Wednesday, April 19, 2023

Meeting Douglas Sayer of Premier Technology

 I’ve met some pretty legendary people in my lifetime: some who I knew would greatly impact my life and others who have changed the world. It’s incredible to meet both kinds of people, but there’s something truly extraordinary about seeing a world changer up close. They have this energy about them that instantly builds excitement and innovation. And even in a few moments, you can catch that “je ne sais quoi.” I remember feeling this when I met Stephen Covey and later stayed at his home while fiddling as a homeless street musician in Hawaii. And I felt that today while visiting with Douglas Sayer.

Many of you might recognize this name especially if you’re from Idaho. Doug started Premier Technology with his beautiful wife, Shelly, in 1996. Since then, it’s accomplished the unthinkable: streamlining processes that have helped industries across the globe, creating cutting-edge technology that truly improves the world, and finding solutions that were once unthinkable. Yes, this company boasts over $100 million in annual sales, but that’s not what impressed me most about Doug. What impressed me is his kindness.

Let’s back up a minute. In 2021, I cried at my computer. Months before, doctors had given me two years to live, and I found writing to be one of my best outlets. But sometimes, even writing can be devastatingly hard. And so, feeling even more sick than normal, I thought about quitting writing. “There’s no point,” I said under my breath. And I thought then, that if God really wanted me to share my story, He needed to give me a sign. If (and that seemed to be a BIG if) my writing benefited other people, I needed someone to say so … that day. To say: Keep Writing. Honestly, that’s all I needed, those two little words.

I posted a story and got several beautiful comments, mostly about people praying for me. And while these meant the world, they weren’t what I’d asked for. I turned solemn, thinking it had happened, my time to retire my pen. Then, just when I’d nearly given up hope, I received a comment from Douglas Sayer—thee Doug Sayer! And he, of all people, sent those two words I’d asked for hours earlier: “Keep Writing.”

You know, life is absolutely astounding. I never told Doug what his words did for me that day; I didn’t know how. Anyway, time passed and he continued commenting on some of my other posts. I told my son, Trey, about this one day. “That’s the kind of guy I want to work for,” he said.

“Huh.” I smiled. “I think they do tours.”

So, I reached out to Doug, and when I asked if they offer tours, he not only said “yes,” but he offered to show us around himself.

Trey and Indy got more excited than I’d seen them in a long time. Indy changed her outfit about three times, and Trey wrote down a few questions he’d ask if he got brave enough. We arrived today, and Trey looked at me with wonder. “I can’t believe he bought some books from you.”

“Right?” I said. “Trey,” I tried remaining calm, “the books he bought … I needed that exact amount of money for trips to Utah so I can get these new radiation treatments.” I swallowed the lump in my throat. “I just want you kids to remember how good God is.” We’re not religious, but we’ve sure seen miracles since I got sick. “God looks out for us. It’s astounding.”

After we went into the building, Trey and Indy pushed me in my wheelchair, and Doug gave us the most wonderful tour. I ended up asking some of Trey’s questions (since Trey got nervous), and then I threw in a couple of my own.

“I’m just full of questions.” I giggled. “You can tell I used to work for a newspaper. But I really wanted to ask … you said the most important thing you’ve found in business is to ‘look ahead’ so you can always stay above the competition. But what about life? With everything …” I paused. “With everything I’m going through, I’ve been thinking about the meaning of life, wondering, ‘What’s the point?’ So, what’s your best advice for life?”

He appeared thoughtful. “I guess my advice would be the same: look ahead. I always compare it to throwing a football. You know that at some point the football and the shadow will meet. I’m like the shadow, trying to keep up.” And as he spoke, I nodded, thinking how ironic it felt that this advice fully embodied what he’d done for me with the words “keep writing” years ago. He shared that at a time when I felt like no longer making goals or achieving them. Sometimes it’s so easy to give up and give in when you’re told you’re dying from cancer or you have another brain tumor. But his sage words both in 2021 and today, hit home.

On the ride back to Pocatello, Trey tapped the steering wheel. “I told you he’s the kind of guy I’d want to work for.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“You can just tell the kind of person he is, how he took time with us, to make sure we all felt important. It means a lot with everything we’re going through.’

“That whole thing was amazing,” Indy said.

