Wednesday, September 29, 2021

An Angel Named Grandma Dee

"Grandma," I said when I was in elementary school, "I keep going to church to get saved over and over."

My grandma was a different religion than me, and she didn't fully understand what I tried to convey.

"Wasn't once enough?" she asked.

"Maybe," I said. "But maybe not. I might just be bad, and that's why God is doing this to me. When I close my eyes, I can't make the words stop. I keep seeing stories in my head. I pray that God will save me and stop the words. He's punishing me for when I've been bad. That's why He's making me see the words."

She laughed so hard before trying to clarify. "Seeing the words?"

"On a keyboard," I said. "Someone's typing them."

It was always the same. I'd see these crazy hands typing more and more. A stupid red mug—with swirly paint—sat by the keys which never stopped clicking.

"Maybe it's you," my grandma said. "Maybe you're meant to be a writer."

It was my turn to laugh. "No. God is doing this ‘cause I’m bad.” Then something hit me. “If I am meant to be a writer, there's just one thing I'll need."

"What's that?"

"Someone who's really good... I'll need that person to teach me."

Anyway, my grandma died a little while after that. She's the only grandma I'd known. Whenever I wanted to give up on anything, she would be there, wearing her beloved checkered apron, and cheering me on. And to be honest, after she passed, sometimes I found it hard to keep believing in myself as a writer.

I think that's why my grandma had to send me an angel.


So, many years passed after my grandma's death. I picked up writing again and even hired an editor to perfect my fantasy novel. But after I sent her the payment in full, the editor pulled out of the project. "Unfortunately, the payment was over a thousand dollars worth of dresses I sewed for her daughter," I told a friend on the phone. "Reselling them would be a nightmare. It's just such a specific size. Plus, her daughter looks so happy in the pictures. So, I just let the lady keep them. I guess they're going through some hard times."

"Oh, wow."

"Yeah, but what am I supposed to do now? There's no way I can pay someone else."

After a small pause, the woman blurted with a hint of excitement, "I'll help you!"

At the time I had no idea who this woman really was; I'd only known her a short while. She lives in Missouri, and I lived in Utah. We'd simply met through blogging and had started an unlikely friendship that way.

Although her offer to help was extremely generous, I did feel a bit cautious. Everyone thinks they're an editor, but the truth is, the wrong edits can completely ruin a book.

"This is so kind of you," I said, then committed. "Okay, if you're sure. Let's work on editing my fantasy novel together." I would give this a shot.

It's actually quite hilarious now. The woman had been an editor for a big-name publisher while she worked with famous authors. I didn't know she'd sold thousands upon thousands of copies of her book "A Cat's Life"—in multiple languages. I just thought she was a fellow aspiring artist, an intriguing ex-nun who'd left the convent decades before, and a previous professor (with a deep understanding of Latin) who I adored for even taking the time to build a friendship with me.

The moment she embarked on the project, I recognized her level of expertise. I was the student from then on—with nothing to give—and a decade later I'm still learning. She started calling me every day. Early in the morning she'd read chapters I'd written, and then at night we'd spend between one to three hours revising them together. I went from knowing little about writing to learning more than I'd ever hoped for.

Months passed like that, leading to a life-changing conversation that I will never forget.

"When I started helping you edit your book, I was amazed with how fast you learned."

I'd wanted to reply and tell her I soaked up everything I could because that was my dream—having a mentor just like her to teach me.

She went on, believing in me more than I believed in myself. "I've read many, many authors... You really have something special."

"You're so good to me." I couldn't fathom her kindness. And as she spoke, I typed some of her words into my laptop so I could keep them forever. That's when I looked at the keyboard. My crazy hands typed more and more. Then I noticed the stupid red mug—with swirly paint—sitting by the keys which never stopped clicking. And I remembered what I’d always seen as a kid: the vision I’d described to my grandma before she died.

I tried to keep my emotions at bay, but it was so hard.

I stood, remembering my grandma and how much I miss her every day. I felt such a loneliness then, a longing to have someone like her in my life again. She'd been such a wealth of knowledge.

