Sunday, February 27, 2022

The Power of Trust

 We discovered we might need to put our 13-year-old dog down, and this week I became so stressed about it that I got even sicker than normal. In fact, I barely made it through my tax appointment. I brought Sky with me, so she can learn about taxes, but after about 45 minutes, I had to throw up in the bathroom. (Cancer can be brutal!) I tried so hard to keep it quiet—not wanting my daughter—or the accountant to hear such a “glamorous moment.” 

When I got home, I shook and shivered after spiking a fever. Mike is working swings, and so after all four of our kids had dinner and went to sleep, I curled onto my bed and cried. 

“God, I know you have a plan…. I KNOW you do, but that doesn’t mean this isn’t hard.”

“Trust.” The word filled my mind and sobered me. After all, once placed, trust has the power to dispel fear and eradicate worry. But finding solace and having enough faith TO trust is inherently difficult, especially when we’re facing tough times!

I needed a distraction and fast, so I pulled up a recent video recording from my memoir “The Golden Sky.” I took it last Sunday, recording seven episodes while I felt well, since these moments are fleeting. I beamed happily outside and said, “I had to move outside because my son is playing the drums.” I laughed. “It’s cold out here!” 

The irony hit, and I instantly knew I’d watched the video at that exact moment for a reason….

This is ironic because “The Golden Sky” is about my first son who died. At one point things didn’t feel like they could get much worse. I’d become a single mom, struggling to fight and work and be strong. I could’ve faltered, but honestly little miracles kept happening—breadcrumbs from God—and I truly felt His love in my life. Although my son died, God stayed. 

I never thought I’d live through those hardships, raise Ruby to be such an AMAZING adult, or even have more children. But with God’s help—and a little moxie—I did. I even had another son, healthy this time. 

So, as I watched myself reading about my first son‘s death, it hit me how strange that you can faintly hear my second son jamming on the drums in the background…with so much joy for music, optimism for the unexpected, and complete zeal for life. I have cancer and that’s been hard for all of us, but he still fights to find the good in everything.

The point is that life has ups and downs. When you’re on a roller coaster, you trust the tracks and the car. When you’re flying, you trust the plane. During life, why have so many of us forgotten to trust God? Even with me and cancer….

I felt bad for myself in June of 2020, shocked about how sick I felt. But now I have days that are so much worse! Looking back, I should’ve been grateful for things as they were. 

So, even throwing up in the accountant’s office doesn’t seem THAT bad anymore. I’m grateful I didn’t make a mess. I’m glad I can even walk to the bathroom. And I’m flippin’ ecstatic that I’m STILL alive. 

I’m headed to more treatments and some pretty big scans this week. We’re definitely hoping for some good news, but even if it’s not what “I” want, I know God has a plan. Like I’ve written before, if He’s capable of creating the entire universe, I’m pretty sure He knows what he’s doing with each and every one of us.

This is a video of my son trying to make me feel better on one of my sick days. He’s so hilarious!

Friday, February 25, 2022

Playing Ball with the Boys

 This was published several years ago in a magazine and then re-ran again in 2019. It still makes me smile.

"I'm not like anyone in this family," Ruby said.

   “Oh, yes you are.  I was always hatching crazy schemes—just like you."


   “Yep. Do you have time to hear a story?"

   She wiped her tears away and nodded. “Sure.”

   I never thought the story was anything special—not until my daughter heard it.


I was a dorky twig, far better at playing sports than playing dolls. I knew I'd be a star on the boys' team if they just let me play.  

   “We don't let girls play with us. Girls are bad luck," they said over and over.  

   That just proved it; they were idiots. The only time girls are unlucky is when you make them mad.

   I started practicing baseball every day after school until the sun went down, and I actually got pretty good. My mom, dad, brother and sister all taught me how to hit and pitch. If those boys would just say “yes,” they wouldn't know what hit 'em.  

My dream almost ended. I could have stayed friendless and sad—or I could've stooped to ultimate evilness and played dolls with Kristi Nelson and her posse of girlie girls. That wasn't for me though.

   I watched the boys setup one day after they said “no”…again. The leader, Jeff, always brought the ball and the bat. He'd put them out in the hall during class, then at recess, all the boys would go and play.

   Stealing that ball was easier than stealin’ second.  I remember how I raised my hand and told the teacher I needed to use the bathroom. That was a terribly sweet lie. I ran into the hall, looked back and forth, then stole Jeff's ball. For a brief moment, I felt bad. Maybe I didn't really have to go to the bathroom, but I sure tried anyway.  It wouldn't be good to lie AND steal on the same day.

