Thursday, December 30, 2021

Finding Joy in an Uphill Battle

 I’m waiting in a massive line. It doesn’t really matter why I’m there, it just matters how I feel in that moment. I’m standing on a steep incline, and soon I start to shift uncomfortably. As a teenager I always carried a deck of cards and a hacky sack in my tattered purse. So, I start kicking the hacky sack around, knowing it will even make strangers my friends. Others in line introduce themselves and form a circle where we can all play. 

I soon discover the power of words. Having an epiphany that if you ask the right questions it’s like getting a key to someone’s door. You can find out all sorts of amazing things—and learn so much—if you dare to ask the deep stuff….  It’s like a shortcut to the soul.

“I’ve never told anyone that,” a woman says, serving the hacky sack to the man next to her. “I feel so relieved that I’m not alone.” She smiles at me.

“I think we’ve all felt like that at one time or another,” a gypsy-looking girl says, with the wispy voice of a fairy. 

But the hill makes things difficult—even for budding friendships. We persist for a bit, but after a while, the sun beats down unapologetically, and we all grow tired. 

I decide to try resting. Nobody cares because even my new buddies are doing the same thing. I fluff my ragged purse on the ground and use it as a pillow, but the hill isn’t comfortable, the gravel bites into my hip and shoulder, and the deck of cards only adds to my lumpy purse. I roll but no matter how hard I try, I just can’t get comfortable on that hill. 

After an eternity, a man yells, and I see that employees are finally letting people into the event. We all press forward, like a d*mn herd of cattle. Everyone looks relieved. And I’d never been so happy to be on flat ground in all my life.


For some reason as I tried resting today, I couldn’t help remembering that day as a teenager, when I tried sleeping on a gravel hill. That’s what cancer has become for me. I’m in the same reality as everyone else—we’re all shooting for universal commonalities (some kind of purpose), but I’m on a hill, just fighting so hard to be on flat ground again. Nothing is ever “quite” comfortable. And this realization…has me reeling.

Life simply is that way right now. There’s no changing it. I’m in a fight to live—and I’m just not ready to get out of this metaphorical line yet. 

Cancer isn’t easy. Hell, LIFE isn’t easy, even when you level the playing field. 

I guess it’s just a matter of finding the good things, like my hacky sack or enjoying the utter magic of meeting strangers and hearing their stories. 

Despite a terrible incline—or whatever struggles YOU might be facing—there’s still magic around you. For me, I just need to keep filling my “purse” with good things (goodbye, baggage), and I should also remain spongelike, learning as much as I can from the people I’m lucky enough to know—especially Mike and my children.

I might be stuck on a relentless hill, but d*mn it if I won’t keep having fun along the way.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

The Man Found Perspective

 Being raised by my parents was almost magical. Because of my mom I wanted to be a preacher. I salvaged a big box from the garbage and stayed in it like a bobsled, reading the Bible for hours and preparing sermons. I started praying other places once I found a big spider in the box and let my parents throw it away. My mom is just…unexpected. She’s sweet and quiet, yet she was a beauty queen and her talent was wailing on the drums. (Check that out here: .)

My dad is infused with joy and a sense of play even though he usually dresses like a cutthroat cowboy! Growing up he’d make us steak and lobster on occasion! We had holidays fit for royalty even though my dad had to hawk his guns one year so we could have Christmas. Even though we didn’t have the “most” we always thought we did.

Then one of the greatest success stories I’ve ever seen happened. My parents ran a construction business and even sold it. I’ll never forget watching how hard they both worked years later to make it succeed. Yet, even though they’re “quite comfortable” now, on vacation I saw that my parents will never lose perspective of what matters.

“Pedro!” My Dad stood from his seat in Nuevo Vallarta and clapped the bellboy on the back. “Pedro” turned around and grinned.

“Oh—my goodness. Felipe!” he said in a Spanish accent. They hugged so excited to see one another. “Welcome home!” The man joked.

Another time my parents spotted one of the employees who’s from London. “We have to get together soon!” the man said, and my dad nodded saying they’d had such a fantastic time when they last caught up.

This continued at a small German restaurant in downtown Puerto Vallarta. “Thank you for coming here so much, despite COVID,” the owner said. “We’re so very grateful.” Then later he gave my mom a hearty hug and she beamed.

The point is that they’ve been frequenting this area for 20 years, yet they aren’t just friends with the ritzy people who stay in the best hotels like they do. Nope. They’re friends with the workers, the locals, and anyone (regardless of class) who’s real.

I thought of this as I walked from the plane in Salt Lake City and sat down in my designated wheelchair. “How are you?” I asked the transportation employee.

“I’m having the worst day ever!”

Mike kissed me on the cheek and whispered, “Good luck with that.” He stood up. “I’ll meet you at pickup gate 2C, and then we’ll drive home? I’m gonna go get the SUV.”

The man vented for a while. “I never talk to customers like this, but my boss just passed me up for a promotion. I just found out—and I’m livid.”

“Is this your dream job?”

He shook his head, and as the conversation continued I couldn’t help dropping the bomb. “I have stage four cancer. The doctors say it’s terminal.”

He gapped, obviously rethinking his worries. “And here I am telling you MY problems…”

“I just shared that because life is short! Don’t waste it being so unhappy. What is your dream job?”

“I want to stage houses.”

“But—let me guess—it doesn’t make any money. Right?”

He nodded. 

“Okay!” I said. “I had a similar problem. I wanted to be a writer; I even wrote nine books, but I make enough each month to eat off the dollar menu at McDonald’s.”

He laughed. “Oh! I didn’t mean to laugh.” He shook the amusement from his face.

“No worries.” I grinned. “So I found something that’s close to writing where I CAN make money. I had to work hard for it, but now I’m an editor! Sure I’m not writing YA fiction like I hoped, but I’m surprisingly happy with my career!”

“But how can I possibly make money staging houses? I don’t have any experience.”

I thought for a minute. “You could be…a realtor! Stage homes and then make money selling them. Get contacts and then—down the road—start your own staging business for fellow realtors who’ve grown to love you!”

“This is so weird,” he confessed. I started a realtor class, and it’s about to expire. Then my mom—who has no idea—gave me silly realtor socks as a joke for Christmas!”

“And NOW we’re talking about it. It’s a Godwink for sure!”

He broke out laughing. At that point Mike called, and the man pushed me over to our SUV. 

“I have to work until 1 a.m., but I’m so energized! You changed my whole perspective.”

“Nah! You would’ve figured it out.” I winked.

“This job IS a means to an end. I’m gonna finish that real estate class—and then I’m gonna go skiing.”

“Skiing?” I asked.

“Yeah, ‘cause I’ve always wanted to go, and you only live once, right?”

I waved goodbye and after Mike started driving off he said, “He sure changed his tune. What was that about?”

“I just helped give him some perspective.”

“YOU are such a character.” Mike burst out laughing.

I thought of my parents in Mexico and grinned. “If I am, I get it from my parents.” And even though we’d just left a sunny, beautiful paradise and exchanged it for ice and snow, I thought that I couldn’t be happier.

(A “fancy” picture in the elevator 🤣.)

Monday, December 27, 2021

Tortugas Mean Hope

 The gritty sand massaged my feet as the sun’s heat beat down, masking the flulike symptoms that 

I always feel—making the warmth on my skin seem natural. And as the water repeatedly encased my feet, trying to lure me in, I couldn’t help staring at the horizon. If God can create all of this majesty that somehow balances itself out, I can rest assured that He has a plan even for my life. There’s beauty in the mess. There’s joy even in the heartache. 