"Elisa," my mentor, Dee Ready, paused. "I told a friend the other've endeared yourself so much to me. We started editing this and we were good friends, but now I feel as if I have a granddaughter."

I cried then, huge tears, because Dee felt like family to me too—she always had!

It’s crazy to remember how I thought God was punishing me as a kid. Turns out He wasn't. He showed me a piece of what was to come—to confirm that I was on the right path. And then, to top everything off, He let me meet someone who would change my life forever.

It's amazing that Dee has been close to us for over a decade now. She's come out to help me while I've struggled with cancer. She's helped take care of the kids. And she's shown me such an abundance of love.

I needed her in my life, and I honestly think she somehow needed me too.

Life is full of so many beautiful miracles. When she last came to see us, as I watched her playing with Trey and Indy, I couldn't help being grateful that I get to have this extraordinary woman in my life.

A photo from when Dee came out for Christmas a few years ago.
Several years ago when KPVI (local channel 6) featured Dee and I at a joint book signing. 


Cutting Back to Part Time

 Yesterday, I had to officially cut back from full- to part-time hours. I can’t describe how hard this was for me because it’s admitting a weakness. It’s equally devastating that I’m applying for disability—and I’m not even 40 yet!  

I know I might sound dramatic, but I want to dig a hole, drink pina coladas alone, and not come out for a long, long time. 

I derive so much of my worth from working hard and earning money. And I LOVE my job. This is the most amazing company. They’ve toiled with me through all of this, listened and been patient throughout treatments and time off. They even collected a donation when I had to travel all those times for radiation. 

I’m telling you, if you ever need to utilize newsletters for marketing, please contact Newletter Pro because they’re marketing geniuses AND the owner is such a genuinely good guy! I don’t know how my family would have made it this far without them. (And I’m glad they’re keeping me part time.)

My nurse sighed with understanding as I spoke with her yesterday. “This is what needs to be done,” she said on the phone. “We’ve been telling you to cut back. Something’s gotta give, and unfortunately it will continue to be your health unless you slow down. I’ll fill out the disability paperwork this week.”

Anyway, I know this “new normal” is for the best, but it’ll take a minute to get used to. 

Poor Mike. First he marries a single mom, then she gets stage four cancer, and now she needs to be on part-time disability. #lemon 

Whatever I lack, I better make up for in personality! And I better learn some new recipes! I’m gonna make this up to him somehow. If things get desperate I just might end up writing another erotic novel.

This is a pic from when I got the job in the summer of 2020.  I still miss my hair! 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Mirror Image of the Past

 Almost 20 years since he died…and 10 years since I’ve read my journal about that time. It’s strange how it transports me back. Sure it feels faded, like entering a sepia photo, but I still feel as if there.

Normally its words have the power to validate and heal, reminding me that if I made it through that, I can suffer through anything. But this time, reading my journal has left me bewildered. 

I guess I’m a bit shocked with the similarities between dealing with Zeke’s mortality and facing my own. The same exact people have come out of the woodwork of my life to say I’m going to Hell, to explain that I ate the wrong things and it caused this, to explain that the “sins of my fathers” brought this upon me. And I have to say their lack of growth—and my own lack of how to handle this—is a bit discouraging. How can ALL of us, after 20 years, have changed so little?

There are good things to this: It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to. These opinions just sound primitive—almost laughable. And I know these people are just grasping for the answer to an imperfect world. But “perfection” is perception, literally what you make it, and I’ve never lost my positivity despite harrowing situations: the death of my oldest son, staying in a women’s shelter eight years ago with my children, subsequently getting divorced, and now, fighting stage 4 cancer. 

Although I’ve abandoned religion since Zeke died, and I honestly struggle to pray, I have never lost my faith in God and that He has a plan for my life. To lose that would be to lose my world.

So, it’s interesting rereading “The Golden Sky.” It really is a mirror image of what I’m experiencing now. Although I must admit, facing the death of my own son was much harder than facing my own loss of life. No one should have to watch their own child die…. No one. Maybe that’s why cancer isn’t as hard as I expected after all. Physical suffering is excruciating, but it’s nothing compared to wishing you could take your baby’s place in that grave.