   Well, when the recess bell rang, those boys scrambled and hooted. Everyone got out to the field. For once I smiled, just watching. Jeff came out last. He explained something to the boys who looked awfully mad. They were just about to leave the field when I walked closer.

   “Who would-a thunk he'd leave it at home?" a kid whined.

   I threw the ball up and down. Not to brag, but I caught the sucker every time. “Funny thing," I said to the boys. “I brought a ball today. What are the odds?" I tried spitting, but I'd never done it before and the stuff stayed hooked to my lips longer than normal. I wiped it away fast and cursed all those old movies for making spitting look easy.

   “Give us the ball!" a boy screamed.

   “Sure," I pulled it away, "on one condition."

   “Name it," Jeff said, then walked closer.

   “That you let me play."

    All the boys groaned. “But that's bad luck to play with a girl."

   “Is it better to not play at all?" I asked, and they finally let me play.

   I'd like to say I got a home run, even though I didn't. But I will say that I proved myself and they seemed really impressed. Jeff walked with me after last recess and smiled. “You know, this ball looks an awful lot like the one I bring."

   I had to think fast. I looked up at him. My face couldn't charm him—too bad for the ugly phase. But at least I could win him over with my wit. “Does it really surprise you that we both have such good taste?"

   He laughed and hit me on the back. “You're all right, Stilson. You're all right." It was the first time someone called me by my last name and the first time a fellow classmate hit me on the back—it was epic.

   The next day when Jeff's ball showed up by his stuff in the hall, he didn't even seem surprised. I went and stood by the field, a bit sad that I'd never get to play again.  Maybe I should have just reconciled to playing dolls with Kristi Nelson...forever.

   I sat down on the grass and prepared to watch the boys forming their teams. It was time for the captains to pick their star players. When it was Jeff's turn, he smiled right at me and pointed.  "Stilson, for first pick because that girl really knows how to hit a ball. And because she didn't give up."

I stood by him and beamed. “Isn't it funny how my baseball just showed up today?" he whispered.

   “Yeah," I nodded. "What are the odds?"


   “So, that's how I started playing baseball with the boys," I told my daughter.

   “It sounds like something I would do!  Mom," she said seriously, "you're all right."

   “You too."  I smiled, then patted her on the back and thought I just might start calling her by our last name.

P.S. It’s crazy to think that I’ve been friends with Jeff for almost 30 years now! (We were 9 when we met.) He’s a firefighter and has the most beautiful wife and kids. It’s been pretty fun to follow his story—I’ve even heard he’s still playing ball. ⚾️ 

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Adding to My Bucket List

 I watched the homeless people who live in the areas near the Huntsman Cancer Center. Some of them live in pop-up tents that they move from place to place (even along main roads) so the police can’t find them during the day. I first saw these people during my initial round of radiation in 2020. I’d thought I had things bad until I saw them. My mom and I both gaped. She and my dad had rented an airbnb for us to stay in near Trolley Square. We’d never expected to discover camping tents perched on a nearby road median when we woke up at 5:30 a.m.

Most of the homeless people move to warmer areas during this time of year, but the ones who stay in Utah usually go to Liberty Park or the hillside east of Woods Cross.

“I’ve added something to my bucket list,” I told my mother-in-law as she drove me to my last cancer treatment. She’s quite beautiful, extremely intelligent, and very by-the-book. 

“Oh? What is it?”

“I’d like to go visit the homeless people who camp on that hill.” I pointed to the commune of tents. “It would be so fun to bring them a bunch of Little Caesar’s pizzas and play my violin for them. Would you go with me?”

She broke out laughing and just smiled. I’m not sure if I add excitement, joy, or fear to my mother-in-law’s life, but I honestly think we would’ve been the best of friends if we’d grown up together.

The conversation changed to different topics, but even after we arrived at the cancer center, I couldn’t stop thinking about the homeless people. It’s so cold, and I know frostbite is a bigger risk than most people want to admit. I guess my heart goes out to them because when I was 17, I was a homeless street musician. 

I traveled from Utah to California. Fiddled up the California coast and then flew from San Francisco to Hawaii. Some of my family members and “friends” were pretty embarrassed by it. Who sets out to be a homeless street musician? But I knew Hawaii was warm, and it sounded fun. The things I learned there broke me of materialism, being greedy, or seeking fame. In fact, I spent one of my favorite days there jamming with a bunch of Hawaiians as they strummed their ukes. 

