Unforgettable People



Have two strangers ever changed your life?

Each of us physically interacts with about 80,000 people over a lifetime. (1) Most of them don’t make your contact list or a repeat appearance. Some you’ll love or at least like; some you’ll find irritating and may even grow to hate; most fall into a group of forgotten names and faces.

Lillian and Walter* were two of my 80k. They walked into my office on separate days, and yet, my memory links them.

Lillian was strikingly beautiful and spoke little. During my exam, I discovered an offensive tattoo on her arm. She didn’t want to talk about it, so I continued evaluating her health.

Despite her silence, Lillian’s body and medical history told her story. Multiple rib fractures, healed and then broken again. Previously dislocated joints, scars all over her body, several miscarriages, and a history of brutal rapes—too many to count.

Except for her face, almost every area of Lillian’s body had suffered a broken bone. When asked, she admitted that pain was a way of life for her.

A few days later, Walter walked into my office. The creases around his eyes were proof of frequent smiles and made his humble, kind, and witty demeanor even more charming.

Part way through his exam, I spotted a tattoo similar to Lillian’s and was once again appalled. However, Walter was more talkative than his friend.

Both Lillian and Walter had been prisoners of a concentration camp, the only member of each of their families to survive. Their tattoos were an attempted theft of their humanity, and I found them offensive on the part of the giver, not the wearer.

Walter shared that when he and his younger brother got off the train, his brother was sent one direction and he another. Walter told me that he often wondered what he’d have done if he’d known what existed in each direction and was allowed to pick.

“I don’t know which direction I’d have chosen for us,” he said. “It’s an impossible choice.”

During his time in camp, he stayed alive in the hopes of reconnecting with family. Afterward, when that hope was gone, he lived because they didn’t get a chance. Walter has a wife, kids, grandkids, friends, and smile lines from the life he created after being freed. Still, so many years later, he wasn’t sure what he’d have picked.

Lillian, because of her beauty, was kept alive. Not because she was a person with the same human rights as all others, but because soldiers wanted her body and refused her death even when she begged for it.

Can you imagine surviving the torture, the heartache of that much loss, and how alone and forgotten they must have sometimes felt? I suspect that no matter how good your and my imagination, we can’t come close to understanding the atrocities they saw and experienced.

Lillian and Walter have frequently been in my thoughts this last year. Not just them, but the millions of people like them who are deceased and can no longer tell their stories.

We need to tell their stories. We need them all to be unforgettable people. We need it because if we don’t—if we forget and aren’t vigilant against it—history will repeat itself.

The last time that a large group of people—folks who meant well, wanted positive change in the world, and were genuinely good souls—supported a leader who condemned a particular religion, sought registration, and wanted to build a wall, things got bad.

Mass grave; Never forget

and this…
Holocaust Victims; Never Forget
Holocaust victims; Never Forgetwere the result.

Are they troubling pictures? Yes. Look at them anyway. It’s okay to feel sick, to be speechless, and to feel great disgust that anything like the Holocaust ever happened. In fact, it’s a lot more troublesome if you don’t feel the horror.

Estimates put the loss of life at over 12.5 million people (2)—the equivalent of every resident of New York and Chicago or the combined population of Kansas, Missouri, and Iowa. That number doesn’t include the survivors who were tortured and maimed or active military members who lost their lives in battle.

6.5 million of the dead were not Jewish. The others were some of the same people who supported Hitler’s rise to power and who never dreamed that the hateful things he said were anything more than a ploy for attention.

Let me be clear. In the previous paragraph, I am not saying that it would have been okay if just Jewish people had died. I’ve included that statistic for the people who tell me that even if the worst-case scenario happens during the next decade, I’ll be safe because I’m not a Muslim.

They say it as though religious discrimination is okay as long as it’s not your religion or that senseless torture and murder is okay as long as it’s not you going through it.

It’s not. Nor is discrimination based on skin color, country of origin, sex, sexual preference, sexual identity, the absence of religion, or any other factor people come up with to create division.

The pictures of bodies don’t show the subtle shifts that allowed the Holocaust. For most people, it’s like thinking that you’ll be able to identify a serial killer because you’re used to hearing scary music on TV. It’s not that easy to judge intent in real life, and scary music doesn’t emanate from those who mean harm.

When a tyrant like Hitler rules, no one is safe.