If you want to learn more about “The Golden Sky,” you can find that here:

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Handle It Your Way

They discharged me from the hospital, and Ruby and I quickly found our truck. “Time to go home,” I squealed.

But then the driver’s door completely deflated my hopes when it wouldn’t shut. “What the…?” Ruby faltered.

“Maybe try lifting it and slamming it?” I asked, thinking it’d gotten off kilter.

So, she did—sending a “crunch” bellowing through the parking garage. We couldn’t get the door to close. After using my cell’s flashlight, further inspection showed that the metal latch had busted, wedging inside so far that the door remained permanently ajar.

We nearly tore up our hands trying to get the piece out. “If we can move the damn thing, then I can strap the door closed so we can get back to Idaho.”

“How can we drive like this? The door will flap in the wind.”

“I’ll drive. And we’ll tighten ‘er down,” I said. Sure I’m still battling sepsis—and some things feel like they’re too much on top of everything, but I didn’t want to show my daughter that a door could best me. “You just keep me company.” 

But honestly, the truth is that I could’ve cried. I felt so damn tired bending and trying to get the latch out—and striving once again to be strong. Finally, we slammed the door and got it closed enough—after shoving ourselves up against the cold metal—that I could slip a strap through the driver and passenger’s windows. It would be a windy ride home with a door that couldn’t close all the way, but at least we could finally leave the cancer hospital.

It was at this point that a sniveling, bald man broached us. Pointy nose prominent and beady eyes judging, he seemed personally offended. “Wanna try slamming that door a little harder next time? You could make even more noise!” He stopped to breathe deeply, obviously mad from far more than this moment in the parking garage. “You’re causing quite a scene.”

I knew he had cancer too. But he has something much worse—a mean attitude. Normally I’d feel bad for the man, reach out, and turn the other cheek. But then I thought about how instead of offering to help, he’d simply come to make things worse!

“Sorry. We’re just desperate to get back to—“

“Slamming your door?!”

“Ya know….” I said, and I’m embarrassed to admit that a little bit of fire lit my eyes. “Maybe I will slam it—just ONE more time.”

But of course I didn’t. And after I got in the passenger side and shimmied over to the steering wheel, I backed up and waved to the gape-jawed man who’d only offered cynicism.

“What is wrong with some people?” Ruby asked from the passenger seat. “He seriously came over just to be rude?”

“He must have too much on his plate. I guess he can handle his problems his way, and we can handle ours another. That’s all WE can control right now.”

So, we cranked up the music, didn’t care that: our A/C doesn’t work, the truck is missing chunks from the seats, or that the door was Jerry-rigged shut. 

“It’s off to Idaho,” I practically sang—so happy to be free. And despite the fact that the wind styled my hair to look like the ‘80s, both Ruby and I smiled almost the whole way home. 

Pic: Us taking silly selfies at the hospital, choosing to make the best of things.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

A “Good” or “Bad” Life

 I’ve been reading John Steinbeck, exploring concepts of predestination and the disturbing thought that even God could suffer from favoritism. While humanizing God terrifies me (in a lightning from Heaven sort of way), it is interesting to read queries that will always haunt the living—regardless of when or where we were born. Steinbeck asks the same questions that intrigued Aristotle. The same questions asked by Plato and many before. The same things we ask ourselves. One such question is: What makes a life bad or good?

Steinbeck explains that if people rejoice when you die, you lived poorly. If people are saddened to hear of your death, then you’ve lived well.

I thought of this as I took Indy for a walk today. Unfortunately, I only made it two blocks before we had to turn around. “Mama, you look tired. It’s okay. I’ve had a great day with you. Let’s go home and rest now.”

It’s strange to see how wise she’s gotten at the age of 11. Sad…and strange.

We just turned around, and I ended up running into someone who dislikes me very much. We haven’t talked for about a year and a half. She has no idea that I have cancer. No idea the hell I’ve been through this last year. No idea of anything.

The gorgeous woman sized me up in less than two seconds: how I walk and stand, my crazy-purple hair, and the pain on my taut face. 