Over 20 years later, it can be hard feeling sick and knowing I’ve been brought pretty low. But I think so many times people forget what really matters. On the streets of Hawaii my favorite memories are of making new friends, encouraging the other street performers, being able to afford more than the dollar Big Mac, and just hearing tourists clap after they’d heard an especially well-played fiddle solo.  

We can sit in our plumbed, heated houses and think how bad it sucks being quarantined and dealing with whatever shortage or mandate might be going on, but we’ve really lost sight of the big picture. We judge people by their degree(s), their status, and their income. We judge people by often-meaningless achievements. If I learned anything from being homeless in Hawaii, it’s the power of love and kindness. A homeless man named Skipper gave me kind words that forever changed my life while some rich tourists could hardly give me a nod. 

I became a hag in a fairytale, you know the one who’s not what she appears to be and is just waiting to see how people will behave? I saw the best and the worst of people, and those are lessons that have lasted a lifetime.

I’m glad I can look back on those memories and keep my perspective even through this. Plus, I can hardly wait to meet the homeless people on that hill. I can only imagine the stories they might share—and who knows, maybe one of them plays the guitar!

Find more info about my memoir, “Homeless in Hawaii,” here:

Sunday, February 20, 2022

The Seeds of Inspiration

 He seemed hollow...lost. I first spotted him while I played my violin at the Huntsman Cancer Center. Everyone else listened intently—patients, nurses, doctors, and other medical staff members—but not him; he sat a distance away, staring out the window. 

Even though I’d been hospitalized for nearly a month, the staff let me play for a gathering of people who also suffered from cancer. I performed in my hospital gown—classy, right?—creating a somber melody that flowed from my tumor-ridden body. I found it ironic that such a perfect song could emanate from someone so flawed. Despite many listening ears, I solely wondered about the depressed man by the window. As luck would have it, after my song ended and I packed up, every single patient filtered from the area except for the man who drew my attention. 

A nurse asked if she could bring me back to my room because it probably seemed awkward to use my walker AND carry my violin. "Actually, can I stay for a while?" I asked, my eyes pleading.

"Ummm…okay. Sure." She nodded and left me there.

"Excuse me," I practically squeaked to the man, and when he didn't turn, I cleared my throat. "Sir?" Nothing. So I commandeered my walker—like a nascar pro—then simply went and sat by the guy. 

"You have cancer, too?" he asked after a moment, obviously puzzled that I'd come to sit by him. 

"Yes." Then I shared a little of my experience, hoping my offering would cause him to reciprocate. “I guess I’m not scared of death, I just don’t want to be away from my husband and kids, my family and friends. Who really knows what the afterlife is like? I’m just scared I’ll never see my loved ones again. Does that make any sense?”

“Unfortunately, I understand that too well,” he said, and luckily he DID share more after that. (There's nothing worse than an information hog who offers nothing about themselves and constantly asks questions!) Anyway, I intently listened to his story and learned that he’d just turned 43 and had been diagnosed around the same time as me. We’d both been told our cancer was terminal. 

"Our stories are so similar, and we're young. But there is one big difference," he said after a minute. 


"Well, we both have every reason to lose hope--and I think we've pretty much accepted our fates, but you... Well, you’re still somehow happy despite everything, and I’m not. Why?"

I remain quiet. I didn't readily know the answer.

"Why?" he asked again, this time with an unnerving desperation. 

So many thoughts shot through my head. What could I tell this poor man? “Ummm…I’m still alive.” I had to think of something! “And that means there’s opportunity."

He snorted. "To do what?"

"To,” I glanced at my violin case, “play my violin. To make new friends. To share my story." I thought of all the stupid reality TV shows and America’s infatuation with celebrities. “Maybe I can help people stop focusing on inconsequential things. If my body is a sinking ship, the least I can do is give people perspective." I could tell he hung onto every word. "Maybe we can help other people find courage, comfort, joy…despite whatever they’re going through. If we can have terminal cancer and STILL strive to find the good, that's saying something."

He shook his head. "I honestly don’t understand you. You’re in hell right now. I know where you are because I’m right here with you."

"And yet, even here we can take consolation in the positive." I suddenly felt a strange emotion pouring through me; I think the only word for it is inspiration. "Today, I can be happy because although I’m hospitalized with cancer, I got to fiddle for strangers, and then I got to meet you!"

