Sunday, May 31, 2020

Because it’s time to speak up

One the worst things someone can do is remain silent when they should speak up. Sometimes silence speaks louder than words ever will.

Saturday, May 30, 2020

To be refined

My word for the year is “refine.” So, for the entire year I’ll research this word and learn from it.  Just for my own knowledge I’ve interviewed a doctor, a judge, a lawyer, a philosophical author, a religious expert and people who work at refineries.

“Why are you asking me about refinement?” a refinery manager asked me.

“Well, I just want to know what you think of the word. It’s my word to live by for 2020. I’m just trying to learn more about it.”

He thought for a minute and then said something so throughout-provoking. “It’s a good word to live by because you can only see the true value of something once it’s refined.  It’s hard to assess something until a product has gone through the entire process.  But the process involves so much more than people realize. It’s not just tough on the product, it’s tough on the machines and the people working here too.  It’s painful, but the final result–if the product makes it there–is worth the effort.”

There are different types of refinement; some processes can actually change a molecular structure to transform it into something useable as the by-products are analyzed as well and either found valuable or just discarded.  But changing a structure, that isn’t as simple as discarding something…no, that’s physical separating it.  To be refined is painful.

After that, I spoke with a philosophical author.  She’s researched the word “refinement” and said what interested her is the actual act and that depending on the level of refinement, you can get different products that are worth more. “But the different processes something undergoes, changes the level value.  It’s not to say the other products aren’t valuable in their own ways, but further refinement is worth the pain, especially in regard to oil.”
The religious expert reminded me that refinement isn’t just discarding things…it’s closer to what this woman spoke of as sanctification.  We also talked about the Refiner’s fire from the Bible, which actually burns away anything to leave items purified.

The judge talked about the reformation process that some convicts go through and how this–in a sense–is a type of refinement.

The doctor talked about his interest in refinement because this denotes that the original product was flawed and that it can become better. He said the foods that we put into our bodies can preserve our health and increase our outcomes if we are disciplined enough to accept change.  “Discipline can be a type of refinement.”

The lawyer, well he said true refinement isn’t possible in people and that he believes they’ll revert back.

My chosen words for previous years have taught me so much. Some of them have been: enjoy, trust, wonder, focus, persevere, sincere….  I’ve learned something from each as if the word comes to life and I discover its depths as I would a close friend.  But this year has been strange for everyone and my own circumstances have caused refinement. Losing my job was huge.... I’ve lost other things as well, and it’s very hard, but I can feel the refinement process as I learn more about the core of who I am.

What are your thoughts on refinement? What does that word mean to you?  What do you think we can all learn from the word?

Like a door that we might not be ready for, we must keep in going—and walk through.

My Get Up and Go Got Up and Left

I heard a story once about hundreds of rats trapped in a room. At first they bustled about—even tried to work together—until growing frantic...and hungry. It didn’t take long until the creatures started eating each other, pawing through flesh until they reached bone. All the rats lay decaying and bleeding in a sort of stench that could make even the dead retch. Finally, one rat remained. And after he looked around, he gingerly lifted up his own leg...and started eating.

This is how the economy feels right now. We can’t bury our heads in the sand; the economy is struggling. And as such, bigger companies—thinking they can benefit—swoop in and try to overtake markets. They might look like “hometown” places, disguised as the people who work for them. But they aren’t ‘those’ people. In some cases those poor workers are just a disposable front. Local companies are fighting to not be eaten.  Greed, the deadly sin I’ve never understood, is a driving force with the power to destroy.

Right now, I’m worried, thinking about the local businesses I love. I fear, this could be the end of some of them if people don’t show the support they need. Companies everywhere have cut employee hours and services.  It appears workers continue striving under significantly reduced pay and hours, yet those in essential roles have absorbed more work than ever before.

We, as a society, have worked so hard to succeed…but, like a game of chess, the economy is losing her pawns, worried it might become one itself. Slowly people are giving time, hearts, and souls to the American dream; yet, the economy still feels like a vacuum.

As I tucked my son into bed the other day, he asked, “Do you think people will talk about this in the future; when the coronavirus brought the world together?”  He went on to talk about a common enemy uniting people “like in the movies.”

“This will be in the history books for sure, kid.” His eyes lit up.  “When you’re a very old man, I bet people will ask you what it was like to live through this.”

“Really?  And I can tell them about the grocery stores being empty, businesses closing, people going nuts over toilet paper…and how we couldn’t find Top Ramen?!”

“You’ll have to tell them all of that,” I said.  “Hey,” I said before walking from his room, “is that a roll of toilet paper hidden under your bed?”

“Yeah, you never know when you might need it.”

As I shut his door, a realization hit me.  My grandparents used to hide things like that (toilet paper, medicine, shampoo…canned food).  My grandma said it started after they lived through the Great Depression.  They were brilliant people, business-minded and savvy.  If they could live through all that and be all right, I figure we’ll be okay too.

Rats and a struggling economy aside, there are lessons to be garnered that will buoy future generations forward and make them better for it.

Some “old-timers” have worried about technology and a pervading laziness that has come to rest over generations.  Maybe all of that is about to change as we strive to help ourselves and each other so the places we love can make it through these hard times.

What we have right now is hope... Hope is “an expectation.” So for now, I’m going to “expect” to find something positive in all this.  After all, we get what we look for.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

My uncle died in Vietnam

    I've seen a piece of the past, from a time I was never meant to live through, but the glimpse makes me long for more.  Maybe it's since my mother loved him--my uncle--the one who died in Vietnam.  Maybe it's because I've heard the stories of how he stood against injustice even in his own home.  I still don't know why, but I want to learn everything I can about him.
    I wish I could tell his story, how he was supposed to get married,  how he had so many hopes and dreams . . . but I can't do it justice.  I didn't really know my uncle, or his fiance, I just wish I did. 
   So without further ado, here's the official report.  I wonder if you'll find it as amazing and captivating as I did.  All I can say is that for today, just after Memorial Day weekend, my uncle is my hero.  Because some people are so inspiring, their selflessness and heroic acts can outshine death.