We must all join together with the commitment of “Never Again” in our hearts and minds. And we must do it for now and every future generation, because anger, hatred, misogyny, bigotry, racism, sociopaths, and psychopaths are likely always to be present. The best we can do is constantly work to outshine the darkness.

*Names changed for privacy
Want more info? Check out:
This Irish Senator
This History Teacher
This History Essay
Dan Rather
1. Funders & Founders
2. https://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10008193
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Bridges, Old Friends, and Possibility

Written during the fall of 2012…

I’m not supposed to walk for exercise, but my dog is old, has been a good companion, and I find it hard to deny him one of his greatest pleasures in life. In full honesty, walking might be hard on my hips but its sweet relief for the rest of me. My mind clears, my soul sings, and the weight of the world lifts from my shoulders when I’m alone or with someone I love on a trail. So, we walk sometimes.


This particular autumn day, I pick a path I’ve taken thousands of times as a kid. With the creek dry, I plan to cut through a small ravine and then head back to the cabin. However, the crunching of leaves beneath our feet stops abruptly when a steep bank falls where a gentle slope once existed.

Tornado looks down at the rocks below, glances up at me, and starts back to the cabin. We’ve walked long enough that retracing our steps is reasonable, but instead, I call Nado to me.

Time changes things. Creek banks wash away and form different routes. Things that once thrived exist no more. Change is part of life, and many experiences have re-enforced that lesson over the years. The course change shouldn’t be startling, but it is.

There’s a bridge not far from my childhood home, but the absence of this crossing will make it hard to get there once water is flowing through the creek again. I feel an odd sense of urgency to get to the bridge today.

It’s as though I left something there years ago, forgot about it, and now desperately need it again.

The logical part of me wants to put it off until another day when my hips ache less and Nado isn’t panting this much. After all, it hasn’t rained in months, and the stream is dust-dry for the first time in my 43-years of life. Ignoring logic, something turns my feet toward the creek bed.

Nado and I find a spot that allows a safe descent. The banks on each side guide us while the roar of the highway gauges distance.

Once there, I look around and feel disappointed. My old puppy climbs the bank and lies down in the shade of rugged steel. Guilt that I’ve dragged us so much further on a whim of forgotten treasure drips into my emotions. My hips ache, and Nado is obviously tired and hot.

Even during one of the worst droughts the area has known, the cold cement feels rough and damp beneath my hand. There is no water in the creek bed running beneath the steel frame, but memories flood the area as musty air kicked up by my sneakers fills my nostrils.

After a quick search for snakes and bee nests, I sit down with Nado and lean against the pillar, tilt my head up with a sigh, and run my fingers through his fur as a surprise catches me off guard: My brothers and my name stand scrawled in each of our distinctive writing styles.


One afternoon when I was still young enough to print my name, we’d stood in the spot where Tornado and I are today, and we’d written our names underneath the bridge. My brothers might already have had theirs there, and they were just letting me add mine. I don’t remember for sure, but I remember hurrying so the infamous boogie-man who lived under the bridge wouldn’t get me as I added my name to the list.

We were low-tech kids and had used nothing more than a limestone rock as our stylus. It should have washed away with the two floods that had come in the years since. Instead, our names stood—engraved not in stone but with stone.

Regret and guilt evaporate as what I’d lost but again need comes into view.

You see, for at least the last year, everything has felt out of kilter.

I’d always imagined I’d have children, and although I’m capable, other factors led to the choice not to. That decision haunts me and weighs heavily. Despite loving my career, a parasite infection left me unable to do enough of the physical work required to earn a living with it. I don’t know enough about the career I’ve been studying for to know if it fits me. Wishy-washy would never have been used to describe me before, but I second, third, and fourth guess myself these days.

The pressure to create income is intense. A couple of online business ventures haven’t been what I hoped for or returned sufficient revenue for the time invested. They’re great products, but I lack the energy to promote them. My husband is ill with an uncertain prognosis. His company recently downsized his position, and now we have no income.

So many things drastically contrast to the expectations and dreams I have.

I’m trying to gracefully handle all the changes and figure out who I want to be now that the things I’d planned on no longer exist, but most days I fall short. I’ve lost my certainty, and it feels like I’ve lost what once defined me. In fact, if I had to pick one word to describe me, “lost” would come to mind.

