "That?  Anyone under fifty is a kid to me! And they keep bringing pre-teens over to see me--like they're doing a good deed or something.  Why are you here anyway, Elisa? Why did you come?"
    I thought for a minute. "I guess, I just want to make you forget whatever it is that you're going through--even if it's just for a minute. Focus on something else, and enjoy."  I set my violin on my shoulder.  "So, I have a favor to ask you.  Set down your cigarette, and close your eyes."
    She kinda snort-laughed, set her ciggy down, then snuggled into that huge white pillow and closed her eyes.  
    "Now, as I play, I want you to picture a story."
    And I started.  First I played the beginning of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Simon and Garfunkel. The music started out quiet--a trickle of spring rain. "When you're weary, feeling small." The words swam around my head as I played. "When tears are near your eyes, I will dry them all...  I'm on your side when times get rough, and friends just can't be found. Like a bridge over troubled water, I will lay me down."
    Little tears seeped from the sides of Mrs. Beck's eyes.  She looked so utterly beautiful, like an elderly Snow White or somethin' with her sheered, dyed-black hair, and leathery face.  But instead of lying there, waiting for the kiss of her prince, she was dying, waiting for the kiss of God.
    Tears suddenly came to my eyes too, and I told myself to quit being such a freakin' pansy.  I shut my lids and instead of letting my emotion escape through the weakness in my eyes, I pushed that pain into my arms, my hands...my fingertips.  And I played that violin, like a flippin' lover--it cried in my arms, wailing over the melodies and having so much power it couldn't help reacting to the sheer feeling flooding my body. I knew Mrs. Beck and her daughter could feel the very sorrow that was deep in my soul--for them. Because that violin was a magnifying glass, exemplifying exactly why I was there, who I was, and that I wanted to offer at least some semblance of peace.
    "Sail on by. Your time has come to shine. All your dreams are on their way...."
    Then my bow grew with deep friction and strength, and I transitioned into notes and melodies that just came to me. My fingers and violin took over. That's the funny thing about me and my fiddle; I think I have control, then that damn thing takes over like an addiction. I have the roadmap, but my fiddle has the details that always take me there--a good friend, leading me home.
     The song swelled, over and over.  At one point, I realized the window at the foot of Mrs. Beck's bed was open, because a gust of wind rode in on a high note.  It was right after that, when my fingers and bow slowed to a stop. The notes descended to my D string, and the weight of the music left my body. The song...was over.
    I held my violin at my side, that freakin' extension of self. I faced the window and closed my eyes. I didn't want Mrs. Beck or her daughter to see that I was crying.  I even prayed the wind would come again, and God would dry my tears. The Becks were sad enough. They didn't need to see some kid--over thirty--crying because she "felt bad."
    "Elisa," Mrs. Beck rasped. She beckoned me to the side of her bed. I wiped my eyes, then obeyed. She reached out her wrinkled hand, with that soft, paper-thin skin, and grabbed my fingers.  "That...Elisa, that was beautiful."
    "What did you see," I asked, "when you closed your eyes?"
    "Something from when I was a kid.  Something I thought I forgot. Me and my mom and dad were walking in a field." She took a very deep breath. "I miss them. They were good parents."
    I had to twitch my nose just to keep from crying. After all, she'd probably be reuniting with a lot of people soon. I put my violin away, then hugged both Mrs. Beck and her daughter.
   "It was nice meeting you both," I said. Then, I left the house, and I never saw either one of them again.
     
   Life...it's a gift, but sometimes it sure is a strange thing.

Sincerely,

A 35-year-old kid

Monday, September 3, 2018

All That Remains Is Love

Just remembering...