By Captain Francis J. West, Jr., USMCR
Printed 1967
  Reprinted 1977

Page 96
     Struck to earth any time they stood up, the North Vietnamese opposite Furleigh had ceased their jack-in-the-box tactics and were staying low.  The machine gun which had stopped the company cold in the first attack swept wide steel swaths over the Marines' heads.  Attempts to knock out the gun had been unsuccessful and had cost the company lives.     Lance Corporal R. P. Donathan had been the first to try. Donathan was lying near Furleigh when the machine gun first opened up and killed some Marines.  Known throughout the battalion for his aggressive actions in fire fights, he was not cowed by the near presence of death.  He asked Furleigh if he could work his way around the right flank "to get the gun." Furleigh told him to go ahead and he had set off.  Several other Marines then just got up and followed him.  He moved rapidly up a trail on the right of the hedgerow, his swift foray catching some enemy soldiers by surprise.  These his small band cut down but the sound of the firing alerted the machine gun crew.  The gun swung towards them.  Caught in the open, the raiding party was at the mercy of the enemy.  Behind Donathan, a Marine went down.  The men on the lines heard Donathan shout, "Corpsman!"     Hospitalman 3d Class T. C. Long hurried forward.  He found the wounded man lying on the trail in front of the hedgerow.  While he was bandaging the man, he heard from up the trail, Donathan shout again, "Corpsman!" Long left the first casualty, having assured him he would return, and ran on.  Several yards farther, he came across another Marine, hit in the leg.  The casualty told him Donathan had gone on alone.  Long went forward to look for him.     Both men displayed singular fortitude and determination. To go forward alone against the enemy who has struck down all others--that takes rare courage.  A deliberate, conscious act of the will was made by each man when he went on alone, knowing he did not have to do so.  Donathan went forward, driven by his determination to eliminate the machine gun nest.  Long went forward, sensing Donathan might need him.     He worked his way carefully, bent over to present a smaller target.  Occasional clusters of bullets whizzed past him.  He saw a pack lying near some bushes and identified it as Donathan's.  He dropped his own pack beside it and continued on, armed with a pistol and clutching his medical kit.  A few yards farther on, he saw an M14 rifle and a bandolier of ammunition lying on the trail.  He knew Donathan could not be far away.  He looked into the bushes growing on the side of a bank next to the trail.     There was Donathan, wounded but still conscious.  Long slipped down to him and began dressing the wound.  He had almost finished the task when he was hit.  He cried out and pitched over Donathan.  Donathan sat up and reached for him.

     "Where you hit, T. C.?", he asked.     "Back of the knee," Long replied, "the right one.  Went right
through--maybe shattered."
     Despite his own wounds, Donathan managed to inject Long with morphine.  He was trying to bandage the knee when two bullets tore into his back.  He fell on top of Long, conscious but unable to move.  Pinned by Donathan's weight and weak from the morphine and his wound, Long could not wiggle free.
     Lying in each other's arms, they talked back and forth and tried to comfort one another.  It was mostly just idle talk, like many previous chatters they had in rear areas.  After a while Donathan's voice just trailed off.  Death claimed him quietly.

Here's the website where my brother found this story: 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

We’ve been learning Italian during quarantine

The Hippie has been such an inspiration. She’s 15 already, has earned massive awards in science fairs and is now learning Japanese in an effort to be a foreign exchange student some day.

Anyway, as if one new language wasn’t enough, she approached me a couple of months ago and said, “Would you like to learn Italian with me?”

This sounded so fun. I immediately remembered how well my brother had spoken German. Growing up, we lived by several big ski resorts and people from all over the world would visit. One day we sat at a Mexican restaurant and some Germans appeared to be talking about us. I’ll never forget their faces when they were about to leave and my brother said several things to them in German. One of them turned bright red—and my brother never told me what they (or he) said.

So, to be able to do something like that, well it sounded fun. Plus, some of my relatives (who have since passed away) lived in America (Utah specifically), but they could only speak Italian. It sounds awesome to learn a language my mom always heard growing up.

Anyway, Mike and I had so much fun this Memorial Day. Here’s our first attempt at having a conversation in Italian. This text was taken from the Pimsleur app which we’ve been using to learn.
Quarantine has offered some pretty wonderful opportunities for us—trying to learn Italian is one of them.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Someone Compared Me . . . to a Tool!

Writing has shown me a lot about myself.  Sometimes the topics that come to my mind are hilariously stupid.  

Yesterday, one such topic hit me.  I sat thinking about the greatest compliment I've ever received.

This is actually a tough question.  What is the greatest compliment you've ever received?

I thought about it all day.

Would it be that someone said I'm a good mother . . .

When Mike said I'm a great wife . . .
I LOVED that—but no, not that either.

When someone said I'm more stubborn than a  mule? 

What about limitless faith. . .

Then it hit me!  The greatest compliment I ever received was when someone said I'm better than MacGyver!

Before stating the obvious--that this picture doesn't have a great title--sit back down and read on.
On a side note: Can you believe they actually used this for an ad anyway?  "The only tool you'll ever need!"  They called my hero . . . a tool!  What jerks.

The person said I was better than MacGyver because of this set:

Yes, the model (the Hippie when she was little) is wearing a stylish gypsy outfit, and YES, those are pantyhose that I cut the crotch and feet out of.  MacGyver--not quite, but resourceful--maybe.

So, I thought about the answer to my own question.  Why is this so important to me?  Why did that "MacGyver comment" mean so much?  I finally decided.  It's because I want to be useful.

When everything else falls to crap, I want to stand at the end of the apocalypse.  I'll traipse from the flaming destruction and think I did my best to survive--because I pulled a MacGyver.

Right now a lot of things are up in the air for me. I’m toying with the idea of starting up my old sewing business, even thinking of filming instructional videos. I’m two chapters away from finishing a new novel. And I still can’t figure out what I want. Despite ALL OF THAT, I know everything will work out because someone compared me to a tool and God is watching out for all of us.

It reminds me of when Zeke died.  I couldn't breathe, my brain went fuzzy a lot and if it wasn't for my journal who knows how much of the experience I'd really remember.  But reading back through my words, I think I made it through all right.  I had an awesome God who'll never leave me, and a positive outlook just like MacGyver.

I am really curious, what is the best compliment you have ever received? Does it relate to what is— or you would like to be—your best quality?

Saturday, May 23, 2020

I suffer from compression

In the middle of the night I had THE WEIRDEST dream. I've had some strange ones lately, but this took the cake.
    A little man stood in front of me. "What you suffer from, my dear, is compression."

    "Excuse me?" I said.
    "Compression," he cleared his throat. "Everyone talks about depression. Well who cares if you're feeling a little lower than normal.  Compression is what you need to be worried about."
    In my dream I just gawked at him and even thought to myself, What in the heck is going on?
    "Assuming you aren't completely nutty," I said. "What is compression?"
    "I'd worried about that."
    "That you'd be as dumb as you look. Compression is far worse than depression. You feel as if everything is closing in. Too many worries; too much on your plate until you feel out of control..."  He straightened his back, proud of himself.  "Compression."
    "And how am I supposed to fix this, oh mighty, SHORT one."
    "Simple.” He smiled. "Become unpressed."
    "Like a shirt that hasn't been ironed?! Oh this is rich."
    "Laugh all you want," he said. "But there comes a time in everyone's lives when they can't do everything. Choices must be made. Things must be cut from your life, or you'll stay compressed FOREVER, until implosion occurs."
    With that he vanished and I woke up thinking I need to stop going to bed so late and that there was a lot of odd truth in that dream!

Friday, May 22, 2020

Why Sluffing Sucks: The Table Scam

This is a continuation from yesterday.