“Careful: Turtle Season” a nearby sign read, boasting a gorgeous picture of tortugas “turtles” bursting from their shells. I’d seen a documentary once; it said very few turtles actually make it to the ocean. I spied bird feathers next to broken eggs then. Birds had obviously ravaged a nest, yet next to me, little marks patterned the sand, and I knew one of the baby turtles MUST have survived. Sure it was only one … but that exhibited something powerful: hope.

“Excuse me,” a man said, shaking me from my surreal moment in Mexico. “This might sound strange, but didn’t I see you in a wheelchair earlier?”

His wife had come to stand next to him, and Mike sauntered over as well.

“My parents rented me a scooter,” I said.

They blinked, obviously wanting to hear more.

“I have stage 4 cancer. Last year the doctor gave me two years to live …”

“She has a hard time walking long distances,” Mike said, “after a surgery to remove a tumor.”

Their eyes grew larger.

“My parents refuse to lose hope about my diagnosis, but I know they worry—and they wanted me to have a nice trip.” I took in a long breath and sighed. “It IS good to see the ocean again …” I turned to the waves and thought how none of us truly know when it’ll be the last time seeing the ocean, a snow-crested mountain, or the first bloom of spring.

“Well,” the man said, then looked to his wife who nodded, “no matter what you’re facing we wanted to tell you that you’re making a positive impact on other people’s lives. You waved to us from your scooter on our first day here … and my wife kept talking about how sweet you were—this whole time.”

The woman smiled at me, so kindly. “You look great,” she said. “You’d never know anything was amiss.” 

“I think this weather has been awesome for me. I swear I’m standing straighter and feeling better every day.” I grinned.

“It’s so snowy back home,” Mike said.

“I knew it!” The man beamed. “You’re like us—you’re from Canada. That’s why you’re so nice.”

Mike and I burst out laughing. “We’re from Idaho.”

“That’s … close enough!” the man said. Then the couple left and as my parents joined us on the beach, I couldn’t get over how great it felt to be spending time with them in paradise.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

A Visit to Paradise

 My ex is in a different state and has the kids for one holiday a year—unfortunately, this year it’s Christmas. Even though we celebrated early, it didn’t feel quite the same, and it’s tough because I miss the kids.

My parents must’ve known I felt bad about that—plus, this battle against cancer has gotten to me a little more recently…. Anyway, those givers bought me and Mike airplane tickets, rented me a TURBO scooter, AND brought us to spend Christmas with them in Mexico!

We’re in one of those fancy resorts that practically has its own zip code! The scooter can go over 20 miles an hour, and I swear I’m the best scooter driver you’ve ever seen! A little kid waved to me last night after seeing me do a figure 8 in the lobby! I think my only traumatic event was driving—at the speed of light—through a Mayan temple. A man kept trying to take pictures of the statues, but I accidentally kept “scooting” in his way. (Then Mike got in a few photos ‘cause he kept chasing me like I needed a d*mn babysitter!)

A shuttle driver asked if I’d had too many tequilas. I told him I’d only had water! Anyway, I hope my parents are still glad they brought us here because we’re having the time of our lives.  

I did throw up our first night here—because cancer sucks even in paradise. But other than taking daily naps (like a 100-year-old), I’m doing pretty good.

We had lobster last night, and we’re having steak tonight—medium-well! Like my brother’s friends used to say: “No one eats like a Stilson.” These days it’s just keeping my food down that’s the tricky part!

Well, we better live it up! I have more treatments and tests next week—and we found out that I’ll be on certain medication for the rest of my life (God, I hope it’s more than docs think!). But I am excited to get home and get the kids back. For me and Mike, those four little people are our world!

In closing:

I told a lady on the plane: “I’ve learned so many great things after having cancer—and now I get to see Mexico again because if it!”

“Wow,” she said, beaming. “I don’t have cancer…but I DO have a heart condition. Maybe I can find something good in that too!”

“Good on ya,” I said, and for the rest of the flight I couldn’t quit grinning.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A Holiday Reset

Indiana wanted to help raise money for a local youth organization; so, this past Thursday we wrapped gifts for people at the mall. 

“Business” was pretty dead, but after a while, a mother and son came up with gifts for us to wrap. 

Indy and I wanted to do a perfect job, so we showed them our wrapping paper selection, different box sizes, and a vast amount of decorative ribbons. 

“I love Christmas,” the boy said, handing me a gift for his mother. 

Christmas isn’t always “jolly” for me. In fact, since I’ve had cancer it’s even more stressful than normal. We’ve been extra worried about money, and I hardly have enough energy to go shopping. Still, I glanced up and smiled, setting a red bow in place.

“Christmas, huh?” I said “What do you like about it?”

He grinned, exhibiting the kind of excitement only a young adult can have. “I love the tree,” he said. “And I LOVE presents.”

“Right?” I finished wrapping the gift for his mother. Now it was time for me to wrap what she’d bought for him. “What did you get last year?” I asked him.

“A pair of pants! We each get one whole gift every year.” His eyes sparkled. “I can hardly wait for Christmas.”

I blinked. It seemed unbelievable that a person his age could show so much gratitude—for one, small gift.

His mom took the break in our conversation as a chance to hand me his gift. She’d left it in the bag—so he couldn’t see—and winked as she handed it to me as if it were pure gold.

These two honestly baffled me. I turned, and I’m still not sure why, but so many emotions overwhelmed me as I spotted the gift she’d bought for her son this year. I’d opened the bag to find…a simple pair of pants. 

“Wrap it in white,” she whispered, “with a red bow. He’ll love that.”

After Indy finished wrapping the dad’s simple gift, we just stared at each other so amazed by this family and their excitement over such small items. “I guess it’s not small to them,” Indy said.

“And that’s what’s so humbling…. Some people don’t have much at all. But look,” we watched them, “they’re some of the happiest people I’ve ever seen.”

“Me too,” Indy agreed.

As we watched the mother and son, Indy hugged me so tightly. “I’m glad we know what matters, too.”

I studied my beautiful, baby girl, wrapped my arms around her, and thought that I have so much more than I could’ve ever hoped for.

Mike and I celebrated Christmas with the kids on Friday (they spend one holiday a year with their bio dad, and it happens to be Christmas this year). I felt stunned to see how happy our kids are over whatever they receive! We had people generously make our Christmas wonderful. We got anonymous gifts, some money in the mail, and even a massive gift basket that completely shocked us! But I do have to say that the thing we’re most grateful for is each other. 

“I know it’s hard,” my oldest daughter said, giving me a huge hug. “But you have to keep fighting. Okay, Mom. You can’t give up!”

I hugged her back and nodded. “I will! I promise. Ruby, I want to be with all of you—for as long as I can.”

It’s crazy how quickly cancer put life in perspective.

Anyway, I wanted to wish all of you a very, merry Christmas! I hope you have exactly what you need this holiday season! And I hope you’ll have the eyes to see the beauty that surrounds you—no matter how big or small.

Friday, December 17, 2021

What I CAN Instead …

 “I saw you in the wheelchair,” the Delta representative said, “so we’re moving you closer to the front of the plane.”

“Oh, wow! Thank you,” I said, my eyes wide. 

I’d decided to visit my parents in Arizona right after Halloween, and I’d never expected the airline’s employees to be so nice! Everything went great until after I left the customer service area and waited to board; that’s when I noticed a few younger people studying me with pity. I’m not sure why their prying eyes hurt, but they did.

I called Mike and whispered into the phone. “God made me all wrong,” I said once Mike picked up, but I immediately regretted my words. God doesn’t make mistakes—that’s religion 101. Plus, I probably got melanoma from fake baking or getting burned when I was homeless in Hawaii. Fiddling all night, then blending in with tourists and sleeping on the beach all day had risks. If you slept too hard, when the shade moved, you’d wake up lobster-red. Nope. Melanoma wasn’t God’s fault; it was mine.