He broke out laughing. "Wait until my wife and kids hear about this!” 

“They sound great.” I paused. “If you have limited time, don’t waste it. Find the good!”

“You make it sound, almost doable.” He turned and I glimpsed his reflection in the window. A huge smile played across his face. “Okay, well I guess it’s been kind of fun talking with you too. Today has turned out all right.”

"Hang in there.” I beamed. “Everything happens for a reason!” I stood then and adjusted my hospital gown just to ensure that I wouldn’t moon the poor soul on my way out. “I better get back to my room. Fiddling really took it out of me."

We waved goodbye, and as I left, I’m proud to say the man seemed much happier than before. Maybe he really had enjoyed the conversation, or maybe it just looked hilarious watching me fumble around with my walker and my violin before a nurse rushed over to help me.

I haven’t seen that guy since 2020, but I’ve often wondered if he’s found peace and inspiration. I hope I changed his life as much as he blessed mine. After all, he solidified something within me that’s led to a miracle! Following that single conversation, I decided to FULLY share my cancer story: my hopes, my fears, my sadness, my joys…even my failures. And now, against all odds, a publisher has signed my cancer memoir. Who knew such an immense blessing could bloom from the soils of hardship. On that day in 2020, could that depressed man have known how much he’d unwittingly change my life?

Opportunity surrounds each and every one of us no matter what your circumstance or even diagnosis might be. Bravely CHOOSE to embrace life! Get out there, share some of yourself, and see what the future holds. God gave each of us something special to impart to the world; what's your talent? Now, imagine the lives you might STILL be able to positively impact! Isn’t that awesome?! If I can have cancer, and still be having such miracles happening for me, I can only imagine what you can do.

Cancer memoir slated publication: June 2022. More details to come!

Below: Me today and on that day in 2020. 💓

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Some BIG News!!!

I have cried a couple of times today. Who thought such a wonderful thing could come out of such a terrible situation. I’m just so happy right now. Silver lining.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022

They Changed My Life

I first met the Olesons over 5 years ago at a band audition in Blackfoot. I didn’t even live in the area, and I shook with nerves. The legendary band leader, Harry, had seen videos of me fiddling, and although I’d talked with him briefly, I’d never played with the band—or even met the members in it.

Regardless, I went and jammed at the Elks Lodge, having no idea what songs were expected or what the band members would think of me. Then, they played country music—when I’d been used to Metallica and Offspring! My fingers searched frantically for the right notes. I honestly thought I’d blow the audition, when a couple miraculously got up and danced. They were unforgettable really, bringing the music to life in such a tangible way. That’s when I relaxed, and my fiddle resounded with double-stops and harmonies. I knew then, I’d made it into the band, Rough Stock. Looking back, maybe it was God’s kind of foreshadowing. Who knew that exact couple would change my life forever?

“Who are they?” I asked a woman at another table.

“One of the most well-known couples in Blackfoot. Justin recently became a county prosecutor. Christie’s a nurse and really loved by everyone in town.”

“Huh,” I said. I didn’t know much about Blackfoot other than the Potato Museum. “They seem nice.” I was just grateful they’d unknowingly helped me join a band. 

Time passed and I loved every single fiddle gig all across Idaho and Utah, but that alone wouldn’t pay the bills. So, the next year I landed a job—in Blackfoot of all places—running a newspaper just a block from the Elks Lodge!

I met so many legends, and luckily people like the Olesons, the Rupes, the kind mayor (Marc Carroll), the Rotary group, American Legion members, people with the Historical Society, those with the senior centers (the list goes on and on)—and thousands of AMAZING readers!—helped by spreading good things about the paper and providing story tips! The Morning News had almost gone under right before I got there, but through everyone’s support, we somehow kept that small-town paper running with local news—even if I had to try new things that REALLY put me out of my comfort zone. 

One day, Justin’s awesome brother, Andrew, invited me to inoculate cows. “Could be a great story!” he said, and before I knew it, I headed to his dad’s place so we could “get ‘er done.” Christie artfully showed me how to give the shots while Justin branded the cows. I did pretty great, for a city girl, until I inoculated myself! (But…no one’s perfect.)

Months later, a large conglomerate broke my heart by buying the newspaper and only keeping one employee for the long haul. I honestly thought the biggest fight of my life had ended, but, if I’ve learned anything, it’s that life is uncertain.

