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Gold Fever!

Gold Fever struck on Saturday, February 20th of 2010. Suddenly we were thrust back to 1849 and the Gold Rush of the early California Settlers. The dog with us was no longer a companion, but a guard and a hunter, there to watch over us. The intricate Native American scroll work on the rocks we scrambled over were no longer hundreds of years old, but made just yesterday. My jeans and sneakers became a calico dress and work boots as I traversed through the woods just off the trail. The rock formations that had fallen long ago and retained their original squared shape were no longer ruins, but a standing cabin, waiting to be explored. I had stepped slowly off the path and back in time.

When I was only a child, my Uncle Mike taught me how to go Gold Panning. I will never forget that day. We went into the mountains of Toole (pronounced Tu-ill-a) in Utah, about an hour or so from where my Mom and Dad lived. It was near a copper mine, and a small stream ran down the mountainside by the road way. We found a good spot to pull off and my Uncle pulled out his gold panning supplies. I remember the smell of mud under my feet, the gravel crunching as I made my way down the path to the stream. We found a good spot to dig into the water and started putting small amounts of the silt into the gold panning bowl. He taught me how to swirl it around, looking for the tiny flecks. Nothing turned up for the longest time. Just about the moment we had decided to pick up and move to another spot, something caught my eye. There in the aluminum bowl, among the ridges and dirt, sat a shiny flake. It sat atop the dirt in the bottom, just below the surface of the water. I called to my Uncle, who came over expecting it to be a false alarm, like we had been coming across that day.

Much to my surprise, my Uncle practically jumped for joy. I had found gold, the real deal. He picked up the tiny flake with a pair of tweezers, filled a small glass vile with some of the creek water, and carefully let the gold piece go into the water. I watched as it swirled around in front of my eyes.

We took a break for lunch, which was my first experience with M.R.E.'s. They weren't as bad as I had been lead to believe, but they weren't that great either. My favorite was the crunchy freeze dried ice cream. Uncle Mike explained that it was Astronaut Food. My cousin Michael seemed to be used to the "astronaut food" since they often went camping and gold panning together.

After our meager meal, we went back to panning. Strangers walked past, curious as to what it was we were hunting for, none willing to ask. After a while, it was obvious that we weren't going to find anymore in that spot, so we cleaned up the gear and put it all away. Uncle Mike locked up the car and we decided to see if we could find the location the gold might have washed down from. That was when I learned about Sluice Trails.

As we hiked our way up a winding road that went towards the top of the nearest mountain, Uncle Mike pointed out the trails of rocks and debris that looked very much like a land slide that had nowhere to fall from. He explained to me that they were sluice trails, the rubble dug out of the mines and dumped down the hill when it was proclaimed that they had no value as a raw ore. They left pyramid shapes down the face of the mountain, looking like loose piles that rolled as far as the terrain would allow. At the top, almost always, was a mine that had been closed up long ago due to safety concerns.

The fence we came to didn't even slow us down. My uncle had been a smoker for many, many years. He huffed and puffed his way up behind Michael and myself, feeling the full weight of the altitude and humidity in his lungs. Finally we reached a clearing at the top of the mountain, where it opened out to the crest of the mountain. All around we could see wilderness, and off between two of the mountains on our west, Salt Lake City loomed in the distance. What brought us all to our full height and made the blood start pumping through our veins with the force of adrenaline was the timber lined entrance to an old Gold Mine.

Uncle Mike instantly forgot about the elevation and started to breath heavily, this time from excitement. He stood tall at six feet and almost 4 inches, and the mine was considerably smaller than that. He pulled a Mini-Mag from his back pocket and instructed us kids to wait where we were. This mine had not been closed like 90% of all others he had seen. Michael and I sat on the grass and waited. When Uncle Mike ducked his head and started to walk with bended knees with that tiny flash light in front of him, I asked Michael why we couldn't go in.

"Dad said that we should never go into something like that because there could be bears or wild cats inside. He said it could be easy to get lost in there too," he explained. My uncle was always a dare devil, but that didn't stop me from worrying about him. Those were possibilities I hadn't even thought of before that moment. On pins and needles I watched as the light in the back of the cave faded in the darkness, finally disappearing around a turn to the right. Uncle Mike was nowhere to be seen.

A good ten minutes passed and I started to get nervous. Finally that familiar weak beam of light from the Mini Mag became visible again and Uncle Mike emerged from the man made cave. He stood to his full height for a moment, stretching his back, leaning to and fro, getting things back where they needed to be. He didn't say anything for a long time. Finally, he turned off the flash light and put it back into his pocket.

"It was an old mine, but there's nothing left. Looks like nobodys been in there for years." He almost looked relieved. "I didn't go too far in. There were too many branches going off. Didn't want to get lost." Something inside told me that he had, indeed, gotten lost and that the relieved look on his face was due to the fact he was back in the sunlight once more. "Pitch black in there," he mumbled to himself. "Pitch, tar black."

As I stood just off of the trail looking at the base of what had once been a cabin in the woods while patting Muggsy the dog on the head, I talked with Sarah about which way we should go next. For some reason the image of my Uncle stretching out his back came to me. Like he did that day, I put one hand on my hip and leaned way over, cracking the bones on the right of my back in place before repeating that on the other side.

Sarah and I decided that we would follow Lou back towards the established trail. We walked past a tree with the exposed roots, I snapped a picture of the green glade with bare trees while Muggsy paused to sniff the air, and we stumbled upon a small section of the dry river bed where rocks sat under a felled tree at a cliff. We would have to walk the length of the tree to make it up the cliff, or walk the long way around. Always up for an adventure, we decided to try the climb. Muggsy ran ahead of us, bounded up the tree and leaped onto the grassy edge just beyond. He sat there panting, looking at us and wondering what was taking us so long.

I climbed down the edge towards the rocks in order to begin my climb and lost my footing. I feel on my hands and knees into the mud and silt at the base of one of the rocks on the down stream side. When I picked myself up to wipe the mud off of my hands, I froze. My hands glistened and shined like I had thrust them into a pile of glitter.

I gasped. Sarah thought I had hurt myself and rushed over to help. Muggsy ran down the tree and bounded towards me. Instantly I shot my hands up into the air to stop them both from treading on what I had found. There in the dirt before me, bright as the sun, tiny flecks of yellow stared up at my face.

I yelled loud enough for Lou to hear, and his head appeared over the cliff. As he looked down from the top, the disbelief was apparent on his face. Sarah, however, squealed with delight. We looked for a long time for a piece big enough to carry out with us, but I knew that there was no way we were going to find an actual nugget. It didn't stop me from looking though. Long moments passed where I rubbed the gold flakes into my hand, watching the soft metal blend with my skin.

"Come on, it's just Fools Gold" Lou said from above.

"Iron Pyrite is a hard stone, Lou. This is soft, malleable. There's no way this is fake. This is the real deal!" Excited, I continued to stare at the surface of the ground near my hand print for a long time. Finally, after a failed attempt to find something in which to store the precious substance, we gave up. We mentally marked the spot and reluctantly climbed to the tree. As we reached the end of the tree and started to scramble up the cliff side, Sarah turned to me.

"Look at this," she almost whispered, her eyes glowing as brightly as the gold we had discovered. She had set her hand into the dirt on the short cliff in order to find purchase and saw the entire hillside sparkling in among the dirt. She held up her hand to me to show that her hand now resembled mine, shining in the sun light with tiny golden flecks.