    "Get under the table now!  We'll block you with our legs.  He'll never see you."
    I slid right under, not questioning their logic at all.  I'd sluffed from school.  My dad stood at ten o'clock and I refused to get busted in front of everyone at Burger King!  It was a good thing four of my guy friends were on my side and there to save the day.
    "Oh my gosh!  He didn't even order and now he's coming this way," Dave whispered above me.  "Everyone act natural."
    So, my dad sauntered up to the table.  I knew because he wore these huge cowboy boots which put fear into my heart.  He didn't have spurs, but for some reason I imagined what spurs would have sounded like if we lived in the Old West.  I think my dad knew a skunk hid in his midst and that skunk was me!  Maybe he wanted to call me out of that place and either play a high stake game of cards or ground me for a month.  

    I think my friends imagined a gun-slinging contest instead, because Dave's knees started shaking next to me.  The whole thing was sucky, plus getting kneed in the ribs, is not what Heaven is made of!
    "Hey, boys," my dad said.  "What are the odds of meeting you here?"
    Who was he kidding--there were no odds!  When you get caught one-hundred percent of the time, chance is out of the question.  I shouldn't have sluffed school--it was asking for heartache.
    "We're doing . . . fine . . .," Dave said in a small voice.
    "Sir," Jim added, then pushed me with his leg so I had to crawl closer to the wall.
    "It's strange seeing you here, without my daughter.  The five of you are always together lately."
    "Yeah . . . yeah, she's a live wire that one."
    "What do you mean?" my dad asked and I watched as one of Dave's feet kicked another guy in the shin.
    "Ow . . . She's just . . . well, she was meant to be a redhead.  It's like God gave her a warning label or somethin'."
    What was that? Enough with the small talk!  Those tiles were nasty and I hated putting my hands where millions of shoes had been.  I could smell someone's feet too.  I wasn't quite sure who I smelled, but I had my suspicions.
    "Uh huh.  You wouldn't happen to know where she is.  Do you?"  Oh, my dad toyed with us!  He toyed with us bad.  Where was my white flag to wave in surrender?  Maybe he'd be easier on me if I just crawled from under the booth and gave up, got away from the stinky feet and took my hands off that greasy floor.
   "She's probably at school, Sir.  That sounds like Elisa, always getting good grades, studying and picking the coolest friends in school."
    How sweet of Jim, to compliment . . . himself!
    "Well, it's nice seeing you here."
    "Bye, Sir."
    My heart beat faster than eggs in a blender.  I wanted to get out of there.  I'd only kissed two guys and being surrounded by a bunch of male legs, well it wasn't my style.  "Can I come out now?" I asked.
    "Shhh.  No."
    After a moment Dave handed me a napkin.  "Your dad just finished ordering and now he's sitting RIGHT behind us," the napkin said.
    What the hell?!  I didn't want to stay there forever.  What was the point of sluffing if I couldn't sit ABOVE THE TABLE and eat! 
    It sucked.  I couldn't write back; I didn't have a pen.  Maybe that's what Helen Keller felt like, unable to communicate with most other people.  I felt bad for Helen then, really bad.
    After a moment, Dave held another napkin by his leg. "Your father," the napkin read, "keeps looking at us."
   Well what was I supposed to do?  Looking wasn't a crime even in Texas!
    Another napkin. "He won't stop. Hang tight and we'll tell you when he leaves."
   So, they WERE terrified, just like me and my greasy hands.  But men (especially boys) seem to forget about things far too quickly and before long the napkins stopped coming and the guys started laughing and joking about some girl they had all kissed.  There I was UNDER THE TABLE and those "friends" thought they were at a Sunday picnic!
    That made me angry.  Plus, the girl they joked about was my buddy.  I had to get revenge.  But what could I do?  I was stuck under some stupid table.  
    Then a thought hit me; I know it's the oldest trick in the book, but it's old for a reason.  Since I was already down there, I started tying their laces together.  No one forces me to hide (under the guise of protection) and then forgets about me.  I smirked, almost sniggering as I tied all of their laces together except for Jim who had Velcro skater shoes AND was nice to me--he got off easy that day. 
    After A LONG TIME, Dave said in a regular voice, "Your dad's gone.  You can come out now."
   I crawled over the web of laces, pushed their legs aside and stood at the end of the booth.  My hands felt yucky.  My jeans had gross spots on the knees and I bet I smelled like feet.
   "I never want to sluff," I said in a low voice, "ever again."
   "But he didn't catch you.  You got your ninety percent."
   "You don't think he caught me?  Seriously?  That was my punishment.  Since when does my father sit down at a fast food restaurant?  NEVER, that's when.  I'll be out waiting by the car.  And I'm not riding in the back this time.  I get shotgun."
    They held their breath--shotgun was a sacred thing.  They didn't even argue, though--I was a woman on the edge.  I turned fast after that and hauled butt out to the car.  I knew they were about to stand and their laces were still tied together.  I didn't want to be around when they hollered and yelled about the new member of their clan who didn't like hiding under tables.

    So, my dad never told on me; he didn't even call me out.  But I will never forget waiting under a booth forever.  I definitely got my ninety percent that day, exactly what I deserved.

    My dad took me out a few years ago and I finally got some guts.  I told him this story and after he finished laughing I asked, "When I was fifteen and sluffing, did you know I was there under the table the whole time?"
    "No," he said.  "I used to go eat there quite a bit."
    "So of all the places for me to sluff, I picked your favorite place?"
    "Pretty much."  He laughed.  "That's life for ya."

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Why sluffing sucks: The Ninety Percent

    I always got caught.  I couldn't spit without my parents seeing me. 
    "Why am I always in trouble?" I asked my mom once.
    "Because, I've caught you doing some bad things.  They say parents will only see ten percent of the mischievous stuff their teenagers do.  Imagine the ninety percent I'm missing."
    There was no ninety percent.  There was only one hundred since the woman caught me EVERY TIME I did something bad, seriously.  There must be something about Italian mothers--she knew stuff before it happened!  The time I battled in a spray paint war and got my best friend in the eye, my mom knew about that right before we went to the doctor.  The time I accidentally started my friend's driveway on fire, of course my friend's mom saw the smoke.  The time I made holes in the bookshelf since it made a nice waterfall with all my mom's fine glasses angled just right  and water flowing down--she found that too--what were the odds?!
    I was a pretty good kid, who never got to experience the other ninety percent, but I hoped change hung in the wind.  That's when I decided to sluff.  I put it in my planner because I refused to get anything less than a "B."  I was on track to graduate two trimesters early and earn a scholarship.  I wouldn't screw that up for anything. 
   Anyway, some of my best friends at the time were four boys. We drove around town, singing loud and being ridiculous.  I remember worrying that at any moment the car behind us would be a cop--after all, I never got the ninety percent.  
    It wasn't until a really old lady looked at us suspiciously since we were too young to be out of school.  She started gawking at the license plate and pulled out a pen and paper.  "NO!"  My friend and I screamed.  She just jotted down the numbers and looked serious.
    Dave floored it after that.  And I swear the woman followed us for a bit because if old ladies know anything, it's how to drive fast and make good tea! 
    We finally did lose her and I turned to one of the guys.
    "Do you think she called the cops?" I asked after a moment. 
    "Maybe, but we're under age.  We have a few more years to live things up and have the time of our lives.  Don't worry so much.  Today is about having fun. This is Dave's car; he'd rather die than rat any of us out.  Concentrate on not getting caught, and you'll finally get away with it."
   So we went to Burger King and I felt pretty neat.  I was the lanky prankster-chick, like Harley Quinn; who probably got to experience ninety percent.
    We sat down and I ate a huge Whopper.  Life never tasted so good.  "You know, having the ninety percent, well it feels real great."
    The guys chuckled.  "Yep, and you're practically one of the boys now.  You passed our initiation."  
    Another one nodded.  "Plus, it's nice having a girl around.  So Dave isn't the softest one around."
    I glared and Jim knew he should shut his mouth; plus I think he had a crush on me even before I started wearing makeup.
    We told jokes and laughed.  I was the luckiest girl in the world...until my dad walked into Burger King!
    "Oh crap." I whispered and felt my ninety percent fly out the window.  "Why do I always get caught?!"
    "I told you we shouldn't have brought a girl. They're bad luck," Dave said.  Jim was right--Dave was a pansy.
    Meanwhile, as we fought at the table, my dad looked as happy as ever.  He's one of the most amazing people, who never goes INSIDE fast food restaurants.    