I knew she judged me. And although I didn’t have my glasses on, even I recognized the smug look that slid onto her perfect face. After another second, as if telepathically thanking karma for everything it has done to me, her lips twitched into a smirk and she turned away.

I hobbled back to my house, not feeling bad about the encounter but instead being mystified. In her mind, what could I have done to justify this “punishment” of such intense suffering? Does anyone really deserve to grapple with cancer—a disease that literally eats you from the inside out?

This woman will not be sad when I die. 

And yet, I must be a masochist because part of me wishes we could be friends. She’s one of the most intriguing people I’ve ever met: smart, funny…gifted. But despite that, she’s also an enigma. I can’t imagine rejoicing from someone else’s pain, even if I did feel they needed to pay some karmic debt. No one deserves to suffer.

So, Steinbeck really got me thinking. How people feel when you die might shed light on the kind of life you’ve led, but it also says a lot about them. It’s interesting….

Monday, September 20, 2021

Time to Start Livin’

 At some point you stop dying and start living. We all have an expiration date—and if you’re reading this, you haven’t hit yours yet.

I thought this as I sat at the edge of a beautiful river. Mike and I celebrated our 6-year anniversary, and I decided to be done dying.

I went from fully clothed to shucking nearly everything in a matter of seconds. As I floated out in the frigid water, Mike’s eyes quadrupled in size. “Well, you sure ain’t boring.”

I snorted, so happy—and cold. “Come on in. The water’s fffffiiiine.”

But he did not want to come in. And then my legs cramped up on me….

The thing with cancer is that it makes you want to do things you previously lacked the courage for, but now it’s almost too late.  “Oh, my gosh, Mike,” I said. “My legs are freezing up.”

“Sure. Sure.”

“No, really.” And the current started to take me. I could just imagine myself floating straight to some farmer’s crop, where they’d make me walk out—in all my glory. 

Mike, that good ol’ Eagle Scout, didn’t want to get his pants and shoes wet, so he stripped down to his skivvies—taking forever like some show in Vegas. Then, when I thought he’d finally save me, that man freaked out because of “mud.”

Meanwhile—near actual danger—a red creature (probably venomous) popped up right by my toes and almost ate my face off!

Anyway, after the second coming of Christ, Mike dipped one dainty foot in and snatched me from a future with a successful farmer.

We held each other, both of us covered in mud. Then we put our clothes back on.

I swear we haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. And as I leaned back on a rock, resting in the arms of my own personal hero, I couldn’t help thinking about how he makes even the worst situations the best time ever.

I love you, Mr. Magagna. You’re one hell of a ride. I hope we can keep on livin’ this dream together for a long, long time.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

Filled With His Glory

My whole bout with sepsis has been sobering. And just the thought that I could’ve died last week has brought up latent fears about suffering and strength. I think we all want to die “well,” “valiantly,” in a way that will make our loved ones proud. I don’t want to be a sniveling person who’s begging to end the pain—or crying out for more life. I want to die…like Brave Heart.

But last week’s panic attack left me reeling. It seems that I’d finally grown a spine in 2020, and then the doctors removed a whole section of it right after that.

I thought of this at the Yom Kippur meeting last night. They talked about forgiving ourselves and others…about releasing ourselves from vows we’d felt forced to make (this has a pretty neat historical background) or vows we made but could no longer keep. I remembered my New Year’s resolution for 2020. “I vow to become as refined as possible,” I’d said quietly to myself. After over a year of Hell, refinement doesn’t sound quite as romantic. That’s a vow I’d like to forget.

When I returned to the synagogue for the second Yom Kippur meeting today, I honestly had no idea what to expect, but I did know something: It was time to let go of refinement and unattainable goals of perfection. 

“God,” I prayed during one of the songs, “I get it now. We were never made to be perfect. I might as well be chasing rainbows, trying to reach my self-imposed goals. Can you please just love me, always…as I am? I make more mistakes than anyone I know, but I love you with everything. Please be with me in life and when I die too. I feel ridiculous asking for you to heal me; but please have your will in my life.”