    On January 30th, a few years ago, I drove through treacherously snow-filled mountains. Flakes shot down, forming an unwanted curtain around the truck. My eyes darted to the right of the canyon, but I could barely see, let alone remember any turnouts in that area. The lights from a huge semi bounced off the road behind us, shining increasingly closer. That driver loved tail-gating people--for a living. Who gave that idiot a CDL? But I didn't say the words aloud; instead, I white-knuckled the steering wheel in terror and realized from the icy breath of my family around me, they were terrified too. 
    And maybe they should have been. This was an unlucky day for us--the same day my son died 13 years before.... Normally each year I'd visit his grave, read my journal--the book I wrote about him. (More about that HERE.) 
    But this January, I didn't do any of that.  After all it's his Death Day. I don't want to go back to that damn memory--of a hospital that reeks of iodine and rubbing alcohol. Those stupid machines whirring and beeping to keep OTHER parents' kids alive. But. Not. Mine. Because the damn doctors said he would never live. THEY said he'd die despite all their fancy gadgets and his will to live. His fight...was for naught. So he died that day, amidst the stench of medicine, after my ex-husband and I removed him from life support, and he suffocated in our arms....
    As I drove through the snow-infested mountains, with the wind nearly ripping our truck from the road, I couldn't help thinking about Zeke. I shook my head telling myself not to. This drive was dangerous enough, without me trying to see through tears as well. 
    But what happened next, surprised me.
    This year, I didn't recall all of the sad circumstances of his death. Instead, I simply remembered a specific day nearly a month before he died.
    Zeke's nurse had said I could hold him in a rocking chair. Right before she was about to pass him to me, he started crying really hard. Another nurse came by and said I shouldn't hold him, that they needed to up his vent settings. But I pleaded, BEGGING them to let me hold my baby. So they handed him to me. 
    I rocked so slowly, careful since he had so much tubing in him. And instead of crying harder like they'd thought he might, he melted into my arms, as if he was always meant to be there. I put my pinkie near his hand and he wrapped his little fingers around it, holding on so damn tight. Tears filled my eyes as I rocked him forever. And in that moment, it didn't matter how sick he was or how hard this was. We loved each other.  Nothing could take that away, not time, not sickness, not death. And that moment, admist the stench of medicine and all those whirring machines...that was a perfect moment.
    I could hardly believe it had been 13 years this January. I blinked, focusing on the road ahead. The weather began clearing a little, and it wasn't quite so terrifying.
    After we were safely home and all of the kids were in bed, I told my husband about the memory. "I can't remember the complete details of the bad parts of Zeke's life anymore, but I do remember every detail of when I held him in the rocking chair for the first time." 
    Mike squeezed my hand.
    "It's crazy, Mike, but I feel so much peace right now. When time has passed and everything else is gone, all that remains--all that really matters--is love."
    And so now when I think of Zeke, the memory of his love is in the forefront of my mind. I hope that's what he remembers about me as well....    

Happy birthday.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

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.


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….
    

Sunday, May 27, 2018

I'm Depressed...What Should I Do?

First off, I have to say that I am not a mental health professional; that aside, I can speak from my own experiences and explain what has helped me.  

This is scary sharing so much of myself like this, but I hope my words (video below) will help someone.

If there's anything else you'd like for me to talk about in this series, please leave your questions/ideas below.



For the first video in this series, please go here: HOW POSITIVTY CAN CHANGE YOUR LIFE

Sunday, May 20, 2018

How Positivity Can Change Your Life

My word for 2018 is AWARENESS.
 
In an attempt to help others--and let people know YOU aren't alone--brutal honesty...here goes:
 
Don't mistaken positivity for stupidity.
Some of the happiest people simply choose to see the "bright side" of even the darkest situations.  Shining a light on your circumstance is the fastest way to rid yourself of darkness. -Author EC Stilson 
 
#courage
#Perspective
I'll be posting on this weekly, please let me know if there's a topic you'd like for me to discuss.   #vulnerable

Video HERE
 

Friday, February 23, 2018

A Miracle--When I Needed It Most

Yesterday, after getting a hysterectomy, I was in pretty rough shape. Imagine my surprise when I discovered THE GOLDEN SKY had made it on Amazon's *Top Ten List for Women's Memoir* (screenshot below).  