    "Did he see us?" I asked Jim.
    He shook his head.  "I don't think so.  But like I said before, you're one of the boys now.  We'll get you out of this.  Here's what we're gonna do."

To be continued tomorrow . . .

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

A home video from decades ago

I found this home video from the 90s. I’m laughing so hard right now. You have to get to 1:11 in the video and then it gets pretty hilarious.

So glad my parents decided to help me with this science project/science musical. Just watch and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The beauty of learning to live under constraints

Lately I've been thinking a lot about thriving in different situations.

I'm a free spirit and I like to do things in my time, my way. But as I look back at my life, I've seen beauty in obedience and living under constraints. This isn't always popular in Western culture,
so let me explain: when I first began playing the violin as a kindergartner, my bow arm would fly here and there as I learned to fiddle and "Bile Them Cabbage Down." I thought I excelled until my teacher said I needed to start playing the violin in a corner, with both elbows against the wall where they couldn't be free.

Fiddling in a corner, is not the best thing ever. I played like that for months, even when I
practiced for hours each day at home. Slowly though, I learned to move my right arm fluidly, so the bow would stay on the "string highway." My left arm gained proper form too; the violin's sound even seemed to change.

One day, my teacher smiled during my lesson and said, "Elisa, your elbow didn't smack the wall at all! You're playing perfectly!"

"Really?" I stepped from the corner and played. At that moment, the sound emanating from my fiddle, completely captivated my soul. My violin became an extension of myself. The sheer power and volume, the rich sound ... the way the very notes cried out or sang with joy, all because I'd learned to perfect small things while living under constraints.

It seems Americans so value individuality and unique endeavors; that's beautiful, but there's also something to be said for obedience and understanding the basics so we can build on foundational knowledge. Maybe this is a moment for some of us to focus on the small things so we can excel with complexities.

This photo was taken at a gig I played in Park City 
with Ryan Kirkpatrick and Johnny A. Hickman (of the country band Cracker).

Monday, May 18, 2020

A wild animal broke into our house

We've had some strange experiences during quarantine like the wild animal that keeps sneaking through our doggie door.  We aren't sure if it's a squirrel, or a raccoon, but what we do know is that it LOVES dog food.  The other night everyone woke up as our doberman growled.  Then this flash of black matrixed out the doggie door into the night!  I swear, I've never seen my daughters' eyes get that big.  And all of us were a bit freaked out!  Normally I like visitors, but don't put this evil on me!  I don't want visits from the Grim Reaper OR the dog-food-lovin' bandit.

Another time, the Scribe (my 18-year-old) left a sack of Burger King food by her door.  She'd planned to throw it away the next day, but fate had other plans.  When we woke up, the dogs were still asleep in an enclosed room, but someone had shredded the Burger King sack and thrown it around like confetti! We decided later that a racoon either learned the tango or got into a fist fight with one of our cats because fur from both of them littered the floor. 

But the thing that freaks me out about this is that we've seen dangerous creatures where we live: a bobcat, a bear, a moose.... They caught a huge mountain lion a few blocks from our house.  And yes, I know a moose isn't going to fit through the doggie door--I'm not a COMPLETE idiot!  But this sort of thing gets you thinkin'.

So I did the next logical thing!  I wanted to see how big of a creature could fit through the doggie door.  But how? I'm a tall, lean sort of gal--and it hit me; I bet I could fit through that doggie door.  That was preposterous--or was it?  If I could fit, that's terrifying, and we should get a new door!!! Plus, how fun would it be to tell my pre-teen son that I fit--and then immediately tell Mike we're getting a new door that humans can't fit through!!!

My kids are always telling me what I can't do: I can't skateboard.  I can't dress cool.  I can't hug them in the school drop-off zone!  And I can't look young.  Well, I just knew they'd add this to their list!  I looked in the mirror.  I'm a size 3--okay 5 after quarantine--about the size of a medium mountain lion!

With all the skills I've learned from Twister, I was able to origami my upper half through the doggie door, but then my hips got stuck.  I would have called out to the kids, but they didn't need to see their mother stuck in the door--legs kicking as if I was swimming in the Atlantic.  We have a wild animal breaking into our house; they've been traumatized enough.

This made me realize a couple of strange things: I need to stop showing my kids that I'm cool AND I don't know how magician assistants lie in those boxes where they're about to get cut in half.  That's what it felt like squirming in that door--a modern-day Lucille Ball! #facepalm

I got closer to God that day, praying He'd send an angel of mercy to help me.  Thank God it wasn't my husband--Mike would have laughed about this for days! No, God sent a dog who licked my feet.  I was able to practically shoot from the door sideways, finally making it to the other side.   

Well, I didn't tell anyone about this...until now.  Long story short, there's an animal breaking into our house whenever we leave the doggie door open, but my scientific research shows it could be anything smaller than a medium-size mountain lion.

I laughed out loud when I found this picture of myself because the window is about the width of the doggie door.  *Whispering* This is how I trimmed plants when I was a single mom--who didn't own a ladder. 

Anyway, we will be getting rid of the doggie dog ASAP!  Welcome to life in the hills of Idaho.  #GoodTimes  I still think a raccoon is invading our house, but it would be nice to know for sure!

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Only one negative thing

I have made the executive only say one negative thing a day.  Throughout the hours, I’ll catch myself getting ready to say something negative, but it’s not quite good enough for the only bad comment of the day.  Sometimes I’ve used it early--about 8 a.m. and then I have to be positive the rest of the day!  Other times I’ll forget to say something because I didn’t find something quite bad enough.