I exhaled, feeling oddly lighter than I have in years. And when I opened my eyes, a strange light shone through the synagogue windows. “Kadosh. Kadosh. Kadosh. The whole world is filled with your glory.” The words wrapped around me like a balm—and when I looked down, the glowing stained glass started highlighting the words on the program I held!

“We are filled with your strength. The strength to bear our afflictions,” I read the accentuated words. “Add your strength to ours, oh God. So that when death casts its shadow we shall yet be able to say: “Oh Source of Blessing. You are with us in death as in life.”

Those words…I can’t tell you the power of those words: in death as in life, I suddenly knew God would never abandon me.

Not long after, a powerful musician stood in front of the congregation and blew the shofar (a horn of such beautiful resonance that it stunned me). The blast lasted much longer than I’d expected—then went up a fifth and continued until it vibrated me to the core.

I cried right there, my program still illuminated as I shook, my burdens lifted, and my heart full…. 

Before the “break the fast” celebration, I managed to catch a couple of pictures of my program before the lighting changed too much. Here’s one before and one after. I’m still amazed by God’s mercy and love: the whole world really is filled with His glory. Wow!

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

An Ironic Jam Session

 I traipsed down the street, like the Pied Piper. Well, maybe “traipsed” is a bit strong—but I did have my violin and people did come closer as I played.

I’d gone to a music festival with a dear friend. Some say he makes suits for a living, some say he works for the CIA…all I know is that he placated me that day—and it was awesome.  He smiled as I pulled out my fiddle. 

“Will you walk up Main with me?”

“Sure!” he said because it’s a rare person who says ‘no’ to someone with cancer.

I planned to jump in with every band we passed—what was the worst that could happen?


It’s just that cancer has robbed me of a lot of dreams. I’ve opened for some pretty big bands: Shanandoah… Cracker… Some obscure Christian bands you’ve probably heard hit songs from. I’ve played for thousands—where my fingers danced under the brightest colored lights and my heart beat faster as each fiddle solo approached. Crowds cheered, people sang along—and almost everyone danced…even me.

But I had to stop playing gigs because I can’t stand for long anymore. I don’t even have the stamina to sit for more than a few hours. I can’t drive far to reach an audience. And lately, even hearing some old songs on the radio causes a sadness in my heart that I can’t quite explain.

So, my friend—the unconfirmed CIA legend—helped me “traipse” up Main. The first band didn’t seem enthused to see me, so I played quietly as we skirted by. I tried fighting the sadness. 

Maybe my time with music had passed…just like my life is passing. Those glorious musical moments were gone.

Then, as we stood in an audience surrounding another band, the bassist looked out and smiled. “Hey, Blue!” He said, pointing to my hair. 

Was the bassist of Rail City Jazz seriously pointing to me?

“Blue! Get up here!”

So, I excitedly went on stage, and those Samaritans gave me a solo. I could’ve cried as we played because they had no idea what kind thing they’d just done for someone who’d been losing hope….

It wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that I checked their Facebook page. 

“Friends,” their latest post read, “it saddens us to announce that Brady Meline, Phillip's wife, died on Sunday after many years of suffering.” I read the words and nearly dropped my coffee. I frantically found her obituary and discovered that she too had battled stage 4 cancer!

I shut down my computer and stared out the window, stunned that they’d just helped a stranger with cancer, right before losing someone to the same dreadful disease.

Monday, September 13, 2021

A Reunion Imposter

 Will my life end like an unplugged clock or the slow decline of a poorly wound watch? I wondered this as we drove up the canyon to my 20-year high school reunion. 

A table rested there, clad with photos and memories from the 14 class members who have already died (two from cancer and 12 from drugs or suicide). According to some doctors, my picture could be on that table for the next reunion…. It felt too sobering—especially since I could’ve died from sepsis just last week. Only a few more hours and I would’ve made it to the hospital too late. There’s something about just missing death: it’s haunting.

I worried these thoughts might overshadow the night, but after Mike and I arrived at the reunion, so many wonderful surprises waited for us. Mike taught some friends of mine how to do the lawnmower dance, the sprinkler, the shopping cart, and the sea walk. He drank smuggled booze from a backpack concealed under the table, bonded with one of my favorite friends from “back in the day,” and got hit on by someone who came across the room just to meet him.