Sarah gouged out a hand hold in the hillside and balled up what she had removed into a large, smooth, round lump of earth. She tossed this up to Lou, who reluctantly caught it as gingerly as a little girl would grab a hold of a worm she had been asked to hold. The mud kept it's shape and we climbed the rest of the way up the hill.

Sarah was a trooper that day. She carried her mud ball prize all the way out of the mountain, a good two miles from where we had found it. Right now that mud ball rests inside a sandwich bag at my home, just waiting for me to "pan" the gold out of the earth and take it to a jeweler. I have no doubt in my mind that what we found that day was indeed gold. Separated and saved properly, that small lump of earth might be just enough to make a very nice necklace pendant in the shape of an "S" just for her, and that's just what I plan to do with it.

Yes, there is still gold in the California Mountains, if you're lucky enough to stumble across it.

Little Love

Late last night I had a dream
That you were laying next to me
And in that dream I touched your face
While you curled up in my embrace.

You touched your lips upon my brow
And made me feel ok somehow.
You always have been there for me,
Even in my dreams, I see.

You loved me with no boundaries
Always uncondtionally.
Never have I loved so much
And now my Love, I miss your touch.

I miss your tongue and furry face
Your perky ears and prancing pace.
Your loving heart and listening ear,
I'll always love you, my little Dear.

Guitar Girl - The Story of Terry Ray Day

It had been such a long day. The drive home had made it seem even longer, winding my way through traffic for more than an hour. I pulled my car up to the house and gathered my things to climb out. My quickly wilting hand picked rose was in one hand, my keys, phone, purse, and little blue pine tree berries in another.

About the time I closed my car door with my hip, the sound reached me. I closed my eyes and listened as I heard someone up the street play the guitar with a gentle touch to a soft melody. Somewhere in the distance, a kid called for his mom to read him a bedtime story. The birds sang the day away. People went inside turning out their porch lights as they went. The man and the music played on in the most beautiful melody I’ve heard in such a painfully long time. It’s amazing, all the memories that can come from just a simple sound.

Daddy learned to play the guitar while I lived in Arkansas as a kid. I use to play with his guitar if ever he left it where I could reach it. I remember him playing "Home on the Range" so sweetly. I don’t think I really paid attention to the sounds of a guitar before he played for me. Ever since then, the sound has always brought back memories of my childhood, of my father playing guitar for his children.

A friend in Arkansas named Jeff tried to teach me to play guitar. Stevie RayVaughn blasted through my speakers for the first time when my roommate gave me a CD of his. I was dancing to the Guitar solo in "Freebird" by Lynard Skynard with Eric in Arkansas shortly after meeting my dear lifelong friend Robert. Another friend, Terry, played for me the first time I went to his house. The Guitar is a powerful instrument. It can take you back in time in mere seconds, transporting you to a world that no longer exists but in memories.

Terry – what an interesting character he was. Terry Ray Day was his name. When I first met Terry, he was the very most popular guy in school. He had one particular spot in the hallway where he always sat with his friends. He had long, rebellious red hair and vivid green eyes. When he stood up, he towered over me at about six foot four inches, and was still only in the 11th grade. Everyone in school knew who Terry was.

Even back in High School I loved to walk a lot. There wasn’t a while lot other than art that could keep me in my seat. At lunch I would roam the halls, usually alone since I didn’t have many friends. One day I wandered into Terry’s neighborhood. I felt really self-concious as I walked in front this popular guy and all of his friends. I felt the eyes of his friends looking me over and judging me, as was usual for me in those days. I was a social outcast in most circles, and this one wasn’t an exception. Some of them would laugh and joke to themselves and eachother.

"Hey look, it’s Nerd Girl."

"Shut up," Terry spoke over them. Shocked, I looked straight down at my feet, awaiting the verbal assault that was sure to follow, aimed at me. He was the coolest kid in school – surely he would want to out do the guys who worshiped him. I walked faster.

"Dude, she’s a nerd. We all call her Nerd Girl in Chemistry."

"Shut up," Terry repeated. "What’s your name," he asked me.

"Amanda," I replied without looking up.

"Well, Amanda, why don’t you come over here and sit with us a while. You know, kinda prove these idiots wrong," he thumbed at his posse of assorted jackasses. A few of them looked like they really didn’t like the idea of Nerd Girl sitting there, while others looked like vultures about to swoop in for the finish. All Terry had to do was give the guys an odd look, and they wiped the looks off their faces and cleared a spot for me to sit next to Terry.

I wound my way through the small crowd and had a seat, turning brighter red as I went. I didn’t know what I thought I was doing – the most unpopular girl in school was sitting with the very most popular guy? There were certain protocols that were to be followed. I was ignoring all of them. It was well known that Terry didn’t have a girlfriend, and hand’t had one in over a year. When asked why, he just responded that he hand’t found a girl that could hold his interest for long enough.

Terry began asking me questions. At first I was very quiet with my answers, terrified of what the general reaction of the crowd around us would be. I felt like I was being interrogated at first. Slowly I came to realize he was genuinely interested, and finally, I forgot the crowd completely.

"Where are you from?"
"Everywhere," I blushed.
"Where were you born?"
"Germany," I blushed harder.
"You’re German?"
"No," I hung my head.
"No? Why were you born there?"
"My Dad was in the military."
"Really? Cool! Where all have you lived then?"

As I rattled off the places I had been, the crowd faded out of my mind, though to them I was suddenly the center of attention. Terry asked me what each place was like, since most of the group had never been out side of the Utah borders. Everyone leaned in close when I started talking about California. Pretty soon everyone was asking me questions, and I was no longer Nerd Girl to them. Suddenly I was almost cool.

"Was it hot?"
"Did it ever snow?"
"How long were you there?"
"Ever go to Hollywood?"
"What’s L.A. like?"
"Have you been to Disney Land?"
"Ever seen any famous people?"
"Were you ever on T.V?"

The bell suddenly rang and we all went our separate ways to class, but a new aire surrounded me in the halls at school the rest of the day. People whispered, but didn’t giggle anymore. Something had happened.

"That’s the girl Terry Day wanted to sit with him," I overheard once and smiled to myself. "She lived in California," I heard another say. "I bet she knows a movie star."

"Amanda," Terry called out when he saw me the next day, "we saved you a spot." Sure enough, he didn’t have to give any funny looks. Everyone cleared a path to a spot right next to Terry, who had saved it specifically hoping I would show up. I waded through the crowd, for once being able to smile at the faces there, that welcoming sea of their anticipation smiling back. After all, I still had questions to answer. Mom taught me that making people wait was rude.

I went back to the group every day at lunchtime for a long time after that. People didn’t laugh at me in the halls anymore, I didn’t get spit balls in my hair in class anymore. I even started to care about my clothes and the style of my hair a bit more too. After a few weeks, Terry reached out and held my hand one day. A few glances were all we got. That day Terry walked me to class and kissed me before I went in. There was another shift in whispers, and people didn’t mind sitting next to me, or even having to work with me on projects after that.

One day, Terry invited me to his house after school. He was the first really genuine person I had known for some time, and I trusted Terry. It was not misplaced. That afternoon, after sitting on his porch swing and eating ice creams while staring down the view at Riverdale’s main road, he pulled out his guitar and played a while.

Terry played what was popular at the time; a Metalica song, Megadeath, ACDC, and others. He completely surprised me when he began playing a Classical piece I knew. It was beautiful! He played one after another, some I had never heard before. I loved it! It suddenly dawned on me… long hair, rebellious look, and classical music? He was once an outcast, just like me.