The other afternoon, I spoke with a businesswoman who spoke quite negatively.  Although she was working in a warm, cozy office--and drank a coffee--she talked about how terrible her job is and how much she hates the weather. No matter what I said, she flipped it negative.  “Isn’t that lady darling,” I whispered, motioning to a lady who had walked in.

“If you like the 80s.”

It went on until I became almost mystified with how artfully she changed good to bad.

“Isn’t it terrible here in Idaho? Don’t you agree?” she finally asked.

“Ma’am, I only use one negative comment a day, and I’m not going to waste it on this.”

Her faced paled a little before reddening.  I really didn’t mean to offend her, but I didn’t want to waste my comment on that.

Anyway, I had to visit her office again yesterday.  She was helping someone else and didn’t see me by the door.

“I know you’re upset,” I heard her tell a customer, “but I only use one negative comment a day, and I’m not going to use it on this.”

When it was my turn, she didn’t act overly excited to see me, but I had to inwardly smile. Even when you don’t know you’re making a difference, you just might be.  Positivety wins out every time.

Friday, May 15, 2020

My day at the ranch

By Yellowstone

I ran into Lee Hammett, which was awesome since he’s one of my favorite people in the world. And I immediately told him, “I’m a cow professional now; so, if you ever need my help, let me know.” I realized my faux pas since “cow professionals” actually call themselves cowboys…or cowgirls.

“Oh, really?” he asked. “And how much experience do you have?”

“A day,” I boasted. “But it was a loooong day.”

He raised an eyebrow before breaking out laughing.

“But seriously, I got a 30-percent raise my first day!”

“They paid you to be there?” he asked.

“Well, no. That’s why giving me 30-percent on nothing was so easy.”

As I drove away, I thought about my day on the ranch a few weeks ago…and the whole memory made me smile.

I always knew I’d be a great rancher after watching John Wayne and Maureen O’Hara.  I’d be amazing, as long as I didn’t have to actually touch…a cow.  But if I ran a ranch, somehow everyone would respect me because I’d be the only one wearing heels without falling – AND the job would still get done.  So, when a chance finally came along last week I thought I might die of pure joy.  I’d shown up on “immunization and branding day” (of all things) to interview Steve Blaser for his upcoming birthday.

“Can I talk to you?” I asked as he ran cows through a chute. “It’ll just take a second.”

“I won’t have time until five o’clock,” he said nonchalantly, and my eyes grew wide because it was only 11:30!

As I watched him, I decided ranchers aren’t in a hurry to get interviewed mainly because they must live off a different clock than the media.

“Oh…five o’clock.  Well, all right!”

Someone next to Steve told me I could help out if I wanted to.

If I could help in the way Maureen O’Hara did, then great!

“What can I do?” I asked Andrew Blaser, Steve’s son. “I’ve been to a cattle auction...and I saw a cow die once, but that’s it.”  Other than all the westerns....

“Do you want to give the calves shots?”

I paled, looking even more the redhead I am.

Number one: I am not a nurse, a vet, or a phlebotomist.

Number two: I thought I’d be terrible at giving shots and probably hit a calf in the eye or something.
In fact, if the apocalypse were actually here I’d probably die first from one of those weird things you see on the movies — like not being able to give shots or perform brain surgery....or whatever strange thing they had on “The Walking Dead.”  Maybe I should be glad the current apocalypse involves corona and not zombies.

As I stood there, thinking about how I couldn’t do anything – and maybe I was a useless city girl in high heels – I studied cowboys and cowgirls branding, tagging, and immunizing. Steve Blaser also eyed me like I was simply good at writing, but wasn’t tough enough to get out there.

With pent-up aggression only a redhead can feel, I took off my coat, purse, and keys. An obstinate fire lit my veins and I asked Christie Oleson – one of the best nurses EVER – to “show me the ropes.”

Inoculating cows sounds fancy, but it isn’t always easy – trust me, I know.  Sometimes the syringe is tough to shoot and the skin can be thick too!  There’s one thing I know, you need skin thicker than a cow’s to work on a ranch!

I gave shot after shot, getting faster and faster. Some of the cowboys were hilarious, fun, flirty, even mean. But, one thing was for sure, they were ALL nice after I inoculated myself. I looked down at the blood dripping from my hand. It happened because a calf, about ready to kill me, reared its head back and stuck its giraffe tongue out!  I paused in pure fear...and the needle meant for it, jabbed deep into my paper-thin skin.

Someone jokingly asked why I shot myself. I said, “I better be willing to use my own product!”

Justin Oleson, Steve’s oldest – and tallest son – handed me a bandana to wrap around my hand. “You want to stop?” he asked.

Who was he kidding? I wasn’t gonna quit now – not when I was getting a story.  Plus, another of Steve’s sons, Shawn, had given me a nickname, “Yellowstone,” because of the show.  When someone gives you a nickname…that practically means you have to see the thing through!

As Shawn tagged another calf, I put my high heel boot on a metal bar so I could position myself and inoculate another calf.

“You know,” Shawn said. “That’s Justin’s snot rag.”

It’s a strange moment, feeling your face contort after finding out your hand is wrapped in a cowboy’s snot rag.

Shawn laughed so hard then, grinning big and tagging another calf with practiced skill.

This is me on the ranch. The best day ever!!!

After the bleeding stopped, I folded the snot rag and gave it back to Justin. “That was really kind of you.  Thank you.”

Then, I found a beer and dumped it all over my hand. I know it was wasteful, but that’s what thoughts of death can do to a gal.  The snot rag was one thing, but I’d also just poked dozens of calves with the same needle that jabbed into my skin.  Who knew what I might die of?!

My life flashed before my eyes then; it was a short life filled with mischief and calamities.  Then, I heard my dad’s voice drifting through the memories, “Only the good die young.” That’s when, I figured I’d be all right!

So, I stayed for the entire day – did actually fall on my butt once – got a nickname, and learned something wonderful in the process.

At the end, I cornered Steve, hoping he’d give me a quote. The man simply said, “It was a perfect day.”

That was it?! My grand quote?

But as I walked with him a moment more, he talked about the simplicities of life and the beauties of nature. It was extremely thought-provoking, really. And as I listened to cows finding their babies, I wondered if the man had me stay because he knew the experience had the potential to change my life.

After jumping in my SUV, I didn’t leave for a minute. Instead, I gazed out, thinking about how dream-like the day had been, surprised by how much I loved it.

I visited the ranch to learn something about a man for his 72nd birthday, and in the process I ended up learning a lot about myself.

I can see why his kids and grandkids work so hard for him. They want to protect and preserve something he worked to build because it means something to him and now it means something pretty powerful to me as well.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Don't lose hope -- it's simply time to grow

I'm currently trying to decide what to do with my life.  I know this sounds crazy, since I'm ancient--37 years old!  But basically, I finally had my dream job as a publisher at a newspaper--and after I lost that job it's not even as if a window opened...someone knocked over a damn wall.  There are so many choices and opportunities. And it's not just for's for all of us.  Do you have any idea how much is out there?  It's amazing really.  And for the first time I feel like the avatar in a video game, but there isn't any regeneration or plus-ones to get bonus lives.  There's just one life--one chance.  So I better pick something I want to do and that I love.  Whether I need to make money, want to do something I enjoy...have more time with my family.  NOW is my chance to make it happen.