Oncologists in Idaho diagnosed me with cancer. They’d found one tumor that had eaten an entire section of my vertebrae in my lower back. Christie urged me then, saying I should get a second opinion in Utah. And it’s a good thing I did because the melanoma team there discovered tumors all up my spine—and in my brain. Christie…well, she saved my life. 

I thought about all of this last week as Justin helped finalize my will. That could’ve been a sad, emotional thing, especially when you’re in my situation, but we smiled and joked. It wasn’t until Justin gave me a hefty discount that I really had to keep the tears at bay. I’d asked him to draft my will because I wanted to somehow pay him and Christie back, yet there he sat, being kind again.

Looking back, I wonder if the couple really even knew how much they’ve blessed my life from the little things—that first dance and inoculating cows—to the big things (lifesaving advice and drafting my will). Some people might never know what impact they’ve had…but I wanted the Olesons to know. 

From the girl who ran the paper for a time in Blackfoot, thank you for your kindness to me. It’s been unforgettable. Really. It’s people like you who’ve given me strength to continue on even when life has felt unbearably hard. You ARE amazing!

For parades in Blackfoot and Shelley, Idaho.

Rough Stock playing a gig in Forthall.


Tuesday, February 15, 2022

News ‘Wins’ and Bigger Battles

 "But now that I have cancer, everything has changed...."

I'm not a runner, but when my employer said it would be "good to network with other managers by running a marathon," I decided to train. This "training" consisted of hiking at least 6-9 miles every other day. That's how I fell in love with Gibson Jack's Slate Mountain Trail in Pocatello. It seemed like every time I went up there I'd see a deer, sage hen, or moose. The whole thing felt magical, like diving into another world--my own Narnia. 

I eventually didn't "run" a long-distance relay, but I speedwalked it--and luckily my teammates (some of my favorite people ever--Natalie and Gene) didn't mind. 

But now that I have cancer, everything has changed. 

I'm walking much straighter, and some people might not know that anything is wrong. But I can't stand for very long, and I definitely can't run or walk long distances. I'll slowly walk about a quarter of a mile before collapsing.... That means I might never make it 3 miles where moose love drinking water up Slate Mountain. It was the best place to bring my kids and clear my head. There's nothing like it. Nothing.

I know I shouldn't feel "sad" or even "bad" for myself; it's not healthy. But I am grieving the sudden loss of normalcy. I went from speedwalking Ragnar in my 30s to being "disabled" within two months.

"You need to take the pain medicine," my doctor told me during a virtual visit last week.

"The oxy, it makes me feel weird. And I'm embarrassed that I've had to take it." But the fact remains, in the past months I've had pain that is so unbearable it feels like the endpoints of labor where I've literally writhed in pain. I abhor pain medicine, but at one point in 2021, I had to start taking it...just to get out of bed, just to function, just to spend time with my family. The problem is that you can start on a low dose, but soon your body gets accustomed and you need more...and more.

"You have cancer!" my doctor said. "Elisa, give yourself a break. That's what this medicine is specifically for. For people like you who have cancer."

"I stopped taking it two weeks ago."

My doctor gaped on the tiny screen. 

"I've had extra chills and fevers," I admitted. "I think I've been going through withdrawals. I can't sleep. It's honestly been horrendous--especially on top of cancer."

"Just stopping can do that to you. You have to stop slowly."

"It's getting a little better. The first few days were hell though." I'd honestly been shocked. When you have stage four cancer--and you've been fighting for a year and a half--doctors tend to put you on a lot of medications. I'm on blood thinner because I've had some blood clots in my lungs; I also take medicine because cancer treatments killed my endocrine system. There are other pills since my liver failed and something else since a tumor ate some pretty important nerves in my spine. "I'm still on the essential stuff, but I cut out everything else."  

"The pain though. Now you're in pain AND experiencing withdrawals."

"At least my head is clear," I responded. "I have a choice: less pain and cloudiness or pain and clarity." I sighed because I've never understood how hard it could be taking medicine once you're in pain (whether physically [like I am] or emotionally). This makes my heart break for anyone else who's gone through this. It's terrible.

The virtual visit ended and I turned off my screen. 

"I'm so tired of this," I told Mike.

"Of cancer?"

I nodded. 

"Me too, sweetheart." He held me in his arms. "Me too."