In the time leading up to today’s walk, I’d spent five years caring fulltime for a special needs child, two years sliding downhill as the parasites took hold, two years fighting for my life and learning to treat the recently discovered autoimmune disease I’d had since I was a toddler, and then three years caring in one format or another for ill family members while trying to heal, repair, and redefine myself.

Whatever the word is that describes the state a few levels beyond exhausted, it falls short of being adequate as I sit under this unintended time capsule and lean against its cool pillar.


Things I’d thought would last at least through my lifetime were gone while fragile marks in chalk still stand. I wonder if, in a twist of irony, the engraved name on my brother’s tombstone will fade before his written name disappears.

I imagine that we can guess what will last and what will fade, but we’ll be wrong just as often as we’ll be right.

I’ve been seeking certainty and asking questions that have no right answers. It is nice of my friends to tell me that I deserve a better life, but plenty of people don’t get what they deserve—good and bad.

If names written in chalk that we expected to be long gone can last through two floods and over 35 years, who can say how my life will turn out, regardless of how things are going now?

My brothers and I were leaving our mark when we wrote our names. We wrote with the enthusiasm of youth and the passion of hopes and dreams not yet tried. Without meaning to, this old bridge captured a snapshot of our potential. As I sit here looking at our names, they remind me of who I am.

Seeing my and my siblings’ names still written on the supports of this bridge over 35-years after putting them there shocks life and soul into me.

The chaos, fatigue, and challenges lose their hold of the tainted filter they imposed, and the distortion about who I am fades.

Just like the younger version of me, I am someone with the rest of her future still in front of her. I have just as much reason to be hopeful now as I did then; just as much chance to experience wonder and miracles as to experience loss and heartache. I know with certainty where life took my younger self. If she knew back then what I do now, she might have enjoyed the journey less or been afraid of what was to come.

Then again, my younger self would have told me that I don’t know anything for sure and shouldn’t tell her what she can and can’t do. My younger self was full of passion and determination.

Certainty might be extensively over-rated.

Having found some treasure, Nado and I limp back to the cabin. He sleeps the rest of the day while I start asking questions that have answers.

The next day it unexpectedly rains enough that I’d not have been able to make the trek to the bridge again during my time at the cabin without getting wet and muddy. Risking a fall and the damage a sudden slip could do to either hip or my knee would have been enough to stop me.

I found the following Alan Cohen quote about a year later, and it once again reminded me of the sensation I felt when my feet instinctually led me to the bridge.


An old friend had been on my mind both times. By example, he taught me the importance of loving others the way Mr. Cohen describes. And with equal importance, he taught me to love myself that way, too.

It could be my imagination, but I like to think that knowing love like that led me to a bridge—not to cross it but to be reminded that our past and present don’t determine our potential or our future.


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When life is hard…

“Don’t quote your heroes, become them.”

~Ryan Murdock

Alright, I’ll admit that there are layers of irony involved in using a quote about not quoting others. But Ryan isn’t my hero; he’s my friend. And besides, the quote is cool — even cooler than a bowtie.

If only Ryan had said it a couple of years ago, it’d have been useful. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t have heard it. You ever have times like that? There’s a great lesson, perhaps even the exact lesson you need, staring you in the face…and you walk away from it.

If you were sitting in a theater watching the movie of your life, “No! How can you possibly walk away from help and toward the serial killer!” would be screaming in your head. But the real you walks away anyhow. I went through that for a while.

There’s a website called Early to Rise that I read. A guy named Craig Ballantyne is part owner and writes most of the articles. The ideas he writes about aren’t new to me. They’re part of the motivational, self-help, and financial information that inspired me to go to college, become a doctor, and run my own business of helping others.

The ideas he writes about stem from principles that have stood the test of time.

And yet, for a while, I thought they no longer applied to me. I was broken — I can no longer physically take the demands of treating patients or going for the long hikes I once loved or playing the occasional game of tennis. Even just trying to keep up with yard and house work is a struggle.

The Early to Rise emails kept showing up in my inbox like they were automated and didn’t know how much my life sucked. I’d intend to delete them, but the subject line would pull me in, and I’d read Craig’s latest story. Instead of inspiring me, I’d get a little pissed off that his words no longer applied to me. Early to Rise…yeah, that’d be great if only I were able to rise.

That continued for over a year until one day I sat beneath a bridge and realized that we’re all broken (you, me, the lot of us that are too tall – short- fat – skinny – tired – poor – pretty – ugly – bogged down with emotional baggage – in pain – unable to do what we once did – old – young -etc.,). But broken doesn’t matter. The type of broken wasn’t the same as it had always been, but I was just as able to rise as ever.