    This hasn't happened in over 2 years--and only lasted 24 hours--BUT if it could've happened any day...yesterday I needed it most.

    Long story short, this happened because of how kind so many people have been to me (people like you).  It's extremely humbling....   

    I just wanted to say thank you for your kindness, sage advice, support, and love. Writing memoir isn't easy.... LIFE isn't easy...but moments like this make the battle worth it. I have the best friends and family in the whole damn world.  Thank God for good moments that happen right when we need them.
 

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Thursday, February 22, 2018

What should you do before a serious surgery?


What should you do after finding out you need a serious surgery?

1- Visit Goodwill
2- Find the best dress seven dollars can buy
3- Wear it to work on the last day you’ll have a uterus
4- Do not (under any circumstances) cry like a freakin’ baby; there will be time for that—and hormoneslater

I LOVE my uterus dress! Time to laugh to keep from crying.



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Seriously though,  I had my surgery today, and I’m amazed with how great I’m already feeling. Pretty wild when the pain after a surgery is actually less than the pain leading up to it. 

Signing Off,
A New Woman!

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Living a Legacy: Do You Have a Mentor?

A couple of days ago, as I talked with a dear friend, she noted that I sound so much like my mentor, and that I've learned so much in recent months.   
 
Hearing her words, I couldn’t help remembering when I was 15, taking fiddle lessons from Jim Sharp.  Although he didn’t teach me for an extended period, we immediately meshed and I learned my technique and style from him.  Last year, while playing in Ogden, UT, a man stopped me and said, “You sound like Jimmy Sharp.  Did you ever know him?”

    “He taught me,” I said.

    The man got a bit teary-eyed and whispered, “It’s amazing.”

    “What is?” I asked.

    “To hear his legacy live on through you.  He passed away, but his music lives on.”

    “He changed the way I play,” I said.  “In a way, he changed my life.”


   Long story short, I'm reflecting on how incredibly grateful I am for all the people who've selflessly invested in me.  I have grown tremedously in recent months, and as I sit here thinking about how amazingly blessed I am--I’m overwhelmed with wonder.  
   Looking back, many people have molded and bettered who I am.  I'm grateful to embody their legacies--and hopeful that someday I'll do the same for someone else.

    Life is an amazing journey; it should be practiced with arms wide open. 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Newest Release, A STRANGER'S KINDNESS, FREE 2/20-21

The following eBook will be 
FREE from 2/19/18 - 2/21/18! 


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FREE eBook download HERE
"Love can carry us through all of this. It doesn't age. Its back doesn't go out. It doesn't get arthritis, or need a motor. It doesn't lose its hearing or become forgetful. It is what keeps on when the years get late and our hair is grey. It's what can heal and buoy us through anything. I want to be old with you, yes, but I want to feel young with you forever."
      I finished reading the words and found myself speechless. I was a single mother, yet this selfless bachelor had come into my life, and he had literally changed everything. I'd never known a love like this.

Monday, February 19, 2018

3 FREE eBooks for 3 Whole Days -- Presidents' Day Sale

The following 3 eBooks will be 
FREE from 2/19/18 - 2/21/18! 


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FREE eBook download HERE
"Love can carry us through all of this. It doesn't age. Its back doesn't go out. It doesn't get arthritis, or need a motor. It doesn't lose its hearing or become forgetful. It is what keeps on when the years get late and our hair is grey. It's what can heal and buoy us through anything. I want to be old with you, yes, but I want to feel young with you forever."
      I finished reading the words and found myself speechless. I was a single mother, yet this selfless bachelor had come into my life, and he had literally changed everything. I'd never known a love like this.


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FREE eBook download HERE
In this middle grade fantasy, Aliya Fisher knows nothing about her true heritage until a vindictive sorceress kidnaps her brother and sister. The young adventurer must take up her birthright, battle strange creatures, and find the Sword of Senack if she hopes to best the witch. But even if Aliya finds the famed weapon and survives the perilous oceanic journey, the enchantress is far more than she appears. How does one defeat an immortal who lusts for revenge?