So, it's a fight that I don't think my doctor fully understands from the view of a patient. I want things to be the way they were when I could hop outside and goof around by skateboarding with my son (like I did a month before my diagnosis), or by hiking for miles, or even just making it through the grocery store without feeling completely taxed. But, I have different "wins" and different battles now. Today I'm glad to only be taking my pain medicine once a day when the pain creeps in so much that I just can't take it. I'm proud after making it from Idaho to Utah for my treatments. I'm proud when I can play a full board game with my kids without saying I need to lie down on the couch "for a minute." Those things are like running a marathon for me now.


Sometimes just making it through the day--while keeping a smile on my face--that's the biggest thing I work for; so my kids can see that not even THIS will get us down.

Maybe I will make it up Slate Mountain again some day. We'll see. This time last year I could barely make it to my mailbox and now I'm walking a fourth of a mile. That's gotta count for something.

Monday, February 14, 2022

A Stranger’s Kindness

 “Tell me again, why are you working as a low-paid security guard?" my mom asked on the phone.

My dilapidated van creaked as I sped to work. It was nearly 11 p.m., and I didn't want to be late for my grave shift. "Something symbolic happened! Remember my dream about a bonsai tree? Well, when the manager offered me the job, she had a bonsai tree on her desk." 


Silence…. Then, "Elisa, you were offered a job paying twice as much downtown."


“THAT manager didn't have a bonsai tree on her desk."


We said our “I love you’s” and hung up after I got to work. As I sat there, I suddenly wondered over the strange events from the previous summer.


One week I'd been on TV, talking about my bestselling memoir, “The Golden Sky,” the next, a tragic event landed me and my children in a women's shelter. It was a nasty place really. I spent half a month there, sleeping on the floor while my kids slept on bunkbeds—and somehow my kids found the good in things...that was life-changing. 


The grave shift wasn't the best thing ever, except for the people. Folks kept coming up to the front desk where I sat "guarding." Employees simply couldn't believe I was the new guard: a twig with bright-red hair and lipstick. I looked anything but intimidating. 


It seemed monotonous, but I kept glancing at the camera, saving everyone's lives by visually patrolling the facility. That’s when I spotted a man in the breakroom. I remember because I noticed his smile. Who knew that a simple dream about a bonsai tree would change my life—and the lives of my children—forever?


To hear the audiobook “A Stranger’s Kindness,” based on how I fell in love with Mike Magagna, you can find that here:

“A Stranger’s Kindness.”

Courtney Parker is an AMAZING narrator, and I’m so fortunate that she took on this project! 🤗

P. S. For Valentine’s Day, Ruby tattooed a bonsai tree on Mike. 🥰 Honestly, it brings back so many amazing memories. I’m so grateful—I am the luckiest.

Monday, February 7, 2022

Living Under Constraints

Lately I've been thinking a lot about thriving in different situations. Whether it be health, unfulfilled dreams, or poor circumstances, sometimes we don’t feel like we’re living up to our potential. 

I'm a free spirit, and I like to do things in my time, my way, but I’ve definitely hit some foul balls. And, as much as I hate to admit it, looking back at “mistakes” and learning opportunities, I've seen beauty in the aftermath, through obedience and while living under constraints.

Let me explain….
When I first started playing the violin in elementary school, my bow arm would fly sporadically as I learned to fiddle and "Bile Them Cabbage Down." I thought I excelled until my teacher said I needed to start playing the violin in a corner—with both elbows against the wall where they couldn't be free!

Fiddling in a corner is…uncomfortable. I played like that for months, even when I practiced for hours each week at home. Slowly though, I learned to move my right arm fluidly, so the bow would stay on the "string highway." My left arm gained proper form too, and the violin's sound changed.

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

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

It seems that we all value individuality and unique endeavors; that's beautiful, but there's also something to be said for obedience and understanding the basics so we can build on foundational knowledge.

Maybe this sickness is a moment for me to focus on the small things so I can excel with complexities.

I can hardly wait for the day that I can look back and revel in what I’ve learned! In the meantime, I’m grateful that I can play my violin. Even on the worst days, that instrument somehow brings me joy.

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

Wednesday, February 2, 2022

It’s My Birthday

 It’s my birthday—yay! ☺️ Happy Groundhog Day! So, this is what 39 feels like; I’m a fan. 💓

I woke up today remembering my 34th birthday. I’d gone to get my taxes done, and after giving numerous papers to the accountant, I studied a photo on her wall.