And as people hugged me and said “hello,” a jolt of love catapulted me back into the moment. I felt real pride for a friend who followed his dreams and became a well-known chef in Park City. I beamed as a woman talked about her children. And I felt true excitement while making a new friend who recently moved home to be closer to their kids. 

That one girl was there, you know the one who gets even prettier with time. The smartest kid in school talked about his epic software job. The school nerd seemed to be the only one filling out “high school bingo,” and of course there was that one guy who still doesn’t know my name.

But I was happy to show Mike off and to remember again how important it is to live in the moment. I reconnected with some legends and have made plans to see them again soon. I can hardly wait to hear more of their stories, taste some gourmet food, and go to coffee with people who only got better with time.

It was an unforgettable night—especially when Mike told someone he’d taken chemistry with them. Nothing like having an imposter at my own reunion. 🤣

Friday, September 10, 2021

Progress Is Progress

 Do you ever feel like you’re in a whirlpool, getting sucked to some inescapable vortex, where you can never get out again?

That’s how I felt on Tuesday night, after a horrendous bout with sepsis. 

It’s not these “blips” that are so terrifying, it’s the recovery after.  Like a pair of thawing feet, beating and throbbing back to life—each deadly moment only seems especially horrendous as I’m recovering. 

I actually think I’ve handled all of this quite well…but I’m embarrassed to say that on Tuesday I did not.

Visitors were restricted due to COVID-19 concerns. A CNA mistook me for a surgical patient (probably because of how I walk) and put an alarm on my bed so that if the weight changed, she would know—so she could put me back in bed. And as I stared at the darkening room around me, the walls surged closer and everything collapsed in on me. I thought about the removal of my L3 vertebrae (and how torturous that had been), the liver failure (and constant vomiting and severe weight loss), and now the sepsis (more painful than anything before)…. And I felt so stuck in a whirlpool of debilitating fear that I actually had a panic attack.

My hand shook as I hit the “call nurse” button, and luckily my nurse (and not the CNA) came in. She turned the weighted alarm off on my bed (since I was actually an ambulatory patient), walked me down the hall to a nice chair, and even gave me black tea in a little styrofoam cup. “I’m so sorry you’re going through all of this. I can’t even imagine.”

She left me there for as long as I wanted. I pulled out my phone and put on whatever breathing exercise  I could find on YouTube—closed my eyes and listened.

The next day, Mike came to see me first thing, and I threw my arms around him and never wanted to let go. He brought the light of the world flooding around him, and I could hardly believe the difference it made just seeing him, hearing his laugh, pressing my forehead against his. I started bawling then because it hit me how the elderly population must feel when loved ones don’t come to see them. The thought broke my heart, and I couldn’t stop crying as Mike scooped me up and held me in the hospital bed.

“Sweetheart! Sweetheart! What’s wrong?”

“I just want to go home. I’m tired of being in these different hospitals. I just want to go home.”

They let me out later that afternoon. The kids were so excited to hug me that I could hardly believe it. And suddenly all of the suffering in the world was worth feeling their joy and holding their arms around me. 

Everything looked beautiful. I didn’t care anymore about the vortex that we’re honestly all heading toward. Instead, we cranked up the radio, drove home from Montana to Idaho, and once we got home I curled up in bed and slept for a long time. The bumps through this journey are hard, but the rewards are greater. Like the doctor said, “It’s three steps forward, two steps backward. Progress is progress.”

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Simple Words to Tie Up a Life

 Trey and I stood on the first floor of a hotel in Bannack, Montana—a ghost town, part of the Lewis and Clark Trail in 1806 before being declared the First Capital Territory of Montana in 1864.

We both stared out the window, wondering who had been there before us, and I felt proud to be introducing my 13-year-old son to a real part of history. 

But as I looked out the window, a strange memory hit me from 10 years before. A proprietor purchased an old building in Deadwood, South Dakota, where Butch Cassidy himself allegedly visited. The owner asked me to play my violin in the upper level, and a strange song had come to me. With every note I could almost see the old drapes materializing and a newly shined floor suddenly gleaming. People played cards, laughed, and fought rising tempers. 