I hope Zeke's memory will always remain dear to those who loved him in life--and now through his story, even after death.

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FREE eBook download HERE

The night I met Cade I never would’ve thought that two years later, after we were homeless street musicians in Hawaii, we would have a little girl and another baby on the way. Our son was born with the type of birth defects that make televangelists cringe. As his health waned, my own breath evaded me, like I was the one who needed the ventilator—the life support. The “death home” gave him a really nice funeral, the kind I’d never wished to attend. When they tried closing his casket, I nearly fell on my face, not wanting them to shut the lid on my baby.

We lost it after that, totally cemented in our grief. Cade got into drugs, joined a rock and roll band, and even grew out his damn hair. At the time, I was sick of “the oatmeal option” (the only food we had), so I kicked Cade out of the house, and started modeling and working as a diesel mechanic. That was how I met Earl, an old man and unlikely best friend; the “big sag,” a middle aged woman who still flashed folks, and "The Cowboy" a man who fell in love with me.

It was slow at first, but Cade reverted to the man I’d busked with years before. It wasn’t until I killed a rogue skunk, and my daughter nearly choked on a fry, that I gave my husband another chance. But could our marriage recover from the death of our son?

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Are People Honest in Interviews?

A friend and I talked about management and questions we ask in interviews. "People are never honest," she said.  "I doubt anyone really is--not when they WANT the job."
    "I would be," I ventured.
    "Fine," she said.  "But I doubt it.  Ask me one of your questions and I'll show you why they aren't honest....  Honesty makes people look bad." She flashed her business-like smile and laughed. "Ask me and then I'll ask you."
    "Fine, BUT you have to be completely honest."
    "Fine."
    "What's your biggest regret?" I asked, sipping my Arnold Palmer.
    "Oh, crap," she said.  "Okay, that I don't have enough time with my husband to do the things we love--wildlife photography. Skiing.  Mountain biking.  See THAT is not what an employer wants to hear."  She sipped her margarita and smiled triumphantly.  "They want to hear that you're a perfectionist.  That you follow-through too much....   You," she pointed, half intoxicated, "what's your biggest regret."
    "Wait," I realized afterward.  "I don't want to answer, not honestly...."
    "Elisa, you played this game."
    "I don't think you want to hear it--not the honest answer.  Some people have been through so much...an honest answer is uncalled for." I took another swig of my drink.  
    "Be honest. I can handle it."
    But could I?
    I breathed so deeply, knowing this would be tough.  "My baby boy was so sick...  Some people told me I shouldn't take him off of life support--others said I should.  In the end, I made the decision after talking with the medical staff because I knew what was right for my son....  He suffocated in my damn arms, struggling to breathe.  He'd been pulled from life support and after that, there wasn't a damn thing I could do to save him.  It took forever, him breathing slower and slower...."  Tears filled my eyes and I set my drink down.  "But that's not what I regret. I gave him a chance to live.  And when I knew he was suffering and wouldn't get better, that's when I let him go."  
    She said it so quietly.  "So what do you regret, Elisa?"
    "How I started listening to people around me after that.  I had some family members at the time who thought I shouldn't have let him go.  I started having dreams that I was a murderer; that I had killed my son.  That I couldn't find him anywhere because he was supposed to be alive."
    "They didn't know what you'd been through, not exactly."  
    "They didn't understand that freeing my son from pain, would bind me to it for the rest of my life...."
    My friend had stopped drinking her margarita.  She held my hand.  "Oh God, Elisa.  I'm so sorry."
    "There's a book out about my son who died.  A lady left a terrible review of it the other day, saying I should have let my son die right after he was born."
    "Well that was a bit harsh," my friend said.
    "Most people say I shouldn't have let him go.  And here was someone with a completely different opinion.  It was actually good to read in a way."
    "You know you did the right thing for your little boy.  I know you did--because I know YOU."
    The air felt so thick around us, heavy with grief.
    "Maybe you're right about the interview question thing.  I wouldn't say this in an interview."
    We both smiled sadly.  She held up her margarita and I held up my Arnold Palmer. "To no regrets," she said.
    "Agreed."
    Our glasses clinked and for some reason, I didn't feel quite so sad anymore.  A friend who can share in the good and bad times--now that's someone very special.