It wasn’t too much longer after that the world and life forced us into opposite directions, but Terry Ray Day made a lasting impact on my life with words and music that I’m certainly not soon to forget. I stood outside that night, listening to the guitar with my eyes closed, hearing Terry’s heart tell me that someone out there understood me. After such a horrible week, after feeling like I would never be OK again, I was miraculously reminded by the wilting rose, the four pine berries, and anonymous guitar music, that I wasn’t alone after all.

That was the last night I ever walked back through the door of that home I hated to the people I couldn’t stand.

I broke free the next day... but that's another story all together.

My Time Machine

"I jumped into my time machine and suddenly…"

That was one of the sentences Mr. Lee wrote up on the chalkboard one day. Our job was to finish the sentence and accompany it with three paragraphs. Mine ended up being more than six pages long that day. Most of my classmates were struggling to come up with more than a paragraph, but I couldn’t seem to find the right ending to my story. It grew and grew! When the time was up, Mr. Lee asked for all of the work to be turned in.

“What if it’s not done yet,” I asked him, holding up my five pages proudly.

“How much more are you going to write?”

“I don’t know, but it’s not done yet.”

“Let me see,” he said, holding out his hand. I gave him my pages and stood proudly, the nerd that I was, before my class. “This will do for now, and if you want to write more once I give it back to you, that’s fine.”

When I finally gave my story back, Mr. Lee had written on the front in red ink, normally a bad sign. I guess that was the only color he had that day.

“When you are finished, please turn it in again. I would like to read what happens. A+”

I glowed. He had liked my writing! That was the first real encouragement I had ever gotten for my writing. Even now, I post blog after blog, and it’s often several days or weeks before someone comments on my writing. No criticism, no remarks, no praise, no words. I get a few kudos here and there, and I appreciate it, but it’s the original praise that keeps me writing. Mr. Lee liked my writing, so it had to be worth something.

When finally I finished that story and was ready for a new chapter, I turned in the twenty-five pages. He began reading them right away! When he turned those back in, he wanted to know what happened to the Dinosaur and the Neanderthal. I told him as soon as I got done with the next chapter, I would turn that one in too.

I read through my own story, as I often do with my own work, after he gave it back to me. He had little red marks here and there indicating paragraphs, spelling and grammar mistakes I had made, as any true teacher would. He even gave me extra credit. At the end of the story, he wrote a special note just for me on the last page.

“You have a great talent. Keep it up and you will be famous.”

Ever since then I wanted to be a writer.

Mr. Lee may have been the first person to really encourage me to write - but all of you reading these words right now (yes, you too) are the ones who keep the dream alive.

Dirty Magazines

My brother and I had a babysitter somewhere around the time I was about 5 or so. She was a rather portly Hispanic woman. My brother and I loved her at first. She used to take us out for ice cream, read to us, and color in my coloring books with me. We always had such fun.
Eventually, she showed her true side though. She started telling my brother she was going to tell our daddy on us if we didn’t listen to her. My brother and I really didn’t care about that, or at least I didn’t. I loved my daddy. I adored and idolized him. There was no greater being on the face of the earth than my daddy when I was 5 years old. I couldn’t understand why my brother always acted so scared when she would use these silly threats on us. It wasn’t until years later my mother told me why. Now that I look back on it, it makes a lot more sense.

I loved my brother. He was my best friend. When he started acting scared of this woman, I started feeling a bit odd toward her, too. If my brother were scared of her, I most certainly would be. I drew my strength from him. I looked up to him. It escaladed to the point where he and I would hide in his closet when we were at home. I was more terrified of this woman than I was of being in a dark closet. We didn’t want her finding us.

I think eventually she was able to find us in his closet, and we had to find another hiding place. For a while we chose the old car trailer my dad had in the back yard. We would climb under the middle of it and huddle together in the fall, freezing cold, but refusing to come out until we knew either Mom or Dad had come home. My brother would often hold his arm over me to keep me from shivering so hard my teeth knocked together.

This woman used to take my brother and I in her station wagon every time she had somewhere to go. I don’t remember anything about where we went, but most of the time we had to stay in the car while she went in somewhere. While she was gone inside one day, my brother and I decided it was our business to be nosy. It didn’t take us long to find the Play Girl magazines on the seat behind us, laying in a pile on the top of a cardboard box.

I will never forget the face the woman made when she realized what it was my brother was looking at in the back seat of her car. It took her until we were almost home to realize what he held in his hand, snickering at behind her seat. Suddenly the car swerved violently, scaring both of us kids more than I care to admit, and the tires screeched to a halt. This big, angry Mexican woman spun around in her seat, ripped the magazine out of my brothers’ hand and smacked him over the head with it.

If my memory serves me right, she then called my brother a pervert. In my mind, that doesn’t make much sense. She was the one with two kids under double digits in her care, toting porn magazines around in the open space of a back seat, inches from the children. I remember her screaming and yelling at us all the way home, though I don’t remember a word she said. I think most of it was in Spanish.

My mother fired that woman not long after that, but I don’t remember ever knowing exactly why.

A Day in T. J.

As my wrist gets progressively worse, my typing skills are slowing being flushed down that proverbial drain. I've been trying to come by every day and leave something for you guys to read, but I hope you understand that it's been rather painful. Still, I know if I don't write something every day, I'll have a lot of catching up to do soon.

This morning I was reminded of a trip to Tijuana we took when I was a kid. My Dad's mother had come to visit us. I never really had a chance to get to know her, and looking back on that I find it to be a real shame. She was the one involved in the Kidnap story. By that point there was such a wall between us that I wonder if it ever struck her what she had done that day. She visited so seldom and we visited her even less often than that. I think there was a sort of wall between my father and his family. In that respect, I'm more like him than I realize. Anyway, Grandma Iva was the Grandma we didn't talk about since we didn't know her.

I have one fond memory of her though... and I'd like to share that.
Uncle Roger, this one's for you.

Grandma Iva came to visit when I was about 10 or so. We were living in Victorville California at the time and it had been countless years since we had seen her. For one of the days that summer, we decided to take a trip down to Tijuana Mexico for a mini-adventure. I'll never forget when we neared the border. The aroma in the air changed significantly. It altered to a blended smell somewhere between laundry detergent, bodily filth and rotten fruit. It was an odd mixture with that hint of lemony freshness thrown in there somewhere.

People everywhere were selling things. Kids sat along the sidewalks peddling little trinkets and dolls. Women would sit on colorful blankets surrounded by paper mache roses they sold for one American dollar. A man walked past in the busy streets with brown sandals hanging from a tall stick he carried. Pinatas were hanging from every store window and the world of Tijuana was full of color in so many forms.

My mother never learned any foreign languages, but when I was a kid and we lived in Maryland our neighbor tried to teach her a little Spanish. The only thing she ever remembered was how to say "I want a beer" in Spanish, which is incredibly ironic, since she didn't even like beer. Still, eager to try out her one phrase, she went to a Cantina and used her one line. When they asked her which kind of beer she wanted in Spanish, she sputtered and spat, not having the slightest idea of what they had just said to her. Finally, in plain English, the Cantina man asked her "What kind" and pointed to the taps. She opted for a Bud Light.

Dad and his mother wandered through the vendors, admiring the wares. Everywhere smelled like barbeque beef. Copper pots and pans hung from the frames of the tents. Fresh breads and fruits filled every corner of old wooden tables under the tarp roofs. Street performers played guitar and sang. T-shirt vendors offered to sell the shirts off of their back. Women tried to sell beaded necklaces that they draped over their arms. Kids sold candies and kites and stuffed dogs on strings. Flowers abounded, prostitutes wandered past freely. Drunks stumbled in the streets, wandering from one bar to the next. Other than the modern clothing, we were in the Wild, Wild West.