Trey nodded. “I’ll never forget what he said about looking ahead. I know it’s important to plan, but something about his words—I’ll never forget it.”

“That’s because you just met a world changer,” I said, and I didn’t even have to explain further.

“I guess so.” And that was the end of the conversation.

After we got home, I couldn’t help feeling so happy and warm in my heart. “You ready for the next round of treatments?” my nurse called to give me the appointment schedule.

“Yes, I am. I gotta keep looking ahead and moving forward.” I smiled, unable to help myself. “I learned that today, from a new friend.” 

Monday, April 17, 2023

Reuniting With a Stranger from Across the World

 I waited with Indy in Naples, Italy—and I’d just asked a stranger to play music with me. (If you’d like to read the beginning of this story, here are those links.

Part 1: The Protagonist in Our Own Stories

Part 2: When We Met Jin

Months after our jam session in Europe, Jin surprised us by explaining that he’d made a trip to America! “I’m in Nashville right now,” he wrote. “I hope I can make it and see you and your family in March to get a tattoo from Ruby. I’ll try. In any case, thank you—and God—that we were gifted such a moment in Italy. That moment still pushes me forward to this day.”

Surprisingly, I didn’t doubt his words for a second, and less than a month later, several members of our family waited to pick Jin up near a bus stop. “I see him!” Indy squealed, and then we all spotted Jin.

We talked so fast, excited to see him. And when we brought him to soak in some hot pots, he peered around thoughtfully. “It’s surreal to think just a few months ago, we all met on the other side of the world.”

“This journey with cancer has been hard on all of us,” I whispered, pointing to the kids. “You gave us something so wonderful to look forward to. Thank you for coming to see us.”

I honestly believe each member of our family needed to meet Jin for a reason. He may be young, but he’s wise beyond his years and shows such generosity of spirit. During his visit, we all made memories that we’d never forget. He helped Trey with his guitar, got a tattoo from Ruby, played card games with Indy, hiked with Sky, and went out to some bars with Mike.

What I loved the most, though, was hearing his stories. Jin has traveled around the world going anywhere from Greece to Iceland to Idaho to Japan. Honestly, I’ll never know what inspired him to go so far out of his way, just to see us, but I think it might’ve been providence.

Many of you know I’ve been studying the etymology of different words. That being said, I’m very intentional about what I write in cards, and I felt almost compelled to say in our family card to Jin, “You are unforgettable.”

Jin looked up at me after reading the words and appeared quite overcome with emotion. I’m sure part of this is because I’m so sick, and he knows how hard cancer has been on our family, but I also knew he’d become such a dear friend to all of us.

“It’s interesting you would write the word ‘unforgettable,” he said. “The root of that word means ‘truth.’ And as I’ve traveled across the world, that’s what I’ve been looking for—and finding: my own truth.”

This resonated with me even more than any of the music we’d played while he stayed with us in Idaho. I thought then about my journey with cancer and how hard I’ve tried to persevere and remain positive despite each setback. Over a year ago, I pulled out my old bucket list and decided to remember things I’d checked off and then cross off whatever I hadn’t done: one of those things had been to visit Italy.

At the end of it all, after I’d checked off so many crazy things like going skydiving with the family, getting Aunt Jackie’s recipe for spaghetti, jamming in a New York Subway, or even visiting Pompeii, I realized what really makes life matter isn’t life experiences. It’s experiencing life with the people we love.

We each gave Jin a hug and stated the very best of wishes. And when he walked out our door, I felt like we’d met someone who had somehow changed our lives forever. It’s true that life can sometimes feel unbearably hard, but it’s also beautiful and miraculous. Who knew that a stranger we met at a train station in Italy would become such a dear family friend.


Sunday, April 16, 2023

When We Met Jin

 I’d intended to write this a couple of days ago, by the news about the tumor really shook me up. I have things in perspective now, and I’m doing okay—it just took me a minute. So, where were we? 

I’d asked a stranger to jam with me in Italy. You can find that post here: ITALIAN JAM SESSION

“I’ll play a song I just wrote,” Jin said, in English so good that he hardly has an accent. Then he began playing, and the song completely overtook everyone around. 

Music really is the universal language. I swear that when I play with someone, time stops and I see the other musician for who they truly are.

The second I fiddle along with a guitar or piano, I’m in another world—a world void of all finite distractions where musicians’ souls simply sit across from one another. I can learn anything about them. But it’s not about life experiences; it’s about character. 