You know, it's funny because right before what I'll call "the big buyout of 2020"--before another company came in and I lost my job...I think God tried to prepare me. 

Side note: Don't think I'm some hoity toity religious person.  I was in high school, but after life kicked me in the teeth a few times (especially when my son died), I'm not a snob now. It's strange that God still seems to reach out to me.  I'm not the best Christian ever: I have the heart of a giver and the mouth of a sailor (when I'm not around my mom or my children).  And if anyone has ever been a modern-day Jonah, running...that's me.  It's not that I don't love God, because I definitely do.  I'm just so innately flawed and honest about it.  Being a Christian for me is setting myself up for failure.  I don't want to say "I'm a Christian," then go hang out with a bunch of people who seem to be perfect when I'm clearly not.

Anyway, the week before my life changed, I sat on my front porch.  For some reason I started studying all the trees in my neighborhood.  They're all groomed and beautiful...perfect shapes like you'd picture seeing perched in the Queen of Hearts' garden.  I suddenly felt every bit Alice, in some magical place where plants grow so beautifully and people care so much.  That's when I spied the tree across the street; that tree is lumpy.

No one takes care of the tree across the street; it has Albert Einstein hair except one side is twice as long as the other.  And as I discovered all of its strange intricacies, the thing suddenly became so beautiful.  It was fascinating seeing which branches reached toward the sky, or those that extended near the house.  I could hardly believe how gorgeous it is!  And then I realized that by the neighbors letting that tree grow, they helped it become the most striking tree on the block.

(I hope they won't read this.  They probably just don't like trimming the thing.)  BUT seriously--it's gorgeous.

So, as I prepared to write my post today, I saw that tree across the street and felt that it's somehow me.  I have room to grow now--NOW is my chance.  When one door closed, God just didn't open a window, He knocked out a wall.  I honestly have no idea what the future will hold, but I'm excited. It doesn't really matter what comes our way because a good foundation is what stands the test of time.  I have faith right now despite unemployment, the coronavirus and a struggling economy; even chaos has a pattern that makes sense of everything--when we can't always understand.  If anything, this is one for the history books.   

I may be Jonah, but even I know that God has a plan.

Hoping a whale doesn't come to swallow me,

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

A silk purse from a sow's ear: how to make bad times better

I know the saying is actually "You CAN'T make a silk purse out of a sow's ear," but the following is a story of triumph, victory, destitution, and a pair of curtains....  This is how a silk purse (figuratively) DID come from a pig's ear.

Basically, we had no money.  The Hippie wanted something special for her birthday, and after watching those Barbie movies that used to be all the rage several years ago, she had her heart set on a masquerade dress.

I can sew with the best of them--even had my own business--but the problem remained that if you don't have the fabric, you can't make the dress.  I could've bawled then because it was almost my baby's birthday and I wanted to give her something amazing.  She's such a sweet kid, always helping out and working to make things easier on everyone else.

"Calm down," my best friend said.  "What you need is a day to yourself.  Just stop stressing about everything.  First you're terrified because your washer broke, then you were upset because the hot water in your shower stopped working and then your kitchen faucet started having issues. Now you're worried about your kid's birthday."

"Well, yeah!  That's a bit to worry about.  Wouldn't you think?!"

"Get her a coloring book from the dollar store.  It'll be okay."

"Ummm no."

"Fine, then just take some time for yourself, Elisa.  I'll hang out with the kids.  Read a book or something and I'm sure ideas will come to you about how to fix all of this stuff and still make your little girl's birthday amazing."

So, she took the kids out for a little while and I read some of "Gone With the Wind."  It's my favorite book, really. I've read parts of it so many times, just wanting to relive the magic: like when Scarlett realizes that true friendship can be so powerful...when Melanie is dying.  Or how Rhett makes love to Scarlett after a huge about one heck of a scene for that time period!  Anyway, I opened the pages to when Scarlett was destitute, but needed something nice to wear to coherence someone to help her.  That's when she spied the curtains.

I closed the book....

When genius strikes, it's a strange sort of sensation, like mixing coffee and ice cream together for the first time and realizing it's a frappe that's 10% the cost compared to a coffee shop!  Anyway, I looked at my basement curtains with a sort of primal hunger that would scare most.  And while my kids still visited with my friend, I tore down the curtains and made the most glorious kids' dress I could think of!

I know this might sound silly, but before my daughter's birthday, I gave her the dress so she could wear it on her big day and "wow" all of her friends.  When she saw the thing AND a mask--that I had made with random items I found around the house--she lit with so much joy.

"Mama!"  She nearly cried.  "I don't know how you did it, but I love it so much.  It's exactly what I wanted."

My friend, who came to witness the event, leaned closer.  "Isn't that fabric familiar?"

"What?" I mouthed in slow motion.  "Don't...say.... A. Word!"

The Hippie continued gushing about the dress and after a minute, ran upstairs to change.

"You've been reading 'Gone With the Wind,' again.  Haven't you?" my friend asked while the Hippie changed.  "The curtains are missing in your basement. Aren't they?"

"The basement needed some more sun anyway!"

She burst out laughing.  "Elisa. You're ridiculous."

After a minute, the Hippie came back downstairs.  Every bit of worry and time spent making the dress was worth it. My heart warmed as she hugged me and said that I was "the best mother in the world."

I'm still not sure why, but I cried as she hugged me, her smile so big and her movements so quick as she spun around the room.

It's truly amazing how hard times can be, but the simplest ideas can make things better.  Who knew that an old pair of curtains, a plate, glitter and feathers (for the mask) could bring so much joy.

I'm grateful for a friend who gave me time to think and for Margaret Mitchell, who wrote a book that always seems to pull me through the hard times.

Here's the dress that I made for the Hippie all those years ago.  You can see the curtain fringe on the bottom.  I decided to leave it that way, just so I'd remember that even the most beautiful items can come from something that just needs a little love.

If we're resourceful, even the hardest times can turn into the best memories. 

I have started a Facebook page where I'm featuring a new set each day.
If you're interested in seeing those, please visit that site here: EC Boutique

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

A mouse death that turned them vegan

#1 Mice are disgusting.  I probably think this because I've seen so many dead after moving to the hills of Idaho.  But seriously, yuck!

At approximately 8:36 A.M. on Monday morning, right after I'd made the perfect cup of coffee, I went to step (my foot hung mid-air) when something felt off.  They say after someone has died, sometimes the ghost lingers due to "unfinished business."  Well, maybe that's what happened because something told me not to put my foot down.  That's when I looked to see a skinned mouse sprawled, with an intestine hanging out!

My black cat, Cole, looked at me from the corner of the room as I screamed.  He licked his paw and then grinned! The kids "got Cole for Christmas;" too bad the name made him a serial killer!