A few of the tents had clothing. That seemed to be what my Grandmother was interested in above all else. I tagged along as my Dad and Grandma got lost in conversation among the tents. From somewhere behind my brother shouted to us that he had just seen the bad guy from Crocodile Dundee. Mom turned to look - sure enough, it really was him.

We found one tent that specialized in leather goods. Grandma fell in love with a beautiful red leather jacket with fringe down the sleeves and a rose detail. The price tag on the jacket said $100, but my Dad advised her to strike a bargain with the vendor.

"Down here you have to haggle on the price," he explained. "You can get some pretty amazing stuff for really cheap that way. They're always willing to make a deal."

He was sure she had the concept, but just to get her going, he told her where to start.

"I'll give you $35" she said under my Dad's instruction.

"Oh no," he said in a thick accent. "I take $75 American."

Grandma looked over at Dad who urged her on. "Counter with somewhere in the middle."

"I have $50 cash I'll give you right now," she said with confidence, finally getting the hang of the whole thing. His face looked pained.

"Oh no!" He shouted, almost sounding insulted. "I have to have AT LEAST twenty fie dollars for this jacket. Its such a fine quality!"

Confused, she jumped forward and pulled out $25 from her purse. She handed him the cash, snatched the jacket from him and walked away hurriedly before he changed his mind. Dad howled with laughter.

"Mom," he explained, "He thought you said FIFTEEN!!!"

Old Injury

I missed my blog post today and knew that I had to put something up for you guys before midnight. Briefly I'll tell you why I missed out today and have about 15 minutes to make up for it...

About 10 years ago when I was pregnant, I was climbing up into a very high pickup truck in order to head to the Doctors for an appointment. As I braced with my left hand in order to climb up, I eased myself onto the running board. I lost my balance. I felt and heard a distinctive "snap" in my wrist - I had snapped a ligament.

I didn't go to the doctors for my wrist. I ignored it and just took it easy for a while. The pain wasn't much and didn't think it warranted a visit. Today, and in fact for the past week, I've been wishing that I hadn't been so stubborn about it back then.

I've worn an ace bandage around my wrist for the past week. It began to hurt around my thumb and eventually I started to loose my strength in that hand. It elevated to intense pain anytime my wrist bent in even the slightest degree.

This morning I bought a wrist brace and now I'm having a very hard time typing at all. Still, here I am telling you my stories each day because I know you're out there waiting, listening, reading and wondering where I am.

I'm here - but I'm hurting. Please be patient with me. I'll make up for it with an incredible story tomorrow about a Ren Faire Romance, complete with photos.

Until tomorrow -

For His Birthday

Subject : For my Love on his Birthday
Posted Date: : May 20, 2006 9:37 AM

Just a bit of writing from the heart...

When you wake in the morning,

keep your eyes closed a moment longer.

Imagine I'm there next to you,

watching you sleep.

I'll prop myself up on one elbow

And smile at you as you rest.

I'll reach over and kiss you on the cheek to wake you,

and whisper "good morning" in your ear.

When you get ready to leave for work this day,

close your eyes before you walk out of your home.

Imagine I'm there with you,

You're not allowed to leave without a kiss.

I've got a mischievous grin on my face,

and a playful look in my eyes.

"Kiss me," I beckon to you.

Kiss me or Ill tickle you!

When you walk up to your front door tonight,

Ready to go home,

Stop and close your eyes

If only just for a moment.

Try to tell yourself

I'm standing there with you,

I'll slide my hand into yours

When I sneak up from behind.

You'll turn your head and look at me

And we'll smile at each other.

I'll tell you then how much I adore you,

But I will never need to use the words.

When you close your eyes tonight

And rest your head on your pillow,

try to tell yourself that it's not a pillow

On which you lay your head.

It's my lap youve found comfort in.

I'll run my fingers through your hair

Lightly running my nails over your scalp.

I'll lean over and kiss you on the forehead

Ill rest my free hand on your chest,

and whisper softly how much I love you.

I'll be right there with you.

I'll always be right there with you.

New Orleans Jazz Festival

The only chance I ever had to go to New Orleans, I jumped at it. Bill and I boarded a plane and headed there for the New Orleans Jazz Festival in the year 2003. What a trip that was!

We stayed in an adorable little Bed and Breakfast in the French Quarter. The room had vaulted ceilings and was just across the street from Richard and Gloria. Several friends of Bill's went, and with the large group we had, fun was sure to come naturally. Within no time at all, I was proven right.

Bill and Phil got along the best. It was almost as if the two were separated at birth. They had all the same taste and I adored them both. They could make an entire room of strangers crack up with laughter as long as the people within it were intelligent enough to understand the rich and brilliant humor the two were graced with. That entire trip was spent with me nearly in stitches.

One night at dinner, Bill and I accompanied Phil and his girlfriend, whom I adored. For privacy reasons, I won't list her name. We were sat at a tiny table and ended up with a horrible waitress. When she brought us refills on our waters, she refused to pick up the empty glasses. When Phil's girlfriend ordered two entrees with the purpose of having left overs the next day, the waitress refused to take the order saying "That's too much food, you'll never eat it all."

Phil's girlfriend was an outspoken and opinionated woman. The first time I ever met her, she just about bit off the head of a waitress that asked what my age was instead of asking for my ID when I ordered a glass of wine. That's a story for another day - but my point was that she didn't take crap from anyone. She spoke her mind and there was never a mystery as to what she was thinking. That's one of the many reasons I adored her. She was the polar opposite to Gloria.

Our server very nearly dumped my food in my lap and Bill had to catch it. She slammed plates on the table and slapped her hands together in frustration each time we asked for something. By the end of the meal, there were around 16 glasses on the very tiny table and tons of empty plates. The waitress refused to bring a container for the leftovers. She left us at a dirty table for more than 30 minutes before we were able to flag her down and ask for a check. When we finally got it and the credit card was put inside the black book, it took another 15 minutes before it was picked up.

The bill turned out to be $99.98 with tax and everything. She didn't even get a two cent tip. "Someone" wrote "Worst Service in New Orleans" on the top of the bill.

The Jazz Festival was amazing. Walking from stage to stage, I got a chance to see Joe Cocker, John Cleary, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Dr. John and many other big names I loved the moment I heard them for the first time.

When Joe Cocker took the stage that afternoon, the sun was blazing outside and people were everywhere. Joe Cocker looked like a speck on the stage from as far back in the grassy field as we were sitting. He started off with some of his most popular songs, and the crowd really got into it. "You Are So Beautiful To Me" was a huge hit. People everywhere were singing along and swaying. When he sang "You Can Leave Your Hat On" were dancing even in the heat. "Don't You Love Me Anymore" brought a few tears from some emotional drinkers. Many were drunk or were drinking, some were a combination of both. Occasionally the wafting smell of marijuana could be smelled among the people and joints were freely passed to total strangers. Believe me, I didn't partake. It's not my thing.

His final song on stage that night was "Have a Little Faith in Me" and the massive, excited and exuberant crowd suddenly hushed. It seemed as though the entire night hinged on this moment. He lead up to it slowly, knowing exactly what everyone was waiting for, and at that precise moment - Joe Cocker nailed that famous scream of his in that particular song. The audience went crazy, screaming like there was a fire on stage. Joe Cocker certainly was on fire. It was, by far, one of the greatest live performances I have ever been to.