But honestly, it’s true that most days I do feel like there’s something wrong with me. Maybe we all feel like that sometimes. Maybe I’ve just felt that way more than most. I’ve had people tell me I’m a one-upper, so contrary I just have to go against everyone, or an acquired taste. But I don’t want to be someone who has to grow on you like fungus…. Anyway.

It’s hard having cancer and wondering about all this beyond reason … Who am I really? A collection of my perception and what other people think about me? What impression AM I leaving behind? And then it instantly feels as if everything that’s wrong with me is manifesting in my body so everybody can see it on the outside. 

This isn’t a pity-me post—trust me, that’s the last thing I want. These are just issues I’m dealing with probably because of the cancer. 

It’s hard being unable to do most things by myself. I can’t reach up high or climb on counters when I need the largest dish. I can’t even sleep through the whole night anymore because some part of my body inevitably starts burning with pain. 

People ask me when I’ll be able to walk “normal” again. The answers probably never. I’ve also had friends ask when the swelling in my face will go away. It’s called moon face—something that happens when you take steroids. My face will thin out in days or months. I. Don’t. Know. But honestly I think right now that’s the least of my concerns. And that’s what Mike told me before I boarded the plane to go see my parents right after Halloween.

The interesting thing is that when I sat down on the plane an overwhelming peace fell on me. And it grew as a stranger sat down next to me. We immediately started visiting. Somehow I ended up telling him about the cancer, but this stranger didn’t judge me or show an overt amount of sympathy … or sadness or anything bad, really. He just treated me like a normal person. And then I swear we talked about everything: religion, philosophy, family, and what it’s like to live in Idaho. 

“They changed my seat at the last minute,” he said.

“Mine too!” I replied. And then I discovered he’s from the same small town where I live. And he only lives a couple miles from us! And our kids are the same ages—and go to the same exact schools! 

Despite only just meeting, I said this was a Godwink, we exchanged information, and decided it would be fun to go on a double date. And when I walked off the plane, I swear I stood a little straighter. It wasn’t because I felt better, physically, but because someone had treated me normally. This stranger gave me the courage to move on from the moment of self-pity and sadness because  the point is that although I don’t know why I’m going through this, I can still overcome and be positive and happy throughout the hardship. After all, I’m still alive! I’m still able to move around! And I can live life to the fullest—to my own capabilities! It’s time for me to STOP measuring myself against everyone else’s view of me. And measure myself against what I am capable of, what I want, and what I CAN do about it!

We ended up going out—not on a double but—on a triple date a few weeks later. Can you believe the man on the airplane actually knows someone who I’ve been good friends with! I guess they ended up talking about me while visiting at church and were so surprised to discover they have a mutual friend. 

Anyway, I loved every minute: the conversation, the laughter … the joy. But most of all I loved that all of them treated me the same way the man had on the plane. And I realized that regardless of how people treat me I need to always fight to find that inner joy. Some days can be a battle – because joy is not like happiness (that just comes and goes), no, Joy is something you have to fight for. Joy is something you CHOOSE. So that’s what I’m going to do. Today, I choose joy.

(A pic of my second-favorite wig lol.)

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Start of a Godwink

 Two men wheeled me through the massive Salt Lake City airport. I’ve gotten over my embarrassment of needing a wheelchair for long stints, and I simply talked with the men, finding out about their hopes and dreams. We had a few minutes, and I even bought them coffees. “If you want to travel together, do it!” I finally said after hearing the story of how they were such good friends in high school that they started working together. Yet, work, school, and responsibility aside, they wanted to travel together.

“We might travel…but after we finish college,” one said.

“Listen! I have stage four cancer. I thought I’d raise my kids and ‘see the world’ when they got older. I always wanted to visit Italy and Ireland! I wanted to see Canada and Mexico again…. But look at me. My oldest is an adult and my seventeen-year-old is close behind. Now that I’m 38–the age when I’d hoped to travel—I’m too sick to do almost anything. Go now, while you can. Tomorrow…is uncertain at best.”

“I understand,” the taller guy finally said. “But you’re traveling today? Where are you going?”

I laughed. “I told my parents that I missed them too much, so they bought me a ticket to go see them in Arizona! Just don’t tell my doctor!” I joked. “She’s paranoid about blood clots.”

We resumed our journey then—them pushing me through the airport and me watching as different people occasionally looked at me kindly, sadly, curiously, callously…. I even caught an elderly woman grimacing, as if nothing looked “wrong” with me.

Anyway, that airport is crazy because there’s a stretch where you have to walk for over a mile before reaching the terminals. When we finally arrived, I turned to the men. “Please go take that trip! Sooner rather than later.”

They laughed. “We just might. It was nice to meet you.”

“You too.”

They left soon after, and another representative, seeing the wheelchair, asked me to approach the customer service center. “Which flight?” she asked. 


“Can I see your ticket?” 

I handed it over, and that’s when a Godwink happened. 

To be continued 🤗

Thursday, December 9, 2021

An Awkward Day

 Today has been…awkward. It started with a message from a new friend (one of my blessing from 2021). “Your gingerbread men are doing the nasty,” she wrote. I went to check the decorations—and balked. It was true! Those blowups have NO SHAME.

My kids heard about it, and being a special brand of idiot, I said, “Maybe they’ll make gingerbread cookies. You like those, right?!”

“Not anymore,” my son said and slid his breakfast away.

“Mom, those cookies would be their babies!” My youngest daughter said, looking genuinely appalled. “That’s…that’s not okay.”


Now that my kids hate me, gingerbread cookies, and Christmas, I finally got them off to school and thought the traumas had ended. But working from home is tough. Around noon, our white cat (who got handicapped in the Great Mystery of 2020), sauntered over and decided to lick his butt ON me, BY me, anywhere NEAR me. Do you know how hard it is to edit articles when there’s a godforsaken slurping sound RIGHT BY YOUR EAR?

So, it’s days like today when I realize there are things much worse than cancer: like trying to joke about reproduction with your junior high kids or having your cat try to lick YOUR face right after doing a butt cleanse for the past hour.


Signing out for the day,

A Traumatized Elisa 

P.S. I’m just glad I finally have things in perspective.

Pics of me and “the butt licker” and the gingerbread decor after their exhausting night.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

Fighting for a Family

 Indy got incredibly sick—and to see her like that…was devastating. She’s 11 years old and one of the happiest people on earth. Someone could be mean and she’d hope for the best: “They’d never mean it THAT way,” or “We should give them another chance.”

But on Sunday, I knew something was wrong when Trey teased her, and she mumbled, “What a jerk!”

Two hours later, Indy had a full-blown fever, a sore throat, and even hallucinations! The doctor dubbed it strep and gave us antibiotics, but the next night Indy still struggled. I slept by her on the couch, so worried. 

After a few hours my hips hurt and my back ached—I honestly woke up feeling so ill from the cancer that I had to take more medicine than usual. It’s weird with the medicine because for about an hour after taking it, I remember what it felt like not having cancer. And then the flulike symptoms set in again: body aches, chills, nausea, sometimes vomiting, and extreme bone pain. I told the doc about this last week, and she prescribed something that is slow-release. It blankets the pain so it’s background music instead of the full symphony (if you know what I mean), but then the pain never totally goes away. It just lurks there, making me feel “gross” but never momentarily well.

Anyway, when I went back to sleep I had the most wonderful dream about a beautiful valley. I felt so different there, lying in the grass—and I realized…it was simply the absence of pain.