I hope Zeke's memory will always remain dear to those who loved him in life--and now through his story, even after death.  I really just want his story to be shared....   If interested, I'm giving his story (eBook) away from 2/19/18 - 2/21/18 HERE

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I'm so grateful for all of the wonderful people who have helped me stay strong.  It's hard writing memoir and putting myself out there.  

All that remains is love, but right now that's hard to remember.

This broke my heart completely and I need advice....

Over a decade ago I fought for my little boy’s life and was devastated beyond words when he died. I can’t explain what I’m feeling right now after reading a review where a reader wrote that I selfishly kept my son alive too long....  Some people don’t understand the pain they can cause and how it can multiply past hurts.  Sometimes when reviewing a memoir, people are actually reviewing the person, their past, and their choices.

Quote from Goodreads review: ...but she really is a selfish, narcissistic woman. Obviously, “she would trade places with her baby”. I am sure that in two days she would be begging to let her die. Who on her sound mind stubbornly wants to prolong the life of a dying baby...
Extracted 2/18/18, Goodreads, written 3/29/17.


No, this wasn’t a physical injury, but I’m devastated regardless.

I fought so hard for my little boy. And even after he passed—I have fought to share his memory because somehow it makes me feel like he didn’t die...at least not really...that I can go into another freakin’ room and maybe he’ll be there waiting for me.  As if waking from a bad dream, a terrible nightmare that doesn’t exist—I'll realize it’s okay. But this woman has reminded me that it’s not okay.

In the end, all that remains is love, but right now I’m struggling to remember that.

I loved my little boy—still do—with every part of my soul.   It’s heartless to judge someone because they fought to keep their child alive....


I hope Zeke's memory will always remain dear to those who loved him in life--and now through his story, even after death.  

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I'm so grateful for all of the wonderful people who have helped me stay strong.  It's hard writing memoir and putting myself out there.  I practically pried open my own ribs and now everyone can see my insides, crap and all....  It's really just a quest to accept who I truly am: strengths, weaknesseseverything. 

Monday, January 29, 2018

Playing My Part: Fiddling on Stage

I’m playing my violin on a wooden stage, in front of hundreds of people. I can’t see anybody’s faces because the lights are so bright. I gaze up, toward Heaven, and suddenly the sky starts sparkling, as if somebody sprinkled silver confetti in the air above.

Something must be reflecting the stage lights, and it’s one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen. I keep playing my fiddle, even if I’m almost crying from the beauty above me.... But I can’t look away from pure magic, and as I continue ascertaining my surroundings, I realize the sky is sparkling  because of...bugs.

The stage lights reflect off a millions little wings, flapping, twirling, and dancing....

Normally this would be the oddest thing in the world, but not that night: not playing my violin, not knowing hundreds of people are listening, and I’m jamming with some of the best musicians I’ve ever met.

 And I find myself: so amazed by the beauty of God‘s creation, so happy to be alive. And all I can think in that moment is even the most unexpected things can become the most beautiful, when put in the right light.

To learn more about the band I’m in, please go here: www.roughstockband.net

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

What does it mean--I'm a rainbow?