Though the entire trip was far more than simply a memorable trip, the most memorable occasion was Bills Birthday. Before dinner and after the myriad of concerts, we were walking to the cab pick up point when I took a tumble. My ankle twisted under me and I limped for a good 5 minutes before I managed to shake it off. I swallowed the pain, slipped into my black sequined sling-back heels Bill bought for me in November of 2002 and we all went to dinner.

My ankle throbbed under the table until I wanted to cry. Never once did I complain because I didn't want to take focus away from Bill's birthday. The meal came out in around 7 courses. The spread became a feast, and for as long as I live I'll never forget the soft-shelled crab set before me. It scared me at first, since I'd never seen one - but I'm always willing to try anything once. I still love the taste of soft shelled crab, and it always brings back the memory ofBrigtsen's Restaurant.

Frank Brigsten turned out to be a friend of Bill and Phil's. That night, we were treated like royalty. By the end of the meal, I was so full that the pain in my waist was far greater than the pain in my ankle.

My trip to New Orleans was filled with fantastic food, the worst waitress in the history of food service, amazing concerts and friends that I'll never forget - though I'm almost positive some have forgotten me.

There's one though that never has - Thanks, Bill.

Lost in Prague

For many, many years I had a terrible sense of direction. I would get lost walking from my house to the bus stop. It didn't help that the house was situated at an odd angle on the corner of a 5 way intersection. I wouldn't know my North from the West if my life had depended on it. I knew how to get home and how to get to school, but for all else, I depended on others around me. In the middle of the night, in a foreign country where English was barely spoken, I had a rude wake-up-call at 23 years old and to this day I have a hard time realizing how lucky I am to be alive.

Bill and I had gone to Germany for Stefan and Barbara's wedding. It was the first time I had been back to Germany since we moved away in 1982. I hadn't remembered anything about the beautiful Country in which I was born except for the briefest of flashes during that moment I found myself reminiscing over my life with my grandfather while stuck in that layer between death and life. Even then it was too limited to really know anything about where I had been born. All I could tell anyone was that I was born in Kaiserslautern.

I had dreamed of going back to Germany for many years. For my 16th birthday my parents bought a VHS tape about tourism in Germany and took me to the only German restaurant in Ogden. It was a birthday worth remembering. So when I found out that there was a chance to go see where I was born, I jumped at it, eager to see the world.

We flew into New York City with the aspirations of seeing a Broadway show with some other people who were also headed to the wedding over seas. I couldn't believe it - this trip was going to give me two of my greatest dreams! Next to Germany, my other top item on my 'bucket list' was to go to a Broadway show!

Unfortunately things happen and my dreams of seeing the show were dashed upon the rocks like a ship lost in a storm. With Richard and Gloria, things often "came up" at the last minute, so that trip we never made it to Broadway. We had a quiet dinner in a restaurant with a 2 hour wait for a table. All I kept thinking was that we could have spent that 2 hours at Broadway, Damn the meal. The next day we were boarding a flight to Germany though, so I didn't let it dampen my spirits.

We flew into Frankfurt on a 14 hour flight with me stuck in a broken seat that wouldn't recline. Gloria's snide condescension drove me up the proverbial wall. I'd never truly liked her very much anyway, but I had always been good at being 'pleasant' to her in social situations. I grabbed out my ear buds and popped them in when the movie started with the intention of drowning her out. My in-flight head set didn't work right for the movie though, and by the time we got there I was so bored with word search puzzles that I never wanted to see another for as long as I lived and it was all I could do to restrain myself from knocking Gloria unconscious - but we were THERE. We had made it to Germany!

My nerves were a bit frayed at this point from lack of sleep and the occasional condescending blast from Gloria. Society cant pin that many people into a cramped space with screaming kids and falling hat boxes without expecting those who know one another to be cranky with one another. We're constricted by social graces to be kind to strangers, but with people we know, we can be our cranky selves. By the time we loaded up in the rented diesel station wagon, the four of us were snapping like bears in the salmon run. We were each out for blood and we knew it.

Even the ever-patient Richard grew testy. I was ready to claw Gloria's eyes out with just one more snide comment about how I was too young to know about this or that, or that I didn't know about a particular social grace because I didn't "grow up with money" as she put it. I couldn't help but think to myself that she most likely didn't either. Due to the way she spoke to those around her, I guessed that I had more class, dignity and grace in my little finger nail than she possessed in her entire body. There were certain things I'd never understand according to her because she was a nurse and I wasn't. There was something about Gloria that I truly despised. Later on I discovered what the underlying reason was for her condescension and knew that I was justified in my dislike of the woman. I'll save that story for another day.

Gloria had been rude each time she thought even for a second that it couldn't be overheard by the men. I wasn't the type of person to complain, so when some of her remarks were overheard inside the car, Bill started to realize there was something going on. He knew me well and could tell when I didn't like someone, but he didn't say anything to me about it. He thought it was all in my mind, most likely. She proved that it wasn't all in my mind, Gloria really did NOT like me. She made that trip almost unbearable for me, but vindicated me at the same time.

We drove from Frankfurt through East Germany and straight in to Prague, only getting lost once or twice on the way. We got there late at night and settled in to a Bed and Breakfast where we would be staying for the next few days. Before even 10 minutes passed, we were settled into bed for the night, exhausted from the long journey. Each of us felt as though we either had a plane or a car growing out of our buts.

The next day we found ourselves wandering Prague. We visited the famous sights, took tours of castles far removed from the city and purchased typical "tourist" items like watercolor paintings of the famous clock tower. We watched the fire eaters and sword jugglers on the Charles bridge, we peered in awe at the blue glass in the shop windows along every street. The church was stunning. Prague was one of the most beautiful cities I'd ever seen in my life. By the time we stopped into the bar for a quick meal though, we were starving and tensions were high once more.

We drank fresh Pilsner beer, marveling at the massive difference between that and what we get in the States. With the beer, lips became loose and we all began to have words. Gloria had pushed me to the limit, and when Bill said something to me, I took in a negative way. Honestly I don't even remember what he said, but tempers were flared and I was more frustrated than I let on.

Without warning, I snapped. I walked out of the bar leaving the three of them sitting there. Gloria huffed behind me, complained about my being so immature because of my age, and sighed in complete impatience and ignorance.

Bill thought I would be right back. My own stubborn pride refused to allow me. I stayed outside for a few minutes, but Bill came out and I couldn't handle a discussion right then. He strode out with purpose and told me that he wanted to talk to me. He didn't sound happy and I really didn't want to start screaming at him in the middle of the crowded street. I walked away into the crowd and didn't look back.

If I were to guess, I would estimate the time was around 5 in the evening. I was hungry and angry, a dangerous combination for a redhead. Had anyone messed with me right then, they would have had the fight of a lifetime on their hands. I didn't stop walking. I walked past familiar shop windows, my face steaming. I practically sped across the Charles Bridge, striding with purpose past the stunt performers and street dancers. I blazed past the musicians with open guitar cases. When I passed the station, I dug into my pockets. I had no money so I couldn't take the train anywhere - I just kept walking. By the time the sun went down, I strongly wished I hadn't left my jacket at the table. It had been hours since I walked away from the table and my hunger was getting the better of me. I told myself to remember the Saltine crackers, and I just kept walking.