Then Indy woke me up, “Mama, I’m cold.” She shivered, and I covered her with an extra blanket and patted her back.

“Okay! I’ve got you. You’re okay.”

“Mama,” she quaked moments later.

“What, sweetheart? I’m here.” I held her close. “I’m here.”

“It’s just that you’re so sick and now…you’re staying up—not getting rest—because of me.”

“I’m okay,” I said, amazed by that kind of altruism at such a young age. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” I said—not even in my dream of the beautiful valley. After all, it really does seem like Mike and the kids are MY Heaven. “You’re my baby. I want to be with my kids, always. Especially when you need me.”

She rolled over and stared at me, her eyes so big—filled with concern even though SHE still fought a fever. “You know how you said you feel like you have the flu all the time?”

I nodded.

“I just realized how terrible that must be. It must be…so…so bad.” Then these huge tears rolled down her cheeks. And she hugged me like she might never let go. “Mama, I’m so sorry you’re sick.”

I hugged her. “It’s okay. It’s really okay. It’s not as bad…as it sounds. Indy, I’m just so sorry that YOU are sick!” And as I thought about how terrible cancer can be—and I felt those darling arms around my neck—I couldn’t help thinking how grateful I am to have a family to fight for.

Indy finally started feeling better late last night. I’m so glad she’s on the mend, painting her nails crazy colors, and harassing her cat (her world!).

Anyway, when I woke up from my nap today the kids had already been home from school for an hour, and I kept wishing I could give the kids and Mike more...but I can’t. 

Hopefully they know I’m doing the best I can. I’m enjoying each moment and simply fighting for more time.

A picture of me and Indy right before and after I got cancer.

Thank God for Warnings

Mike limped back inside. “What’s going on?” I asked.

“I’m taking care of it,” he said. “Just stay here.”

But I’m bad at staying put, so I went outside where two women in uniforms stood between our knocked over garbage can and our trailer.

“Not again,” I said quickly, vowing to pick up the garbage as soon as I figured out why these women strutted around our trailer as if it were an animal they’d captured.

“We’re with the city! Someone reported you. You’re in violation of code—“

I didn’t hear the rest because I’d gotten lost on the “someone reported you” part. I immediately thought of our neighbor who’s called the cops on us before. She’s the same woman who won’t let her kids play with ours because we aren’t Mormon.

“So we need to move our trailer?”

“Yes. And we’re writing the ticket right now.”

“Wait!” I said. “We’re having a really hard time. My husband bought this to fix it up, but then he broke his foot. Then our SUV—with the hitch—broke down and is in the shop…so we can’t move the trailer.”

It almost looked like she rolled her eyes.

“And—and,” I went on, “I have stage 4 cancer.” I’d said it. The ultimate trump card.

She studied everything about me, as if she didn’t believe a single thing I’d said. 

“And if this garbage isn’t picked up within 24 hours, you’ll get a ticket for that too!”

I immediately started putting the trash in my garbage can. But every time I bent down, the pains grew, and I started crying from the tumors in my spine. Mike came out then with some sort of paperwork. He handed the code enforcement officer a copy, then started helping me pick up the trash.

After we finished, Mike grabbed my hand and led me back toward the house. 

The taller woman said sarcastically then, “It just sucks when we have to do our jobs. Darn it.”

I’m embarrassed to say that my anger got the best of me, and still within earshot, I whispered, “Wannabe cops!”

Shockingly they didn’t ticket us for the trailer (I guess it can’t be parked in front of our house—even though a church bus down the road gets a “pass”). A friend moved our trailer to the side of our house, our SUV is almost done getting fixed, and Mike can hobble without crutches. Yay!

I just keep thinking about those callous women and how they treated us even though we’re experiencing trials. I guess that doesn’t make us exempt, but you’d think they’d be a little bit kinder. If people could simply understand the struggles of others—and help them instead of kicking them while they’re down—this sure would be a better place.

I still don’t know why she didn’t ticket us. But I really am thankful. That’s the last thing we needed right before Christmas. Thank God for warnings.

Monday, December 6, 2021

We Got This

 I haven’t written in a while. Truthfully I just haven’t been feeling very well. But that’s okay, it’s almost Christmas and if THAT doesn’t make life better, I don’t know what does 😉

Months ago I started hoping that I might be in remission someday, but this latest setback has me wondering. 

Unfortunately hope is a buoy that sometimes brings even greater disappointment.

Anyway, until now, I never understood how people could say “it wasn’t the cancer that killed them; it was the treatment.” So far immunotherapy has caused me to have liver failure, colitis that led to sepsis, and now serious struggles with my endocrine system. I just get over one thing with meds, and something else pops us. (The amount of medication I’m on shocked one friend—but that’s the cost of living!)

Anyway, I’ve become extremely exhausted, sleeping four hours a day (while the kids are at school), and just feeling like I’m limping to a finish line—that I might never cross. That’s when my husband found a package on the front porch. “It’s for you,” he said, always so happy like a Golden Lab.

I beamed too, surprised when I read the sender’s name. She also has cancer and has bravely battled against all odds. I’d just read a post of hers, saying how deathly sick she is…. The fact that she’d sent me something—when she’s so ill—flabbergasted me.

I set the package on my bed, pulled out beautiful items and fun winter hats. The irony of it just hit me, thinking about this woman who has lost her hair and been in excruciating pain from chemo. After I donned one of the fashionable new hats and looked in the mirror, I cried from her exceptional kindness. Her courage and fortitude gave me the strength I had momentarily lost. For that, I’ll be forever grateful.

So, I’m taking medications to bolster my endocrine system, and wearing a hat from my new friend. I hope that my body can withstand treatments long enough for the immunotherapy to kill the cancer. I so hope my organs will stay strong enough to get through this! And I hope my friend will feel better soon—and beat this too! We. Can. Do. This.

Doctors originally gave me two years to live, then they said I might have ten… But now—against everything—I’m reaching for the stars. 

I’m absolutely sure God has a plan; part of this is just learning to be at peace regardless of the outcome. Now THAT is true growth. 

P.S. Here’s a pic of one of the hats with my favorite wig. #ElsaWig #cancerawareness #melanomaawareness #wegotthis

Monday, November 29, 2021

Looking Back to Move Forward

 Look Back to Move Forward

By EC Stilson

Over a decade ago . . .

Something drew me to the little fabric shop tucked away on Main Street.  I trudged toward the door, gripped the handle, and paused.  Why was I there? 


“Belinda's" had become the most expensive fabric store in town—and their selection wasn't great—yet there I stood, with some stupid feeling that I needed to be there.


After going inside, and being blasted by the air conditioner, I sidled up to some watermelon-print fabric near the register.  


I couldn't concentrate on that fabric though, too distracted from my dreams the night before.


“What's wrong?" the elderly lady at the register asked, pulling down her glasses and studying how I'd literally been petting the watermelon fabric.


“Oh!"  I set the cotton down.  "Just a long night."  I sighed again and then shook my head—seriously what was I doing there?!  I started to walk toward the exit, when the woman cleared her throat.


“I'm bored.  And I love a good story.  Would you mind telling me what's going on?"


That woman—who didn't know me AT ALL—pulled up two stools across from each other at the register and selflessly listened to how I’d been wondering if I should’ve made different choices in the past.


“Listen,” she finally said. “I'm eighty-five years old.  And what you're going through is completely normal!  Do you have time to hear my story?"


I nodded, pretty enthralled.


“My husband died five years ago.  We were happily married for nearly fifty years, but like you, every time we had problems, I started thinking about—or even dreaming about—my old beau from high school."


“Even after fifty years?" I balked.