I remembered and smiled. But what’s odd is that as I stood with Trey in Bannack, Montana, another song came to me—a sweeping melody….

I’m still not sure why, but I started singing it, slowly, surely, and I could almost imagine the town, rife with excitement. The street filled with colorful characters, horses corralled down the road. I could imagine it more vividly with each note. I was there—in my imagination—and it WAS beautiful.

Then Trey clutched my hand. “Mom! Stop. Stop singing.” He said shadows shifted and light had moved down the hotel’s hallway.

So, Trey and I left the nearly 200-year-old hotel and joined two of his siblings and Mike who stood outside of the building. We visited a cemetery after that, where the oldest person was born in 1809.

“It’s strange what they put on the headstones,” Trey said. “Doctor. Preacher. Daughter of Mr. Matthew Peat….”

“It is strange! How people choose to identify themselves, especially at the end. It makes you wonder, what gives your own life meaning. It’s clear what gave them meaning.”

I looked at him so proudly. He’s such a deep thinking young man. I know something truly “good” and “kind” will define him.

Then we left. And it wasn’t until the next day that I became hospitalized in Bozeman—the closest town with a hospital. “You’re lucky you came in when you did,” the doctor said. “A few more hours and it could have been…devastating. You have sepsis—an infection in your blood. You’ll be just fine now, but you always need to be near a hospital. When you have cancer—and are in a situation like yours—there are certain things you just can’t do.”

I heard his words and took them to heart. I do need to be more careful. But after visiting hours ended, and I sat alone in the hospital room, I instantly thought about the ghost town and all of those old graves. It’s not my time yet—and hopefully won’t be for a long time—but when it is, what will define me? What set of words will tie up my simple life?

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Fiddler in a Parking Lot

 “There is a guy playing a violin in the Fred Meyer parking lot. You should come join him.” My friend’s text made me smile because she knows me pretty well.

“Hey,” I yelled to my kids in the other room, “you wanna go on an adventure?” If cancer has taught me anything, it’s to enjoy the good days.

Only one of my kids sounded remotely interested because…well, teenagers. 

So, we grabbed my fiddle, hopped into Sky’s car, and eventually found a woman who stood by a violin case in the Fred Meyer parking lot.

“You want to jam?” I asked with so much excitement.

“No English,” she said. “Italian.”

I was MADE for moments like this! I’ve been taking Italian lessons, so I told her I speak a little Italian. 

But unfortunately I couldn’t understand much of what she said. So, I pulled out my phone and used Google Translate. 

We conversed that way, typing questions and answers into the translator on our phones—and it was actually kind of fun! Then, things got serious….

She said they’d fallen on hard times—so now, they were standing in this parking lot, asking for help as her husband fiddled for tips. And to think, this brave woman couldn’t even speak English.

I guess right before we got there, her husband had left to see a mechanic because their car broke down. She had health problems on top of everything. And, they didn’t have enough money for rent.

I typed back, “I’m so sorry. I don’t know exactly what you’re going through, but I understand that life is hard. I have stage 4 cancer, and I actually came to see you to get my mind off of things…by helping someone else.”

I’m still not sure why, but as she read the Italian translation, she broke out crying and asked if she could hug me. So we stood there, both of us hugging and crying in the parking lot. My daughter, Sky, just looked at us and smiled.

After that, I asked the woman if I could play a song for her. As the notes crescendoed, the winds seemed to shift and the weather didn’t have the same bite to it. 

I hoped—with everything in me—that this change symbolized a better future for this sweet woman and her family. 

I packed up my violin, and although Sky and I didn’t have much to give, we left the woman with what we had.

“Buona fortuna,” I said (good luck).

“Grazie.” She smiled, and we left her there, standing with her sign, still asking for help.

I hope the winds of change will find her…maybe they’ll find both of us.

Thursday, September 2, 2021

My Sister Wrote a Book!

 I’m so proud of my sister! Go here to check out her newly released book. Free download until Sept. 3 🤗

Check it out here: “Lean Think