Dark, shady cars filled with dark, shady faces slowed down to look at me. Taxi's offered me a ride, but with no currency there wasn't much I could do. I ignored the young men making eyes at me. When the three men carrying hand guns down the middle of the road with the large, scary guy carrying an assault rifle walked past me, I refused to make eye contact. Prague turned out to be a little frightening at night.

I tried to tell myself that I was going the right direction, but I wasn't really sure. Some of the streets I wandered down started to look familiar, like I had seen them once or twice before. I walked past the Prague clock tower at least three times. I walked back across the Charles bridge no less than three times, too.

The smiling faces of the flame throwers became the grimacing mugs of tattooed fire eaters as the sun set. The sword jugglers became the night's assassins, out for my blood. The shops with the lovely blue glasses were suddenly dark and empty recesses filled with sinister shadows. Around every turn I found something waiting to swallow me into this strange world.

When finally I found the main street leading out of Prague, it was nearing 11 at night. I was all alone on the streets of a foreign country where I didn't even speak the polite words like please and thank you in the native tongue. Even if someone were to attack me, I couldn't beg for my life properly. Not that I would do something like that. I couldn't cry out for help. I didn't know the streets, so I couldn't even run away. I had no allies. I was stranded and alone in the dark night of a dangerous land.

In the year 2003 the Czech Republic had some of the highest crime rates for several of the surrounding nations. When the sun goes down in Prague, girls get kidnapped and sold as sex slaves. I couldn't believe as I wandered the frightening streets of Prague at midnight that I had once again put myself into that position.

I was certain that by now Bill had gotten Gloria and Richard to agree to look for me. I was lost, cold, alone and frightened. I was hungry and tired. But I knew that since I was finally on the main road, it was only another 2 hour walk back to the Bed and Breakfast just outside of town. I could see a possible shortcut in front of me to cut about an hour off of my travel. The scariest part would be having to walk parallel to the railroad tracks, trying to avoid eye contact with the street bums. I was no stranger to that tactic, so I decided to go for it.

The industrial section of Prague spewed black smoke into the air, making the dark night even darker, enveloping the stars in a thick soot that settled on everthing around me. Flames spat into the air from the chimneys, allowing brief glimpses of my surroundings. I stumbled once and fell on my hands and knees. When I stood up to dust myself off, I looked to see what it was I had stumbled over. There behind me was a leg poking out from under a blanket. It was cold to the touch, like ice. The blanket wasn't wrapped around the body at all, but rather just tossed on top. I wondered if the body was even alive. The chimney vomited more flames and black soot, and under one corner of the blanket I saw the face.

His eyes were dark, hollow shells. He stared off into nothing, vacantly resting on a pile of broken wood and shattered bricks. Even staring straight into his face I couldn't tell if he was alive or not, but I strongly assumed he wasn't.

I bolted. I ran for all I was worth, tearing up the ground beneath me with each foot fall. I clinched my teeth together to avoid screaming. Bones were littered here and there; I couldn't help but wonder if they were human or not. The chimney kept belching out black, ominous clouds over bright flashes of evil flames. The world had never seemed so dark.

I shivered, partially from cold but mostly from fear. I stumbled my way down the tracks. Dogs howled and barked in the distance and I suddenly had flashes in my mind of running from a pack of German Shepherds as they tracked me down and ate me for trespassing. I splashed through an open sewer and up the side of the embankment, scrambling and clawing at the hill side for something to pull myself up. The dogs sounded closer with every second. I grappled my way over the chain link fence and fell in a heap on the other side.

An hour later, I realized I was damn lucky I made it all the way back.

Bill was rightfully angry at me when he found me at 3:30 in the morning snuggled up in bed after a hot shower, sound asleep, I don't remember what was said or for how long he said it, but looking back on that frightening night, I'm sure I deserved every moment of it. What I had done was incredibly impulsive and ridiculously dangerous. I don't know exactly what I was thinking that day, if I was thinking at all.

I had been so scared and cold that night wandering around in a strange city thousands of miles from home that I didn't care how long he yelled at me, I was just happy to be back.

Until now I never told a soul about the train yard of Prague. Not even Bill.



Red Night, Zombie's Delight

I've always had a very active imagination. If I don't get the chance to use it during the day I find that it becomes far more active when I'm sleeping. My dreams were always vivid and full color. Often they would consist of me flying at a certain level through the air, gliding like a bird. Other times I would be trying to escape some persuer in a shopping mall by taking off in a bubble that had an engine like a rocket. Once or twice they were terrible dreams about the death of a family member that would frighten me to no end. Those dreams were the reason I started to sleep under my brothers bed at night - but I'll save that for another day.

I remember a reoccurring nightmare I had while we lived in Maryland though. When I was about five, I would wake up in my bed sweating and chilled to the bone from this dream.

In this dream I would be ready to go to bed, dressed in a nightgown, and have the sheets on my bed pulled back. I would look over at my window and see a red sky.

The color of the sky intrigued me, so I wandered over to the window to look out at it.

The house was calm; so quiet. Everyone in my family had gone to bed; so one little peak out the window wasn’t going to do any harm. The red nights sky stretched over the houses on the other side of the grassy lawn. It went on as far as I could see, never ending, never blue.

As I watched the crimson horizon, I began to feel dread creeping up inside my soul. Fear gripped at my heart. My chest hurt from holding my breath. The green grassy lawn under this terrifying nights sky was moving. I could see people emerging from the ground, flesh rotting off their bones, their hair falling from their scalps in massive putrid chunks.

The earth ripped open at random, more and more bodies clawing their way out from the depths of the black soil. Holes spanned the once beautiful lawn; bodies of the walking dead were everywhere. These zombies of once dead men and women began pacing about, restless. They headed straight for the many closed doors of everyone’s homes, including the one where I lived.
I grabbed the hem of my nightgown and raced down the hall to my mother and fathers bedroom. I burst into the door, flying at the bed. My father was there, but Mom wasn’t.

“Daddy,” I cried out, “please, you have to come with me!” Reluctantly my father climbed out of bed following my lead.

“Your mothers in the bathroom. Do you want me to get her?” he asked, puzzled by my actions.

“Yes! Bring Mommy.” I was frantic at this point. My mother was not visible. As far as I knew the Zombies already had her. My father opened the bathroom door and my worst thoughts were realized. There laid my mom on the bathroom floor, surrounded by zombies, her eyes held open wide, staring into nothing. Blood trickled down her forehead onto the tile floor. She was dead.

My father screamed as only a man in true pain ever would. The zombies turned to look at us, and he knew at that moment, there was nothing he could do to protect his family except to hide us. He picked me up in his arms and ran down the hall with me toward my brother’s room while his tears streamed down his face splattering me in the chest.

My brother was still lying in his bed, a puddle of blood forming on his floor, dripping down from his outstretched arm. The blood flowed freely from his lacerated, mangled neck. We were too late. The zombies had beaten us to him.

They started coming after us from my brother’s room, and the ones that had attacked my mother were coming slowly up behind us. The staircase was full of these monsters, all heading in our direction. Dad ran down the hall to my room, knowing it would be empty. He thrust me under my bed and followed with only a little grunting. Dad then grabbed the beanbag chair in the corner and pulled it close.

The stench was horrendous. The zombies crowded around the bed, moaning incoherently to one another. Their feet were so close I could see the once white flesh ground full of dirt from years under the earth. Bone was distinguishable under the decaying pieces of festering human tissue. Limp rags of clothing hung loosely from their bony bodies, frayed at the ends from disintegration. Slowly, the zombies turned and shuffled out of my bedroom. One pair of feet lingered, though... small feet. Fresh, clean feet. And yet they were dead and pale white, the toenails already blue. They turned and started to walk back toward the foot of the bed. Dad and I lay there in the silence, fear gripping us and telling us both to scream, and we fought the urge.