She looked down and nodded.  "Yeah.  So last year, I contacted my old beau.  Things seemed great at first, but guess what happened? I ended up remembering why I broke up with him in high school.  AND he'd never changed.  We broke up for the same reason a lifetime later.  We were still the same core people."


I felt utterly stunned.


“My point is: I spent all that time looking back on a man who wasn't worth my time.  I remembered the good and forgot the bad, just to realize I broke up with him in the first place for a reason.  All that time I wasted . . . wondering what if."


We hugged each other before I left.  And that woman gave me a red sucker, even though I'm a grown woman and everything. 


Anyway, years have passed, and I’ve been able to share this story with a lot of different people for various reasons. 

If you're struggling, looking back to a possibly deluded past, I'd like to leave you with one quote:

The past is never where you think you left it.

-Katherine Anne Porter

There are so many things to be grateful for this holiday season. Plus, the happiest people seem to be those who are the most thankful.

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

A Collaboration of Moments

 I don’t know if I’m brave enough to post this, but here goes….

I’ve relived certain moments from my life dozen of times….

Do you have experiences that you go to sleep thinking about because they were so wonderful? Or memories so nightmarish they wake you from the deepest sleep?

Sometimes I fall asleep remembering what it was like when my mom rocked me in the rocking chair. I would snuggle in so close, and she’d hold me in one of those fuzzy blankets. I just remember the love.

Other times I remember watching fish in a huge tank we owned. My black and white cat—Bootsie—would curl up on top of me. He loved watching the fish just as much as I did. And if I turned away for too long, sometimes he’d go fishin’. I could hear the TV and music blaring from another part of the house. All four of my closest family members were there—happy and healthy.

Some of my memories are less kind….

She was four years older than me, and I remember she hated raisins. The girl told me we could do strange things at night, under the covers. I wanted it to stop, but she said we’d already gone too far. I think I’d just started school the first time it happened. “I’ll tell your mom,” she said one time. “Then she’ll know how dirty you are.” I offered to give her anything: my allowance…my favorite toys…my decorations. I didn’t want my mom knowing how gross I’d become. 

When I finally got brave enough to talk about it, an adult told me “it doesn’t count as molestation.”

“Why?” I balked.

“She was a girl. And she was just a child too.”

“But she was twelve the last time it happened—and four years older than me….”

The woman just shook her head, solidifying the fact that some adults will never see reason. “She was a girl”? That was like saying a declawed lion isn’t dangerous. Men aren’t the only sex that can be nefarious!

Other memories haunt my dreams, like a terrifying “prayer session” at church, or when my son died… Or the moment that led to the divorce in my first marriage. But you’ve heard too much about all of that. I’ve written as a way to cope.

Luckily, as I’ve aged, more recent memories have begun to stand out the most, like Antelope Island. Legend has it that someone brought a convict there over a hundred years ago. He couldn’t get off the island, so they thought he’d died there, but no one ever found the bones. I’d tell my four kids that story—as we hunted for brine shrimp and spent our days exploring the island when I was a single mom.

Then I met Mike, and everything bloomed. I remember every day of falling in love and discovering more about that wonderful man. We got married on Antelope Island because it had become a place of magic for me and the kids. Just like Mike—our miracle.

As my dad walked me down that aisle I could hardly wait to stand next to Mike, to gaze into his eyes, and tell him I’ll love him…forever.

And so when I think of the key memories that make up my life, I realized what a strange mishmash they are. Each one has molded me and taught something. 

The moments I’ve re-experienced through imaginings or dreams, are intriguing because they have collectively made up a human life. 

Sometimes I find it so fascinating that I’m here at all, breathing…thinking. It really does make you wonder: Where did we all come from? Did God really always exist? If not, who in the hell made God? And what key experiences make up His existence? Now THAT would be an interesting read!

Monday, November 15, 2021

Appreciating What We Have

 “We’ll go dancing and clubbing!” one lady said. “We’ll drink all night long!”

“And we can run together each morning. And maybe even get in a little rock climbing.”

I could tell that the two ladies were just a little older than me, yet they could do so much more. I finally arrived at the front of the line. My back and legs ached so much that my knees had begun shaking, but something completely unseen hurt much more. “I requested a wheelchair,” I told the woman behind the ticket counter. “There’s just no way I can walk through the airport anymore.” Why did I feel the need to justify myself to this woman?

As she printed my boarding pass I thought of the two ladies who’d been in front of me and how they can run and dance and rock climb. Tears began filling my eyes because I missed all of that so much. I just wish that the last time I’d done everything I would’ve appreciated it with due credit. But now all of it is just a memory.

“Do you see that man sitting in a wheelchair over there?” the lady asked after a while.

I looked and spotted a man who slightly resembled Mr. Potter from “It’s a Wonderful Life.” He sat grumpily, next to all of the other wheelchairs. 

“Just go sit in a wheelchair by him, and someone will be with both of you shortly.” Then, after I gave her my luggage, she paged someone and motioned for me to go to “Mr. Potter.”

Mr. Potter looked like his namesake for a reason. I tried being social, but his drab countenance could’ve killed even the most chipper angel’s spirit. “Why are you in a wheelchair?” he asked accusatorially. “And why do you walk all hunched over?”

“I’ve actually been walking much better. I guess it gets worse when I’m tired. Dragging my luggage from the parking was rough.”

“Maybe you shouldn’t pack so god-d*mn much,” he said.

“Fine,” I replied. “I have stage four cancer. Why are YOU in a wheelchair.”

“I have cancer too. It’s d*mn near eaten all of me now.” I spied scabs on his arms and legs, something I’ve come to see a lot of at the cancer center. I’ve even had some myself after itching from treatments or medications.

“I used to be able to do so many things. I looked years younger….” After saying the words, he glanced around almost hungrily at all of the healthy people who scurried around us. “Bet someone else deserves this more than I do.”

We stayed quiet for a couple of minutes. “Has anyone helped you?” a woman came and asked. She spoke so slowly and loudly, as if we were mentally handicapped.

“A woman at the ticket counter paged someone, but that was quite a while ago,” I said so fast that I’d hoped she’d realize we were mentally capable. “Can you call someone just in case?”

So she did. And when she walked away, Mr. Potter couldn’t say enough bad about her. “You know people are just nice because we have cancer. That’s the only reason. We make them feel better about themselves.”

My mouth dropped. “Sir, I find your outlook on life…not to be my favorite. I’ve ALWAYS expected the best from people. Now I get to see it almost every day. People find out I have cancer, and they rise to the occasion. I’ve seen the kind of generosity that’s written about in books.”

“Oh! You’re a Pollyanna.”

“Maybe I am. But I’d rather be that…than a Mr. Potter.”

I couldn’t believe I’d said it. And unfortunately, the man—who was quite a bit older than me—got the reference. “You’re in need of a wheelchair. What can you find to be ‘glad’ about that?”

“Because it reminds me…” I paused. “Even though there’s a lot I can’t do, being in a wheelchair reminds me of the things I can be grateful for!”

“Such as?”

“I just started painting. I never would’ve done that if I didn’t have cancer. And now my kids have been catapulted from being cranky teenagers to being grateful young adults.”

Two workers walked up together at that point. Just before they could wheel us to our separate destinations, the man turned to me. “Did I really…remind you of Mr. Potter?”

“Yes,” I said. And as the young man wheeled me away I thought of how important it is to focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t. I hope I gave Mr. Potter the wake-up call he needed—that’s what he inadvertently did for me.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Herculean Task

I want to be the “cool” mom, and apparently—with Halloween barely in the rear view mirror—my youngest kids think that awesome moms watch scary shows and are a little “edgy.”

“I can be edgy!” I told my teenage boy. 