Some musicians have been surprised after we’ve played because I suddenly know so much about them. Maybe this should be expected since I study how they transition into the choruses, handle the pacing and rhythm, cradle the instrument in their adept hands, and share (or steal) each solo… You can learn so much by the way a person jams.

After the song ended, I told Jin that if he ever wanted to visit Idaho or Yellowstone, he should come and see us.

“I will,” he said. “But just know that when I make a promise, I keep it.”

My family and I exchanged contact information with Jin, but it wasn’t until a couple of weeks later that we talked with him. 

“I posted the video of us jamming in Naples,” I wrote.

“Such an adventure,” he responded. “Then the following message popped up. “I came to Auschwitz. It’s my last day here…and I just finished my visit to the camps.” I felt the devastation in his words. “The pain and sorrow overwhelmed me. And as soon as I opened Instagram to rest my mind, I found your post! It reminded me of the good in humanity and the power and the love each of us can exude—as you and your family did that day. Thank you.”

“I can’t even imagine how I would feel seeing Auschwitz…” I replied, then I wanted him to know how grateful we were to meet him. “Our entire family is so impressed with you. You made our trip to Europe exceptional.”

A couple of months later, Jin surprised me, Ruby, and Sky, by explaining that he’d made a trip to America! “I’m in Nashville right now,” he wrote. “I hope I can make it and see you and your family in March to get a tattoo from Ruby. I’ll try. In any case, thank you—and God—that we were gifted such a moment in Italy. That moment still pushes me forward to this day.”

I didn’t know the logistics, but I didn’t doubt his words for a second. Just as I’d sensed his excellent character when we jammed in Naples, I somehow knew he’d come and see us.

Tomorrow, I’ll write about what happened next!

Read the rest of that story here: 

Reuniting With a Stranger from Across the World

Friday, April 14, 2023

Another Tumor—Why Melanoma in the Bones Sucks

 They found another tumor. This time hit me very hard. I’d begun to hope that maybe I’d outlive this despite them saying it will kill me someday. And now, here’s this reminder.

I’ve been battling cancer and anger lately. I find myself getting upset with little comments like “but you don’t look sick” or ”we’re all terminal.” I know people mean well, but sometimes these particular words feel paltry, like they diminish and invalidate how hard I’m trying to fight. I know I’m not really upset with people (they truly are trying to help). And I don’t look sick until someone sees me walk. In fact, now that my hair has grown back, I look normal. And the “we’re all terminal comment”: I’ve heard this almost every day for the past month. Yes, we are all dying. But most people aren’t buckled into a front-row seat of debilitating bone pain, constant nausea, the unavoidable fact that their life will be cut way too short—and the rest of it will be a battle JUST TO STAY ALIVE. Saying “we’re all terminal” invalidates what terminal patients like me are actually experiencing. 

But I’m not really upset with people. I’m focusing on that because the other issues are simply too hard to face… like how I’m tired of this horrendous disease. I’m tired of waking up with godforsaken headaches, a throbbing neck, a back that feels riddled with infection. I’m tired of how hard it can be to walk short distances. How a hot bath is the only thing that eases the pain on some days. And I’m exhausted from moments like this when I feel like I’m not strong enough—like I’m a burden to everyone I know because something about me is causing them pain. Something. So. Out. Of my control.

Of course, these feelings pass. I pull on my big-girl panties and “buck up.” So, today I can be glad because I went and spent $30 whole dollars at Victoria Secret (this is a fortune in my eyes). AND, Mike didn’t even say anything about this—or the fancy mocha I boasted when I got home—since he felt so bad about the new tumor. “Hey, honey, I went on a shopping spree, BUT I have a new tumor.” *Crying my eyes out.* Cancer does help you get away with sh*t.

I can be grateful for the dear friend who let me stay at her house (I’ll have to post more about her later). Thank, God, for my friends and mother-in-law who’ve let me stay at their homes this last year as things have seemed even more exhausting. 

I’m grateful for the lessons I’m learning. But I think I’d like to unenroll from this class 🤣😒

And I’m grateful that I got new shocking underwear to show-off during radiation—the same session I said I’d never be strong enough to do again. (If I have to do radiation, at least I can shock the hell out of the techs! That’s all I have now, the motivation to make waves.) 