    It's an intriguing picture of five people all lying on their backs in a grassy field. Each person is a different race, and the concept of “unity” seemed pretty clear.  But I couldn't quite grasp something else about the photo. Each and every person wore a pair of eyeglasses….

    "Wow, you really like that photo," the accountant said at one point as she continued clacking away on her keyboard.

    It was in that instant that I finally found what I’d been searching for. “It's amazing," I said. 

    "I like it, but I wouldn't say it's…’amazing.’” She raised a brow and studied me. 

    "I know this is a common concept, and there are a lot of photos out there like this, but I just realized what makes this one so different."

     "Oh?" she asked.

     "If you stop focusing on the obvious things: the people, their clothes, the grass they're lying on, and just focus on their glasses...."

     She came next to me and stared at the picture. "Their glasses, huh?  Well, they look like regular gla— Wait, I see it! The reflection!  I've never had anyone point that out before."

    The reflection shone faintly in each of their eyeglasses, but even those faint images were far more beatiful than the obvious picture itself.  Greying buildings, lanky trees, and a stormy sky showed itself in the reflections. As if every subject looked at a dry, dying world, ready to be refreshed by a storm....

    I almost wished momentarily that the photographer had rested in the grass as well, and taken a picture—not of the people, but up, seeing what had appeared above and around them.  Were the people the real subjects of this photo, or had the artist realized what the reflection told about their surroundings?

    "You're right, Elisa. That picture is amazing!"

    As I took my paperwork and got in my truck, I looked through the business window. The accountant sat down where I had been and she intently studied the photo.

    The whole drive home I kept thinking about the picture.... 

    It’s true that if we take the time to look at life through different perspectives, we'll discover truly amazing things.

Tuesday, February 1, 2022

The Dichotomy of Time

 “What was your most memorable birthday?” I asked some of my family members last week. I loved hearing their answers. Then, since my in-laws always make sure I feel loved—they asked me.

I paused because I’ve had the worst and the most amazing birthdays possible. Trust me, I’m not exaggerating….

Zeke was born in 2002 and died in January of 2003–in fact, his viewing fell on my 20th birthday in February. People who came to the viewing, told me “happy birthday” AND “sorry for your loss” all in the same d*mn sentence. I appreciated their kindness, but I just wanted my baby back. And after seeing his cold, stiff body in that casket, I swore I’d never like my birthday again.

When I got pregnant after Zeke died, I prayed God would give me a sign that I’d never have a baby die from birth defects again. That same day, I saw a double rainbow for the first time in my life. 

Yet, seven years after Zeke’s death (when I expected my last baby), I worried. Contractions started well before my due date…. Maybe I’d gotten stressed and sad on the anniversary of Zeke’s death. Despite the double rainbow and how much doctors told it would “be okay,” fear still crept in.

“I have to push,” I whispered to the nurse around 11:30 p.m.

“You’re not dilated that far, sweetheart,” she said.

But the terbutaline hadn’t worked, and my little girl actually SLID OUT onto the hospital bed! Luckily the (shocked) nurse caught her.

I’d always wanted to name a kid Indiana because of the famous “Dr. Jones.” And after my little girl’s brave entrance, no one argued. “Indiana” has been an adventure ever since.

A half hour after HER birth, we celebrated MY birthday on Groundhog Day. I’ll never forget that afternoon; tons of nurses crammed into my room. They carried cake from the hospital cafeteria. And as I held my gorgeous—healthy despite prematurity—girl, the medical staff sang happy birthday. 

After they left, I gazed down at my precious baby and pondered how diverse life can be. If I’d time-traveled to that exact moment seven years prior, I’d be at Zeke’s viewing… Yet, there I sat in the present, experiencing a miracle—one of THE BEST days of my life—as I cuddled my birthday gift from Heaven. It honestly felt like a parallel universe, but I realized it was just the dichotomy within time itself.

People ask me how I can handle cancer and my diagnosis so well…. It’s because life is cyclical. One day might be good while the next will hold challenges. Sometimes, no matter how bad it might be, you just have to stay hopeful and “wait it out.” I’m not scared of the cancer anymore. Not really. It will either take me or it won’t. God has a plan. I might as well have fun in the meantime!

So, I’m just grateful to still be here, enjoying life with the people I love. And today on little Indiana’s 12th birthday, I’m so grateful for her in particular. That little adventurer has brought unimaginable joy into my life!

Happy birthday, baby girl. We all love you so much! 💓

To another year filled with adventure,

Your Mama