“Ummm…no,” he said. “You can’t. Even Abby is edgier than you.” Side note: The kids think Abby—our dog—is God’s gift to humanity. She gets credit for everything. I can make brownies, and she somehow gets thanked for it. I’ll do laundry—and she gets praised! I’ll vacuum—and SHE gets a treat. Yet, she doesn’t even have hands!

So, vowing to upstage the dog, I decided to paint something VERY edgy. “My painting will be terrifying—and awesome,” I told my kids.

Trey laughed. “Yeah, right.” 

“So, what do I get if I succeed?

“I’ll play the drums for you,” he said.

“You play the drums for me—and practically the entire neighborhood {they’re so loud} every day!”

He smirked. “All right, if it’s ACTUALLY scary, I’ll tell everyone that you’re…the toughest,” he whispered, “coolest mom around. I’ll even say that…you’re better…than Abby.”

I gasped. Coming from Trey THAT is the ultimate compliment. 

This weekend I took on the incredible, unsurpassable Herculean task of impressing my children. I had so many great ideas: scary man in the moon; a creepy tree with a face; a girl with pink eyes (because if you’ve had children pink eye IS not fun); the list went on.

Anyway, in the end, I used several of the ideas and painted a circus girl with pink eyes. She looked terrified in a hot air balloon as she ran from a band of killer cats. I put cats on the girl’s hot air balloon and in the water chasing her. I even made the moon look like a cat. 

Anyway, the big reveal was this morning, and I could hardly wait to show my children the terrifying painting.

After their breakfast, I clutched my creation facing away from them. “Are you ready? This is the MOST terrifying, the MOST thrilling, the most terrible thing you have ever seen!” And I slowly turned it toward them with so much anticipation!

“That…is not scary—at all!” My boy said in a monotone. And then both Trey and Indy broke out laughing so hard I worried for their health. Then they started saying how I will never be edgy no matter how hard I try. 

“What?! But this IS awesome,” I blurted. Yet, they didn’t listen—too busy telling our traitorous dog that she’s amazing and she’s the edgiest and the coolest. And how she can probably paint really well!

After the kids left for school, I sat on the couch and giggled. I started painting after being diagnosed with cancer, and now it’s given me so much to look forward to. I have a mermaid painting that I alter once a week; my kids never know what might change (one week she went from having closed eyes to opening them; another week she grew fins!) We’re also putting a poster-board on the wall that each of us have to add something to every time we leave the house—it’ll be epic!

So, I stared at my “scary painting,” the latest addition to this painting adventure. It has 22 cats hidden in it. Maybe I’ll ask my kids if they can find all of the cats. If they can’t, then they better tell me I’m cooler than the dog. This’ll be awesome! I just know they won’t find them all!

Tuesday, November 2, 2021

Living Painting

 I put this picture on the wall, but I keep painting over it—‘cause it’s not quite right. Anyway, I didn’t realize my kids watched all of the changes until Ruby said something today: 🤣 “Oh, she changed again!”

Then Sky said, “Does she have a different face?!”

This IS actually hilarious. 😅

P.S. She looks WAY better with her eyes closed! My kids will NEVER forget this one—the “living” painting.

Monday, November 1, 2021


 “I give you two years to live.”

Time shifted, moving like molasses, and a darkness threatened to overtake me right there in the d*mn hospital room. 

No one else heard the news with me because COVID limited visiting hours. Nope, I needed to be strong and digest this alone.

Two years. My thoughts reeled. 24 months. 104 weeks. 730 days. That would make Ruby 20, Sky 18, Trey 14, and Indy 12. I have four kids. To not see all of them reach adulthood, start their careers, get married… To not grow old with Mike…

“I’m only in my 30s. You can fix this. Can’t you?” The words slipped out slowly, as if uttered by someone else.

“No. I’m sorry, Elisa. We can’t.”

A doctor told me this during my month-long hospitalization that started on Oct. 30, 2020.

This past weekend—the one-year anniversary of my diagnosis and my hospitalization in Utah— felt surreal.

As if trapped in an hour-glass, the sands of time cascade around me, and I’m stuck up to my waist. Sand continues dumping, getting caught in my hair, and occasionally my mouth and eyes…but it’s not falling as quickly now. “You might even have up to ten years!” A doctor recently told me. And although I’m exceedingly grateful, I can’t help thinking of the initial two-year diagnosis—and the fact that death still circles like a vulture in the wind.

If half my time were really over, what have I done with it? What do I have to show for the past year?

I scanned through pictures. Memories poured over me, just like the sand in that hour-glass. I remembered: fiddling for cancer patients; losing my hair; being selected as the angel family; enduring debilitating surgeries, infusions, and radiation; fighting liver failure and sepsis; and losing several friends who died too soon (suicide, overdose, cancer, car accident…). And then I found pictures of Mike and the kids. I remembered when family and friends came to visit. I couldn’t help grinning over road trips and time fishing, card games and movie nights.

Then it hit me: how much I’ve bonded with those who matter most. Like a bag cinched before a long journey, this has just brought all of us closer. And although I’m still scared, and we are “living scan to scan” (as the doctor says), I am PROUD. We’ve made it through so much. 

Hardship littered every bit of this past year’s pathway, but there have been so many breadcrumbs from God all along too—signs that I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. Cancer diagnosis—death sentence—or not, I am the luckiest. To still be making memories, that might be the greatest gift of all.

Anyway, hopefully I have more than a single year left now (maybe even 10 as the doctor says). It really does put things in perspective though. What would you do, if you only had one year to live? 

Saturday, October 23, 2021


 “It’s like watching Thumper—or some woodland creature—get cancer. I just feel so bad, and I don’t know what to do for you. No one wants to see a cute, innocent bunny with cancer.” My friend literally said this to me earlier this week, and I am flummoxed.

No. 1 — I am a certified bada$$. Was she seriously comparing me…to Thumper?

No. 2 — Thumper is a boy.

No. 3 — I want to be an awesome predator—not a “cute”…pansy-ish woodland creature. BUT I have to admit that (hanging in my bedroom) I have a painting of bunnies battling a storm. There’s just something romantic and inspiring about their tenacity. I spotted the painting at Goodwill almost a decade ago and HAD to buy it. 

I want that tenacity. I want to persevere like those fearless bunnies. Even when failure is guaranteed—I WANT to embody that kind of moxie.

No. 4 — While I sorta hated this “woodland creature” conversation, I am glad it reminded me of my aspirations. 

So, as I woke up today and looked at the painting on my wall, I had to smirk. 

Bring on the storm. Even if I AM a bunny, I’m gonna face this head-on with a determination that would make even Captain Ahab envious! Bam! 🤣 Take that, Thumper! 

(Viewer discretion advised: Aggressive picture attached.)

Friday, October 22, 2021

The Other Woman

 I’m waiting for Mike to come back from foot surgery…. So, I figured I’d share a funny story.

I’ve been driving Mike to and from work. The short—yet efficient—security guard stood next to our red truck and added me to the visitor list. I didn’t wear any makeup and my short, dark hair stuck out wildly. “I’m sorry for everything you’re going through,” the man blurted, referring to my cancer. “It must be so hard.” Then he shuffled away.

Nearly two weeks have passed, and he’s waved me in every day in my red truck. But Wednesday was different.

I’d decided to dress up and ask Mike out to dinner. I wore makeup, a fancy push-up bra, my fake eyelashes, and a light-colored wig.

I waited for the security guard to wave me through in my little car, but he didn’t.

“Who are you here to see?”

“Mike Magagna.”

His eyes widened. “And who ARE you?”

“Elisa Magagna.”

“You are not Elisa Magagna.”

All right….mall cop.

“Yeah, I am.”