    Today started out normal enough, until I got a call from my mentor.  "You know what I am?" I asked him after a minute of conversation.
    "What?" he responded.
    "I'm a rainbow-chaser.  I think there's a pot o' gold at the end of every rainbow, so once I see a rainbow I practically have to go after it."
    "You are so honest with yourself," he said.  And I had to smile because he calls me out on things all the time--by agreeing with me--but it's so diplomatic I can process the feedback and become a better person.
    Anyway, after we hung up, I continued thinking about how I actually am a rainbow-chaser, always hoping I can be better, do more, try harder....  
    The day marched on until (hours later) I ended up talking with two guys who specialize in computers.  One of the men helped me set up a shortcut on a printer.  "I'm going to pick your icon," he said.
    Oh, no....  This would be interesting.  He scrolled through three different screens until finally picking one.
    "This one fits you."
    "THAT one?" I asked.
    "Of course." He smiled.  "You're a rainbow."
    And it was this bright, happy thing that practically beamed from the screen.  A rainbow, arching perfectly, next to my now-programmed name.
    It wasn't until I told this whole story to one of my dearest friends tonight that the whole day came into focus.  "My mentor said I'm so honest with myself--but maybe that's what makes acceptance so hard--I really know my strengths and weaknesses.  I work hard and get things done, but I also chase after unattainable ideals.  And now, to top all that off, I'm apparently a rainbow!"
    "Elisa," I could almost hear her smiling on the other end of the phone, "don't you get it?  You're always chasing rainbows, but you don't really need to...because you are one."
    Chills ran up and down my body.  I'm still processing the deep meaning behind all of that, and I'm sure I will be for days.  But for now, here's what I have: Being honest with ourselves is crucial, but only because it can lead to growth and acceptance.
    Isn't it amazing how my mentor let me share so I could be honest with myself, the computer specialist made my day by completing a God-wink for me, and my dear friend brought everything to light?
    I'm surrounded by such wonderful people.
    Today, well, it was a good day.

Signing Off,
A Freakin' Rainbow

Friday, January 19, 2018

Scary People -- 10 Things I Learned in New York

    The man yelled at the top of his lungs, right in the middle of the subway car.  He preached about life, and growing up poor.  The whole time he jumped in front of people, daring them to contradict him.  "You disagree?  You call life fair?  YOU call this a just government?!  You think this is a good world?  Just because you sit there in your nice shoes, with your nice job--you think you're better than me!"
    My violin case rested snugly against my back, and he looked at me several times, then glanced at my case.
    "You think you're free?  We're not living in a metro-city, we're livin' in a hypocrisy!"
    A woman leaned next to me and whispered, "He is crazy.  And we don't have another stop for a long time!"
   I thought of how I'd played my violin on the subway (the day before) and everyone had gotten out on the next stop.  Too bad we didn't have a choice now.
    After that, I studied the screaming man and felt pity for him.  His face bore so much pain--worry-lines, areas where time and misfortune had tainted and distorted his features.
    What had he looked like before pain consumed him? As I thought all of this, I suddenly set my violin case on my lap.  
    "Oh no," Mike said.  "You're going to pull your violin out?"
    "And why not?  If I can clear a subway car, maybe I can calm one down too!"
    So, I got my violin out, and started plucking it and humming to the melody.  The whole time I hummed, I imaged love and kindness pouring out of me--wrapping around that man.  
    The man yelled louder, getting red in the face; yet everyone around looked at the violin, and listened to the simply plucked melody--notes loud enough to cut through hate.  
    He got quieter and quieter, then swore and got off at the next stop. 
    The lady who had spoken to me earlier smiled and said, "That was brave.  I thought things might get worse--that he'd hurt you.  How did you think of that?"
    "If there's one thing I know, it's how to clear a subway car."  
    I put my violin away afterward, then Mike and I continued on the subway ride like nothing had ever happened.

   photo AAE47F9F-62A1-43DD-9C4D-3EC024DEF941_zpswydpjcqs.jpeg 

Me, after clearing a subway car the previous day.

Sometimes we don't want to accept our gifts, but once we embrace our unique abilities, we can affect change.

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?" 
    "Idaho."
    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.
    "Dublin!"
    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.