Dad put his arm around me, his hand coming to rest over my mouth. Our eyes were wide.
One of the small feet shuffled lifelessly back, and we could tell that this one was fresh enough to have the strength to kneel. Ever so slowly, the body of a young boy lowered itself to the floor. Fresh blood stains were visible on the body's outstreatched arm. The chin came into view - then the lips... then the nose that looked as though it had been bitten clean off by something jagged and sharp... and then the eyes. The horrible eyes. They were hollow and hazy, like an old blind man... the cloudy blue surface piercing straight through us both. The scowl softened a bit as my now dead brother recognized his only sister and father cowering away from him under the bed. As much as a zombie could smile, he turned up the corners of his blood encrusted lips. He stood up with a moan, and followed the others out the door of my room.

That nightmare haunted me every night for months, and occasionally I still have it. I am not sure what it means exactly, but to this day the red sky still unnerves me a bit. Occasionally the dream haunts me again, and I will wake up with cold sweats. Every time I have that dream, I am 5 years old again, and my father and I are the only ones in the family to survive the massacre.

The Sea Doo

Mom liked to brag about me when I was a teen, telling her friends at the Post Office about what a daredevil I was. I obviously got it from her, and I think that's why she enjoyed it so much. Her Utah co-workers enjoyed the days she would stop in at work on her day off to pick something up and she would happen to bring me with her. We would stop and chat a while at each of the carrier cases and I would watch them laugh together like the old friends they were. Wendy and Jo Ann were my favorite carriers other than Lynn, otherwise known as "Pee Wee" at 6'5" tall, and Dale. They weren't just my mothers friends. When I went in there, they were MY friends too.

They all decided to have an office picnic one year out at the lake. Mom and Dad had a boat that they brought out with them and we spent a day eating hot dogs over an open fire, going for boat rides, slathering up with the sun block and playing in the water. When my mother found out that Dale would be bringing his SeaDoo though, she told him ahead of time that I was her little daredevil.

"Scare her, Dale. Scare the $hit out of her," she said to him without my knowledge.

"Really," he asked. "Are you sure?"

"Yeah, scare her as much as you can. She doesn't get scared of anything. Just have fun out there and abuse her a bit."

"You're sure?"

"Dale, just do it."

"Ok, Beth - you asked for it." He thought for a moment. "Just don't be mad at me for it."

Dale saw me coming up the beach and asked me if I'd like to go for a ride on the back of his Seadoo. I had never been on one so I jumped at the chance. It sounded like a lot of fun to me! For a few years I had been the only one in my family able to get up on the knee board. I had jumped many waves in the inner tube. I'd mastered the art of getting up on the water skis. I loved water sports in any form and this was one I'd never had the chance to try but always wanted to.

"When are we going," I asked Dale, ready to spring into action like a dog eager to go for a walk. I nearly pranced with excitement.

"Let me finish my burger," he mumbled through a very full mouth. Bits of honey oat hamburger bun fell out onto the sand only to be quickly snatched up by the Utah State Bird, the California Sea Gull. I always have laughed at that fact, the Utah State bird being from another state entirely.

He finished eating and it was all I could do not to drag him to the water monster waiting on the sandy strip below. We climbed on board with my mother shouting "Hang on, 'Manda," over behind me. I barely heard her. I hooked my hands into the back of Dale's life jacket and away we went.

Dale took it easy at first. He asked if I was ok, and I would shout back that I was fine and that so far it was fun. Each time that exchange of words took place, I could feel the gas revving a bit more. Pretty soon I felt like we were doing a whole 15 miles and hour. It was a very mild ride.

My Dad went screaming past in the boat and I shouted to Dale that I just knew we could catch up to him. Suddenly the challenge was on. Dale slowly started to increase speed and within a minute, we were doing around 30 miles an hour. I was squealing with delight, fully ready to go faster and overtake my Dad.

Dad killed the motor to the boat ahead as one of Mom's coworkers climbed over the side and prepared to try water skiing. Dale and I went speeding past and kept on going. We turned around just in time to see Dad taking off, creating a wake behind him. Dale goosed it, I held tight to his life jacket, and we hit the wake at around 35 miles an hour. The jet ski soared into the air higher than I thought was possible. We sailed with nothing under us but air, finally landing with an abrupt sputter and jerk as we took off through the water once more. I squealed with delight, screaming at Dale about how much fun that was and that I wanted to do it again.

He took wave after wave, increasing speed each time I squealed with delight. Finally we wiped out and both of us tumbled in a syncronized cartwheel formation over the surface. We splashed into the water and I came up laughing. The jet ski was close by and we both swam over to where it rested.

"Ok," Dale said to me when we managed to climb back onto it, "I think I'm going to let you take it out on your own for a while."

We cruised at a low speed back to the shore where Dale made a direct line to my mother. Talking with animated hand movements, I knew he was telling her the stories of our hour long ride. He asked her if it was ok for me to take it on my own for a bit, then walked over to show me how it worked. I couldn't wait to get it out in the open.

What I didn't know was exatly what they had talked about.

"I tried, Beth. I really tried," he said to my mother. "I even scared myself a few times, but I couldn't seem to scare her at all. When we wiped out, she came up laughing and I came up thankful to be alive! She's a tough kid, Beth. I don't think you have to worry about her."

"That's what worries me," she said to him. "Without being afraid, how far will she push it?"

I took the jet ski out for hours that day. I went all over that lake on a motorized vehicle - the first time in my life I had ever had something with power completely to myself. I didn't have to answer to anyone or listen to directions. There was no "Go here" or "head there" or "you're going too fast" that I expected to hear the first time I ever drove anything with a motor. I didn't have a back seat driver - it was just me and the open water of Pine View Dam. What glory!

I flirted with boys, I cruised into the docks, I wandered from finger to finger among the many that made up all of Pine View. I coasted through reeds, watched for fish, jumped boat wakes and had a glorious day.

"Hey," one of the boys of a passing boat shouted out. "Can I have a ride?" I looked around. I didn't see anyone from my group close by, so I told him to go for it. He lept over the side of his family boat and dove with grace and ease into the murky, dark water. When he surfaced, I told him that I wouldn't take him anywhere unless he was wearing a life vest. His brother tossed one in the water beside him and he pulled it on. He was very fit and was probably a basketball player in High School, tall and lean. He pulled himself onto the jet ski with ease. He wrapped his arms around my mid section and we took off like a rocket. I felt him as he smashed his face against the back of my shoulder and hung on for dear life.

"You ok," I shouted back to him after a little way out.

"Yeah," he said quietly. I slowed down.

"Seriously, are you ok," I said, turning to look at him. His face was white.

"I've never been on one of these things before," he admitted sheepishly. "I didn't know they would go that fast." I didn't dare tell him I'd never been on one before that day, too.

I took him around at a lower speed for a while, jumping wakes and exploring the lake. After about an hour I took him back to the boat and he thanked me with a kiss on the cheek.

I never really thought of myself as a tough kid before that. I was certainly adventurous, but to have scared a High School jock when I was only 15 years old by driving a Sea Doo over water - water! That substance that gives when you land on it! - really drove home a point to me. I guess most people just can't handle the adrenaline rush of it all.

I never stopped looking for that adrenaline rush. I love Zombie movies and haunted houses. I love pretending to be the toughest person in a group no matter how frightened I really am.