Motives for crimes usually involve thrill-seeking, financial gain, need for attention, fits of anger or passion.

After Doctor Jones saw the crime scene...and pulled this face....

We began discussing a possible motive.

"Passion?  Was it a crime of passion?" I asked her.  "Cole.  The mouse.  They were in love.  But last night...Cole caught little mousy with another.  That's when it happened."  I moved my arms to set the scene.  "Cole got angry!  Cole got passionate.  Heck, maybe even Cole got hungry."

"Mom!  It WAS NOT a crime of passion.  Cole is. A. Cat. He wouldn't fall in love with a mouse that has no skin."

"What about a need for attention?"

My son, the Zombie Elf, walked into the room at that point.  He's only 11, but he's taller than all the girls now and wears a size 11.5 shoe!  "He didn't kill the mouse for attention," he said.

"Wait.  Why not?"

"Cole doesn't want attention.  I walked past him the other day and he just jumped out and scratched me.  What are other possible motives?" he asked.

"Well, we've crossed off passion, anger and the need for attention.  There are two left: thrill-seeking, and financial gain."

Our bonus kid--who we've practically adopted along with his dog, Stark--against their will, said it actually it could have been for financial purposes.

"Really? Do tell?" I said.

"It's skinned, right?  Cole sold the pelt on the black market."

"No," Doctor Jones said.  "Cole needed a midnight snack. He saw the mouse.  Bam! Mouse death!  End of story.  You're welcome."  

Well, I didn't make the mistake I made last time--mainly because I don't want Mike to kill me. 

So, last time...there was a mouse stuck to sticky paper that's meant for spiders!  I called Mike crying and he told me "to freakin' get over it." Which made me cry even harder because the damn thing had wiggled so hard it ripped off its tail. 

"Pick it up with your hands," he said.  "And throw it away."

"I'm not suicidal!" I shuddered. 

Then he told me to hit it with a hammer, but I don't listen to people who yell at me!  Who I DO listen Google.

I sat there as the mouse wiggled next to me.  Dr. Google said the most humane way to kill a mouse is "to freeze it to death."  So, I grabbed a shovel with a VERY long handle and put the mouse into a bag--which took foooooorever.  Then I found five more bags to contain the mouse's grossness.  But after I put the mouse in the freezer, I kept opening the door over and over because it didn't die for eternity!  And then after it stopped moving, I thought I should make sure it froze solid just so it wouldn't "Pet Sematary" me.  But the damn situation backfired.  I wanted Mike to be proud that I took care of the situation, but when he got home and opened the freezer because he was "feeling like meatloaf," he screamed like a little girl. " the in our freezer?!"  Let it be known that this was one of THE WORST fights we've ever had.  Even more reason to hate mice.

Anyway, I didn't want a repeat of THAT memory.  So I called the dog, Stark, upstairs on Monday morning when I thought no one was looking.  He ate the mouse remains--just in time for my kids to see.  Long story short, two of my daughters want to be vegans.... 

I hate mice.  They cause fights and make me cry.  I'm telling you; I don't know how we live through this.  I just hope we'll look back and laugh one of these days. Until then, I'll be making vegan burgers and lots of salad. Heaven help me.

Monday, May 11, 2020

She gave me something to last a lifetime...the gift of music

As I think of all the women who have been mother figures in my life, I am truly astounded by what they have taught me.

My grandma gave me all of her recipes. When I was on my own, she even traveled hours just to spend a weekend teaching me how to cook everything she loved.

Dee Ready has taught me about writing and language. I love that I can call her and ask advice on ANYTHING and she has the perfect answer and knows exactly how to help me.

Maureen, my mother-in-law, is the most accepting woman in the world—so kind and honest. She’s hard-working and loves with her whole heart. I can absolutely see how she got that from her own mother, Alice, who has also been a wonderful example in my life.

Sue, Kristine, Fran, Denise...and so many others have positively impacted my life.

But right now, I’m thinking of my own mother; she is truly exceptional and growing up with her was an adventure. I still remember being quite little, probably a toddler, going with her to practice music. She’s an Italian drummer who used to play in bars until she met God. In fact, she won Miss Carbon County and her talent was wailing on the drums. Those other pansy women probably twirled batons, danced and sang--not my mom!  She even got to meet The Monkees after she claimed her title--and everyone knows that Davy Jones was worth meeting. But that was long before I was born. God and me, well, we must've turned her good because she started playing in church bands, wowing the crowds and God too. I remember falling asleep, using her purse as a pillow, not too far away from her bass drum.  And I have to laugh now, maybe all the wildness left her when I was born and all of it went into me!  Now I'm the one who plays in bars!

Ruby Donathan (now Stilson) around the time she won Miss Carbon County

And somehow, those beats got into my soul. I would dream drum rhythms and music. And at the age of three I knew my instrument would be the fiddle; in fact, I begged my parents for one. I grew up playing, jamming with my mom. She’d teach lessons and sometimes I’d be far in the other room just plucking my fiddle, playing melodies along with the crazy rhythms she taught her students. She'd also practice hard solos like the one from In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.
I loved my mom so much that I studied the songs she did too--and I memorized the solos beat for beat in my own head because even though I played the fiddle and not the drums, somehow I wanted to be just like her.  And I really did find ways to play along.

Later, when I grew up, we went to retreats together where we played music. It was unreal getting to spend all that time with my mom—having sleepovers in the fancy hotel room, playing music and somehow knowing where one another would go without any cues or saying a word. Starting on the beat, stopping simultaneously, totally in sync because she’s my mom, and so much of me comes straight from her.

And now that I’m older, she’s even jammed with the country band (Rough Stock) that I am part of. I can’t explain what it was like the last time. We’d been hired to play for a county fair. My mom stepped up to play "Wipeout" (the Beach Boys' version). She’s gorgeous, like some sort of Jane Fonda who's 70 years old, but looks much younger.  And when she beat those drums into submission, hundreds of spectators cheered.  People stood, kids clapped, wives had to slap husbands and tell them to "stop checking out the drummer."  And the whole time I kept thinking, "That's my mom!  That one! She's mine.  THAT babe on the drums is MY mom."

So, for all the memories, and all the good, I know why my mom and I ended up being so close as I got older.  I sure love you!  Thanks for everything.

My mom is the coolest!

From 9 years ago

I had to jam to Iron Butterfly on Mother's Day.  My mom is in a different state and I can't even fly out to see her because of quarantine.  But here's my jam session anyway.  I hope we can jam in person soon.