He shook his head—like there was no foolin’ him!

Then it hit me. I’d dressed like a hooker and now the security guard thought Mike was cheating on me…with me! Cheating on his poor wife who has cancer!

I’m not sure why, but it became so absolutely hilarious that I could not stop laughing. I just saw so much judgment and concern cross the little man’s face.

“Fine.” He clutched a clipboard at his side. “I’ll let you in this once. But he needs to add you to our list. They’re supposed to let us know when new people are coming.”

So, I really confused him with my wig and different car. But now I feel like a freakin’ spy! Yaaassss.

“Mike,” I said after telling him the story, “this could be kind of fun. We can pretend I’m the other woman!”

I was the “other woman” once—a terrible experience that I wish I could rescind. My dad always did say that I’m an angel with one wing in the fire.

So, Mike’s in surgery—and I’m out in the waiting room, wearing my wig—like a legend. I’m sure Mike will do great; it is weird seeing him in a hospital gown vs. the other way around. I’ll be so glad when he’s feeling better.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

Calling a Fart a Unicorn

 They found another tumor in one of my legs. It doesn’t even matter which leg at this point. Plus, it’s not a big deal really. Just another bump in the road.

The kids asked me last night how many tumors I have.

“One in each vertebrae, one in my hip, shin, leg…neck. Who’s counting? At least the cancerous tumor in my brain responded to treatment.”

“Wow. I guess that’s one way to find something good,” my son said.

“I’m just done focusing on the bad. It’s like studying for a test and still failing. I’m just gonna stop focusing on my score.”

“I’m so sorry this illness has been hard on you,” a friend said later that afternoon when I told her about the new tumor.

I hate that. It’s not that I need to feel like I have leprosy or something, but simply calling stage 4 melanoma an “illness” is like calling a fart a unicorn. Talk about the ultimate minimization. “This illness”… blah.

I said goodbye and hung up right before calling Ruby, my 19-year-old who is seriously—no bias—one of the coolest people you could ever meet. She’s almost a tattoo artist (just finishing her two-year apprenticeship) AND she recently got herself a motorcycle instead of a man. That kid knows what she wants, and she gets ‘er done regardless of obstacles!

“Ruby,” I said. “This isn’t a pity party, but I should probably give you the latest update.”

“O-kay?” she said in this adorable way that only she can.

“There’s a new tumor in my leg AND a lump in my boob.”

I heard her inhale sharply. “Oh, Mom. I’m so sorry.”

“It’s no big deal! I’m just becoming a nonprofit tumor factory. They say, ‘Do what you’re good at’—and I took their words to heart.”

“Mom,” she laughed, “I love you so much.” And somehow her response made everything bearable. 

I called Mike later.  “If they cut off my leg and my boob, will you still be proud I’m your wife? Will you still love me?”

Mike broke out laughing. “Depends on which boob.”

“What?!” I nearly bellowed.

“You’re ridiculous—and dramatic. Of course I will ALWAYS love you. You’d still be you.”

“Yeah. But I’d look a lot different in my fancy dresses.” Then we made some pretty inappropriate jokes about it just being a “flesh wound.”

“Hey, did you hear Chrissy has stage 3 kidney cancer?” I asked him after we’d stopped laughing about me being “half the person I used to be.”

I sighed. “She said she feels dumb complaining to me—after everything we’ve been through.”

“Why? No two situations are the same.” 

“That’s exactly what I said! She shouldn’t minimize what they’re  going through. Both of our situations are hard—I can’t imagine what they’re enduring. I’m just glad we have each other’s backs and that we can find the good together.”

So, today is good because I still have two legs, two boobs, a sense of humor, and doctors who are competent enough to even find new tumors.

I start treatments again on Nov. 4. I’m counting down the days so we can fight this thing again. The best any of us can do is try—while still focusing on the good! So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m too busy seeing the good side of life to focus on anything else. “‘Tis only a scratch!” Bam.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Mike’s First Surgery

 “But he’s never had a surgery before!” Trey said, so concerned for Mike. “I should tell him something, just so he knows he’ll be okay. I mean…could something go wrong?”

“I mean, it could. But it won’t.”

I realized then how worried Trey is about Mike. I’ve been so sick, and Mike has been the rock for our children.

That aside, where was this concern when I’ve millions of surgeries?! The kids don’t worry at all when I go in. And when I asked Trey who his favorite is—between me and our dog—he said our dog!

“All right. What are you gonna say then?” I asked, plastering a smile onto my face.

“I’m gonna tell him that everything will be fine!” Then he paused. “Wait. That’s what you say to someone when it’s NOT gonna be fine…. Then he’s gonna get really suspicious. And he’ll get nervous. And he’ll be FREAKING out until Friday!”

“Ummm, Trey. I feel like you’re overthinking this.”

“You know what. I’m not saying anything! Plus I don’t want to jinx it. Remember how you woke up during that one surgery?”

I groaned from the memory. “Yep.” I actually sat up, my eyeballs were about four inches away from the doctor’s shocked faced. It was crazy hearing him scream like a little girl. 


I did have to break out laughing after Trey left for school. He’s obviously thought about this a lot, and he’s SUPER concerned.

So, Mike’s first surgery ever is Friday, and apparently everyone in the house is worried. (I just want to know which ice cream to buy him!) 

He’s gonna do great! It’s like my dad says, “He’ll get to go on vacation without even leaving the farm.”

(This pic is from a recent road trip Mike and Trey took to a concert. These two really are best friends.)

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Came Back Around

 Her words completely floored me. “I don’t want a Black man narrating my book.”

“Excuse me?” I balked. She suddenly seemed like some sort of neanderthal. It was 2013! Who thought something like that?!

At the time I co-owned a publishing company. Other editors, writers, investors, and myself had worked to publish over a hundred authors in just over a year. But authors—like this woman—had begun irritating me. 

As a first-time author she’d submitted a list of demands. Her book hadn’t sold well, and now she wanted book signings in key New York locations along with reviews in publications that would cost thousands of dollars each. We couldn’t do all of that, but I’d tried something else and actually had luck! 

A famous man had agreed to narrate AND PROMOTE her audiobook! But when we actually finished the project—and we’d slated it for release—the author didn’t want a Black man connected with her book??? I had never heard something so idiotic—something so completely infantile….

“I’m terminating your contract,” I immediately told the woman. “You wanted your book to sell so we found a well-known narrator—who kindly agreed to narrate your book—and you’re upset because of what he looks like? I’ll email the details to you, but we will no longer fund this project.”

She screamed, and I hung up. Within the next hour, my editors had talked about the situation and agreed. We would not support an author like that. 

As a side note: I’d built an amazing team. They knew how hard we’d work to establish the publishing company, but they also knew we’d reached a critical point. I’d just filed for divorce, and because of my ex’s financial involvement, none of us knew if we’d be able to keep the company going through a split like that—and while I adjusted to being a single mom to four little kids.

So, long story short, the company—my dream—dissolved. I think it actually ended well for everyone. I taught authors how to self-publish, and they even got to keep the rights to their covers and promotion materials. 

But as for the famous narrator, he wouldn’t be making anything off the project he’d worked so hard on. And just the idea of that irked me because he’d been so exceedingly kind throughout the whole ordeal.

“How much would you charge for something like this…if you weren’t getting a percentage of the profits?” I asked, and he gave me a number. It was a small fortune to me, but I’d made up my mind.

He had no idea where the money came from—or what I’d just gone through—but as a single mom I worked extra hours. Through two different jobs and over six months, I paid the man what he should have made.

“Why are you doing this?” one of the previous editors asked. “The company went under. I don’t think you need to front the cost.”