I’m still trying to get things in perspective so I can fight some more and move on. Let’s do this! 🤣😭🤷‍♀️

I. Am. The. Luckiest? Yep. Yep, I am.

Tuesday, April 11, 2023

The Protagonist in Our Own Stories

 A miracle of sorts has happened. Unfortunately, it’s not with my health, but it IS regarding something even better: my inner growth. I really want to do this story justice, so let me bring you back to a couple of memories …

I gaped at the hundreds of papers on my workdesk and grabbed a strong cup of coffee. My kids had just gone to bed, and I finally got a chance to read the query letters I’d set aside—300 in total. 

“This is unreal,” I whispered to myself. We’d just opened the press for nonfiction submissions, and the amount we’d received felt unmanageable. Yet, that night as I read through various pitches, something beautiful happened. I learned about one woman’s journey to fame as she grew into a successful songwriter. I awed over a man who’d traveled across the entire world and seen God in everything. I cried for a mother who’d been abused but somehow found the bravery to get away. And with each query, I became deeply conscious of how astoundingly different life can be for each of us. One person detailed their story of resilience while another clung to pain, and on and on the stories went until the night had passed, and I’d made it through the pile of paperwork and several cups of coffee.

This happened over ten years ago, but the power of the moment is timeless. No matter where I am, I’ll ponder the fact that we’re each the protagonist in our own plays. When I say hello to someone in the elevator or watch people at the airport, I’m wondering what their “adventure” is and what brand of “memoir” they’re creating for God. Are they living in a romance? A mystery? Which moments are so powerful, they’d be used as a medium to craft a book? These thoughts are so prevalent in my life, that they even followed me to Italy.

Our family of six waited for the train in Naples. “It’ll be hours,” I said. “I’ll wait by the luggage. Why don’t you and the kids go get some food.”

“We can’t leave you,” Mike said.

“I have my wheelchair,” I said, patting it endearingly. “And I can read my book.”

“And she has me too,” Indy said, refusing to leave my side.

After Mike, Ruby, Sky, and Trey left, I told Indy about my experience with the query letters. I just wonder what each one of these people would want written about their lives.” I motioned to various people who passed us in the train station. 

Indy’s eyes lit with curiosity. “It’s such an exciting thing to think about.” Then she paused for a moment. “Mama, if this were a moment in a book, what would you want to happen?”

“Well, I’d have the most amazing conversation with you—which we ARE having—and then I’d pull out my violin and get to jam with a stranger.”

She laughed. “That’s one of the reason you wanted to visit Italy, isn’t it? Like how you played in the New York subway?”

I smiled. “Yeah. That’s actually something on my bucketlist: jam with a stranger in Italy. But, so far it hasn’t happened, and our trip is getting closer to being over.”

Indy knelt down and started taking out my violin. “We don’t have anything else to do. Why not try?” She handed me my bow and seemed hopeful. That kid has such a spirit of adventure. It reminds me of when I was young, so I took her advice and started playing. Soon a small crowd formed around us, and Indy pulled out her phone, beaming as she snapped a few pictures. 

I caught movement to my right and turned just in time to see a tall man with blonde hair. He wore a guitar, slung over his back, and put something in my case. 

“Oh, no. I can’t take that,” I said because he’d tried to give us several euros. “Can you jam with me instead?”

“Jam?” he asked.

“Play.” I made a strumming motion. 

At this point, another man with a guitar stood by the first. His dark hair perfectly accentuated his eyes as he began to interpret. “Patrick, she wants you to play with her,” he said.

I looked at both of them. “It would mean so much to me,” I said. “I…I have terminal cancer, and it’s on my bucket list to jam with a stranger in Italy. Would one of you mind playing a song with me? It would mean the world to me.”

The blonde-haired man looked stunned by my confession, and as he wiped something from his eyes, he turned to his dark-haired friend. “I can’t play. Will you?”

“Well…” He looked at me and my family who had come back at that moment. “Yes! I will.” He held out his hand. “My name in Jin.”

I’m still stunned by where this story goes because it is absolutely amazing. Life is such a miracle, and this is a wonderful reminder that although I’ve been given an expiration date, I’m still making the most incredible memories with my family. I’ll share more of this story later this week.

Read more of this story here: When We Met Jin