 Thank you to Mike and our kids for helping with this.  Y'all are the best :)

Saturday, May 9, 2020

What God made fishin' for anyhow

That moment when… You're fishing and you run into a man who seems vaguely familiar.
    As time passes, you're scouting the same spot, even sharing tricks of the fishin' trade. "You grew up in THAT small town?" he asks, showing you a new way to bait hooks.
    "The last name's Stilson," you reply, "like that character in ENDER'S GAME."
    "I knew a Clan Stilson...," he says.
    You get chills 'cause that's your grandpa. He starts telling you all these wonderful stories of a man you once knew.
    "That was my grandpa," you finally say. "He made everyone feel like his favorite." And then you start thinking how much you miss him because you loved him--and he meant something to everyone, even fishermen on the opposite side of the state.
    Then he starts telling you how he was there the day your grandpa fell from a roof. You get teary-eyed, because he's nearly shaking remembering the details, how he couldn't stop time, how he lived next your grandpa died. Then he switches gears, tells you you're kind like your grandfather, but spunky like your grandma. You bust with laughter 'cause it's about the nicest thing you've ever flippin' heard. He says goodbye and tears fill your eyes again, even if you are covered in mud and worms guts line your fingernails--that's just part of the jig.

    After a while you're left alone by the motionless water. No fish on your line, with it's newly baited hook. But you don't care what size of trout you catch, the age of the hook you're using, or even if you wasted your money on garlic powerbait. You made another memory and that's what God made fishin' for anyhow.

Friday, May 8, 2020

How to cope with the loss of a loved one


It’s present day and I’m shocked to walk into my front room and see a baby hooked to life support. The machines whir and thump with such force I wonder how the ventilator doesn't hurt the baby. The infant looks just like Zeke, my son who died in 2003, and suddenly it's hard for me to breathe...too. I’m about to step closer when the doorbell rings.

“Yes?” I say to the striking young woman at the door. I’m still craning my neck to get a closer look at the baby.

“You’re a professional writer,” she says, it’s not a question. “You write obituaries.”

“Well, yes. I do.”

She walks in and begins telling me about someone. I’m frantically taking notes thinking this woman is a muted cymbal, capable of so much more if she’d let herself “resound.” After all, no one should let pressure steal their purpose.

Then she hands me the picture that should accompany the obit and I’m stunned.

“But...this is you! Do you have an identical twin or something?”

“No,” she says. “And write the date of death as next Saturday. Don’t forget the ‘y’ in my name. Susan S-M-Y-T-H.”

I want to help this woman because I’ve lost people down the road she's traveling.  And the whole time, the baby's ventilator is getting louder and louder and I can hardly concentrate!

“Once there was a woman who wanted to be a water nymph.” I practically stumble over the words--trying to think of something, anything.
“She thought about leaving her other life, and assured herself everyone would be better off without her. So, she prayed to the gods, begging them to turn her into a nymph and let her live in the Haratha Pond. After all, it was always warm when she went to that bank, full of beauty and life."

I pause, glad she seems engaged in the story. "So, the gods granted her wish, but the woman changed and became stuck in the pond. Without the brightness of her human spirit to warm the place, the weather turned cold and the pond froze over with ice so thick she could not escape. Trapped, she perceived faint shadows and heard distant voices of those she loved searching for her above the ice. This went on for years, but she couldn't reach them or call out to them. And so it was that she realized her transformation had been much worse on everyone than she had ever expected. And unable to speak to—or see—those she loved, the beautiful nymph spent her days in an all encompassing loneliness unlike any she had known before.”

Susan hugged me as if resolved and stood to the rhythm of the life support at the edge of the room. “I think we should call and get you some help.”

The machine tha-whumped in the corner again. “Excuse me for just a moment,” I say. And when I go to see whose baby rests there, I’m dumbfounded; it’s actually Zeke!

“You can hold him now,” Susan steps forward.

“What? You’re a nurse or something?”

“Yes. You can hold him now.”

But her words are slippery with motive and I worry over the honey in her tone.


After she disconnects the tubing, I’m holding my baby in the front room, and I’m not even asking why he’s back after 17 years.

“It’s you! It’s really you!” I nuzzle him...his fuzzy hair, his soft baby-smelling skin.

But then something goes terribly wrong and he’s puffing up like a distended balloon about to pop. His silent cries are so big I worry the sides of his mouth will split like the Joker. And my baby is gasping for the kind of air I can’t give because I don’t know how to hook up the damn machine!!!

I’m screaming then, begging anyone—the nurses, God, my family—anyone to fix my baby. But the damn nurse is gone and I don’t have the stamina or skills to fix my kid. And soon the crying stops, and he turns into this stiff doll in my arms. I’m bawling because he won’t wake up and no matter how hard I try to warm him, he’s cold....freezing inside and trapped in that lifeless, broken body. And now he and I are the muted cymbals, never wanting to make music again as I hold him for days.

A funeral director shows up later with a hawk nose and beady eyes. “We have to put him in a bag now and then place him in this box.”

“No! He’s my baby.”

“We'll get pictures first! Don't worry.  Don't you want to remember this!"

But I don't want to remember anything, especially the death in my arms.  I just want my baby back... breathing and recognizable..not this swollen doll that reminds me of his last painful moments on earth.

"You’ve held onto him long enough. Now let go! He’s gone.”

So I nod, but I’m crying so hard there’s snot running onto my chin and tears have made my cheeks sticky.

“What happened,” hawk-nose asks.

“He’s died in front of me all over again, sir. He’s died again.  I had a second chance and he died again."

The man puts Zeke in a clear bag and sets him in the box before closing the lid. After he leaves, I rush to the box, throw open the lid—and gasp. It’s not Zeke anymore....

Susan’s in the box--she has sightless open eyes and unfeeling hands. I kneel down and cry—these body shaking sounds that could crack mountains. “I couldn’t save him. I couldn’t save her either. Damn it! Damn it!!!!! Why does life have to be so hard.  I'm never good enough damn it!”

I wake up then, sweating and crying. “Mike! Mike! Do I feel warm? I’m having feverish dreams. Maybe I’m sick?”

“You’re fine, Elisa. But you’re shaking. Sweetheart!” He completely woke up at two in the morning.

I tell him everything then, about the suicidal woman, the ice, and Zeke’s reappearance in my dreams.

“It was just a dream,” he says. “I’ve got you. You’re okay. You’re all right.”

“But only part of it was a dream.” I sob. “ I watched Zeke die again. I watched it.... He couldn’t breathe again. And I couldn’t do anything to make him better. I thought God would heal him at the last minute. But God must have needed him more than I did ‘cause He took my little boy.”

Mike held me as I cried and cried. I’d never give up the memories of Zeke from 2002 to 2003 because they also contain him.... But it’s not always easy to remember.  I read a book once about people electing to get a single memory removed.  At least I know what mine wouldn't be--despite the pain.  Those memories also have my angel baby in them.

“Life can be so terribly hard. We’ll always be together?” I asked Mike. “The thought of losing you, the kids or our closest family, well, it's too much.”

“We’ll always be together, Elisa. Of course we will be.”

And so I decided to bring the kids out to do something fun today. I don’t care if we go on the world’s longest hike, fishing, playing in the trees or even skateboarding.... I just want to treasure every minute because life is short and the best things we can do are trust God, treasure the people we love and make sure they know how much we care about them.

I'm still quivering inside from that dream.  I hope today will get better.