Mark Twain once said "Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear."

My story is not to say that I didn't feel fear. I wasn't numb to being afraid - but the fear made the ride more fun for me. In certain moments of extreme danger I'm smart enough to get away when needed, wise enough to protect others when that's more urgent, and determined enough to stay until I see it through to the very end whenever possible.

I wondered for the briefest of seconds if I would break my neck as I tumbled end over end, turning somersaults and cartwheels over the water beside Dale. As my feet dipped into the wave and my body twisted its fall to follow, I knew that fear had no real meaning. I would be fine, even though I had bruises on my body for weeks.

The fun outweighed the fear. The adventure outweighed the pain. The determination outweighed the danger.

That's how I live my life, one wave at a time.


The Day I Died

I was a whole 20 years old, naive and innocent, married and just had given birth to a beautiful, healthy child just hours before. I didn't know what to expect. I was scared out of my mind, feeling incredible pain and just wanted it all to go away. I think a part of me prayed to die as I laid there shivering under 8 heated blankets. I remember reaching for a nurse and whispering "help me" so low she couldn't hear me. The bed was being wheeled down a long hallway and through the typical swinging doors of the surgery room.

A mask was placed over my face and I panicked. I felt the blood flowing from my body. I knew I wasn't long for the world as I lay there bleeding to death. Fear tore at every inch of my soul. I scratched and clawed at the mask, feeling more and more faint. My eyes grew blurry, and I remember no less than 5 masked faces leaning over my head and telling me I needed to keep the mask on. I screamed and it came out more of a whimper. I was so weak I couldn't lift my arms anymore. They collapsed to my side and my eye lids closed. I couldn't keep fighting. My lips moved, but nothing came out. I remember crying out in my head, "God, please just let me die. I can't take it anymore. I can't do this. Let me die."

I got my prayer - and it was answered in an unusual sort of way. My Grandfather answered me.

I wasn't staring up at hospital lights anymore. The pain was gone. My hair was clean and hanging around my shoulders. I was standing in the middle of a grassy field with a split rail fence all around me. Daisies were speckled through the grass, and a cool blue stream eased its way past with only the faintest sound of a bubbling brook emitting from it. My feet were bare I noticed as I looked down. My skin was clean. I didn't have hoses and needles poking out of my arms, and the medical bracelet around my wrist wasn't there anymore. I was wearing a pale blue sun dress with little white and yellow flowers on it. A breeze lifted my hair and tossed it, but it was warm out and the sun felt heavenly. The breeze felt like a loving breath caressing my forehead.

I saw a man walking towards me in the distance. He was spry but elderly, I'd say around 70 or so. He wore a dark brown worn out old hat shading his eyes from the bright sun and a shirt that buttoned down in the front. His collar was starched and his cuffs were buttoned. His brown, dirty and worn slacks were held up by rainbow colored suspenders and his boots looked like they had walked many miles in their time. He had a rope over his shoulder and other than the Fedora not being a Stetson, he looked like a real, live cowboy. He sauntered up to me in the big field, a slight swagger in his bow legged stance. With one bony finger, he tipped the brim of his hat up and let the sun filter down onto his face. It was my Grandfather, Leland Vance.

It seemed like an eternity passed where he and I sat by the brook and talked like old friends. We walked in the woods and had lengthy conversations about life and love. He reminded me of certain things in life that I would miss. At the same time, we never left that field. I never moved my feet. I never took a single step.
I saw my father balancing me on his feet when I was just a little girl. I remembered my brother cleaning up my room as I watched from my cradle. I saw Lou and Laurie in the hall outside of our apartment door in Germany holding a casserole dish with tin foil over it. I felt my tiny little wooden shoes being slid onto my wiggling and kicking feet when I was a baby, barely a year old. I felt snow falling on my face for the first time. My mom held me tight and read a book to me as we rocked in her chair, the multi-colored knit afghan around us. I fell asleep on the couch while Dad was watching the news at around 4 years old and my father carried me to bed. I remembered my first kiss in the 6th grade, my first boyfriend named Victor, my Kindergarten teacher and her tape "X" on the floor, Cranky Cronk from the 2nd grade, Shandi Dillon from the 5th grade and all the friends, enemies and teachers I had over the years. I saw the school dances, the High School boyfriends, the disappointments and achievements, the triumphs and failures. I saw them all in that instant as we sat on the shores of the creek and wandered through the woods, and yet simultaneously we still stood in that grassy field.

It's so hard to explain all of this and even now I'm at a loss for words. When I stood there and sat reviewing my life, it skipped all over the place much like my blogs skip through the spans of time. I was a child, then a baby and then a teenager. I was married, and yet I was a toddler. I was an infant, child, girl, woman and lady all at once. The images swirled inside my head like stars in a blender.

Our walk in the woods and rest by the creek was over and we stood there in the peaceful meadow. I wanted to hug him and tell him thank you, but I couldn't seem to reach out for him. He tipped his hat back with one finger just a little more. He smiled at me with a broad smile filled with yellowed teeth.
"Well, Kiddo? Ya ready to go?"

He seemed to emit light in that moment, like the paintings from the Renaissance depicting angels. He began to have a faint glow all around him, outlining him as though the sun were setting behind him. He embodied a presence I could feel, powerful and loving. I wanted to go with him, but I didn't know where we were headed. More than ready to follow wherever he went, I replied.

"Go where, Grandpa?" Eagerly I awaited his response. The light behind him grew stronger and I could feel the force within him pulling me closer. He looked at me a long moment. His eyes pierced through to my soul and he read everything inside me. I could feel it as easily as if he were turning pages in my mind. He smirked at me before breaking into a wide smile. He reached up with his bony hand and touched my shoulder gently. He moved to stand beside me and wrapped an arm around my shoulder. I tried to look straight into the light now - but it was gone.

He thumped me on the back with his bony hand and I could feel the pride in his touch.

"Naw," he said to me after a long moment. "You aren't ready." He hugged me close to his side with that one arm and I felt a sense of dismay. I knew what would happen from here. He released his grip on my shoulder and took his place in front of me again. With the brim of his hat, he nodded his head toward whatever lay behind me in the distance. The light behind him brightened and he took a single step backward. "Go home, Kid."

The light grew brighter and he began to fade from sight. I wanted to cry out to him not to leave me, but my voice was tight. I couldn't speak. The light enveloped everything and he was gone. The last thing to fade from view was the tip of his old shoe.

I woke up from surgery then and looked into the faces of my mother and father. They stood over me, both bleary eyed and trying to cover their tears. They wiped feverishly at their faces, my Dad trying to conceal himself behind my mother.
"Hey Kid," my mother said to me smiling. She patted me on the back of my hand. She had no idea I had just been with her father. I didn't have the heart or the strength to tell her. Mom reached in and kissed me on the cheek.

"Hey, Kiddo," my father said to me. His voice sounded oddly familiar, like my Grandfathers.

I had begged to die and yet I lived. I had died three times during that brief dream and the doctors weren't sure I would actually pull through. All I remember was that all of the pain I had felt was at long last gone. I no longer feared anything, including death. My grandpa was there to take care of me. When I woke up, he was gone - and yet I knew he was still around.

I gained a new lease on life. I remembered all the things he had reminded me of in the woods and by the creek. There was a lot of good in the world and I had a lot of love all around me. I had reasons to live and things to do before I was ready to move on. He had known that. That's why he sent me back.

I know now that I wasn't ready to go then. I just hope he's there when I'm finally ready.