“It’s the RIGHT thing to do. He worked hard. He deserves to get paid.” I’d begged him to narrate the book. How could I not pay him after he’d gone out of his way to help me?

I remember making the final payment. It felt so good. That day I’d actually looked up the author—the racist one. She’d self-published her book, which hadn’t sold well. And to think, she’d almost had it narrated by someone who could’ve made it a bestseller….

I thought about all of this today, because we’ve had some pretty astronomical medical bills, and I spent a chunk of yesterday afternoon fighting debilitating pain AND our insurance company. Anyway, I opened my email, only to discover that someone had given us a bit of money—exactly what we need to get by! It was the narrator who I’d worked so hard to pay off while I was a single mom! I read his name about three times…just totally stupefied. Had he seriously given us money? I haven’t heard from him in over seven years! Yet, there it was…a random email and a gift.

Tears literally streamed down my face. I’m not quite sure why it touched me so much, but it did. I can’t believe he’s following my story—or that he even cared enough to help me in my time of need.

I still don’t know how to process this, or why it’s made me feel so completely humbled and just grateful really. I did something for him—simply because it was the RIGHT thing to do! And somehow…it came back around. 

This whole experience has brought me to my knees, over and over. The kindness of people—even acquaintances from years ago—it’s truly astounding. As I type this, I can’t help sitting here…still amazed.

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Over a Cup of Coffee

 “This is taking FOREVER,” the woman fumed even though it had been less than three minutes. “You’re making me late for work.” She’d already complained about rolling her window down and yelled because they were out of a specific syrup.

The teenage barista frantically took another order at the drive-through, started a simultaneous fourth drink order, and handed the cranky lady her drink.

“You know,” the woman seethed, “I’m having a TERRIBLE day—because of all this! Because of YOU. You’ve made me late! I’ll pay for the person behind me so at least SOMEONE can have a nice day.” 

The barista could have cried. She’d had a tough day too: everyone had called out sick because of COVID, she’d been treated terribly by two customers already, AND she worried about her mother—whose cancer seems to be getting worse…. 

The barista nodded as she tried not to cry. “Okay.” She forced a smile at the unhappy woman. “I hope you’ll have a…nice day….”

The woman must’ve realized how childish she’d been. “You must think I’m a terrible person!” she said. “It’s just because I haven’t had my coffee yet today! That always makes me cranky.”

Yes…. That was it. She’d yelled at a child because she hadn’t had her coffee yet. That made everything better. #sarcasm

Then she drove off. And even though she had paid for the person behind her, she had also momentarily derailed the little barista’s day.

When my daughter told me what happened to her yesterday, I got so upset. With everything we’re going through, we try to be extra kind to other people because you never know what they’re going through. I just can’t imagine treating someone so terribly over something as insignificant as coffee. Plus, it makes me sad that someone treated MY kid—who’s only 17–this way. She’s doing the best she can and honestly dealing with a lot. 


I just wish people would realize that workers are exhausted right now. AND that’s someone else’s child. (I sure hope she wouldn’t treat her own kid that way.) Why not lift each other up, instead of tearing each other down?

Thursday, October 14, 2021

Mike Broke His Foot

 Mike broke his right foot…. He said it’s ironic because, “We finally caught a break.” Oh…dad jokes. 

Trey felt really bad because he’d been driving our friend’s four-wheeler when it happened. Trey is only 13, and he keeps saying how much he wants to drive a car because kids get their licenses at 15 in Idaho. And so, when he had a chance to drive the four-wheeler, we thought, “Why not? He has a helmet and a seatbelt. What could possibly go wrong?”

But as they took a turn too fast, Mike reflexively stuck his foot out the side of the four-wheeler—right before it actually tipped on its side—and he fractured two of his bones on the top of his foot.

Trey rushed into our house and told me the whole story. “It’s pretty bad, Mom!” So, we immediately rushed to the ER. I told Trey he should stay home, but he would NOT leave Mike’s side. Then when the hospital told us that children aren’t allowed in the rooms, Trey puffed up and said, “This whole thing was my fault.” And he actually convinced the medical staff that he needed to stay with his father!

After they took X-rays and told us the worst, I watched Trey and Mike. The two of them talked and laughed. They shared stories about the Korn concert they’d recently gone to—and about a concert they’re going to later this month. And I have to say that it amazed me, just taking the time to realize how their relationship has changed over the years….

Trey was only 5 when he met Mike, and now that he’s becoming a young man, it makes me proud to see how close they are.

Anyway, I’m glad Trey went to the hospital with us. It felt a bit hilarious leaving the ER; Mike had a boot and crutches, and I had my walker. I’m sure we made even 90-year-olds feel young. 

But Trey still felt really bad the next day, and luckily my dad (Philip) called. My dad’s pretty legendary. He sends inspirational texts to our entire family every morning. You never know what he’ll say, but it’s always timely. Last year—before my cancer diagnosis—I compiled all of those texts and published a book for him. It was so awesome to see the surprise and joy on his face. More about that here:

So after telling Mike to “get better soon,” my dad called Trey to cheer him up. “You know, people get paid to actually tip vehicles over.”

“What?” Trey asked, mystified. “That’s not for real, right? I just think I’m a terrible driver.”

“No way! That’s a skill people look for. You could be a monster truck driver!”

Trey suddenly lit with excitement. “You’re…right! I could do something like that! I just feel bad Mike got hurt. I’ll just tell him to keep his foot inside next time! Then we can do this together!”

Mike’s surgery is scheduled for a week from Friday. It kind of feels like the blind leading the blind over here though. I’m still so sick, and now I’m taking care of Mike. But this experience has showed me just how amazing our kids are. Sky has been picking Mike up from work. Ruby has helped out so much with the younger kids. And Trey and Indy have started doing extra chores (more laundry and such). 

It’s almost been exactly a year since I found out I have cancer. It’s odd, but this terrible diagnosis hasn’t been as tragic as most people might think. I can’t believe how much closer our family has gotten. 

Our kids have transformed into responsible young adults. I know part of this is because my illness catapulted them into so much change. But as I watched Trey and Mike in the emergency room, it hit me again how very lucky we are. 

I might have cancer, but I also have everything I could possibly hope for. It’s such a strange feeling: I’m the happiest I’ve ever been – and the sickest. It just goes to show, it’s all about perspective and gratitude. 

Photo note: This picture is so adorable. The nurses kept saying they couldn’t believe how happy we are even though we’re going through so much. I honestly think it’s because we have everything; we have each other.

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Soul Worth Bidding For

 It’s strange, but it’s been several years since I’ve visited the cattle auction in Blackfoot, and I’m still thinking about it. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t want to be a vegetarian—mainly because I like steak—but I am swayed by how the cattle looked as they entered the ring. It just reminded me so much of death. 

Let’s face it; we know where most of those cattle are going. It’s not pretty or glamorous. Period. Until you imagine some fancy couple in an extravagant restaurant, drinking champagne and eating…beef. 

When I write that it reminded me of death, it’s more than just slaughterhouses. That auction is probably what the afterlife is like. 

I know I wrote about this previously (in a silly way), but I’m serious now. What if when we die we pass in front of God, and He simply decides if we’re worth paying the price for, to go to Heaven.

Either way, as people spent thousands upon thousands of dollars at the cattle auction—and a cow literally pooped about three feet from my face, it was more than the smell of cow patties that freaked me out. 

I guess, the cattle auction made me want to live differently. I want to be a person God would bet on, bid for, and want to hang out with.

What does it take to be worth a high bid...worth going to Heaven?  

As I watched a final cow hardly go for anything, I stood from the stands and left—honestly feeling bad its life hadn’t been worth a little more.