I can look back and laugh at myself. It was easy to embrace and apply the principles of success when I was young, rested, and life on my own was in many ways easier than life as a kid had been. But when I most needed to grab onto them — when I needed something steady to guide me and stop the desperate bouncing from one plan to another — I turned away from the logical path of help and walked the one heading toward the movie serial killer even though the theater audience was screaming not to do it.

Only it wasn’t me the fictional killer was after. It was my hopes, dreams, and ability to live a purposeful life…on second thought, the killer was after me.

A few years have passed since I sat below a bridge and realized that until death claims us, we’re all able to rise. The moments when you and I most think we can’t — the times when you think you’re an exception or exclusion or that what you want is impossible — if you’re still breathing, you’re wrong. Suck it up Sweet Pea and use those breaths to improve yourself.

What if I’m wrong and there is no way to improve your or my situation? Well, won’t your life have more meaning if you keep trying than if you just quietly slip away? There’s going to be pain and heartache either way. You might as well fight for some laughter and love to go with it. If things can’t get better for you, why not use your last breaths to make them better for someone else?

I’m not saying it’s easy. I’m just saying it’s possible. If I can do it, so can you. You’re able to rise, to become the heroes you like to quote, to change your life. I don’t know if you’re willing, but you’re able.



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Kathryn’s Rules For A Good Life

Everyone has a code or rules they live by, even if they aren’t written on a piece of paper.

When I decided to change my life, I wanted a set of guidelines to remind me of my long-term goals – things that would ground me if I started to drift, ideas I strive to meet, the actions needed to be the kind of person I want. I fall short sometimes, but this list helps me live the life I want.

Be Beautiful

The reflection you see in the mirror isn’t always going to be as physically attractive as you’d like. That’s okay. Be beautiful anyway.

Build character, humor, love, kindness, compassion, knowledge, experience, and patience into every cell of who you are. Not everyone will look past your physical appearance, but for those who make the effort, reward them…and be one of them. 

Learn Something of Value Daily

Maybe it’s…

  • Something about a friend or loved one that makes you appreciate them more.
  • A new word.
  • Something that makes you better at your job.
  • Something about a place you’ve never experienced before.

Switch it up as much as you want, but keep learning useful information.

Get Up Again

Life is going to knock you down, break your heart, leave you broken, and make you question things you once thought unquestionable.

Get up again. Love again. Heal or deal. Realize that nothing is unchangeable.

You’re capable of more than you realize. Make the best of whatever comes your way by helping yourself, and help other people as much as you can.

Be Grateful

Life is going to give you opportunities, surround you with people who will help you and love you, give you gifts, give you natural skills, and reveal itself as more intricate and beautiful than you once thought possible.

Be grateful. Take the opportunities. Accept the help and love. Thank the people who teach you, love you, make you laugh, make you better, and help make you who you are. Look for and see the beauty that surrounds you.

Make the best of whatever comes your way by helping yourself, and help other people as much as you can.

Judge Wisely

If you’re going to judge, and you should, do it based on fact or statistics. Leave fear and ignorance out of it.

If you’re in a dark ally and a stranger pulls out a switchblade, statistics are on the side of them intending to harm you. In that case, being judgmental will most likely save your life.

If someone has a different religion, skin color, sexual preference, country, favorite team, hair color, diet, idea, etc., than you, statistics are on the side of them not wanting to harm you. Judging those people as dangerous is fear-based.

If you aren’t comfortable enough with your own religion, skin color, sexual preference, etc., etc. to remain unthreatened by someone making a different choice or being different, perhaps it isn’t the other person you need to question.

When It Comes To Love and Loving

Remember the truth of the following Alan Cohen quote and let it guide your behavior when others make mistakes or forget who they are:

“Those who love you are not fooled by mistakes you have made or dark images you hold about yourself. They remember your beauty when you feel ugly; your wholeness when you are broken; your innocence when you feel guilty, and your purpose when you are confused.”

Make Life Better

When everything seems to go wrong, when you don’t feel good, and when you’re tempted to think/hope that maybe tomorrow will be better, find a way to make life better right now.

Even in your darkest, most painful moment, there is something or someone that will make you smile. If you can’t find a way to make your own life better, there’s definitely someone else who a kind comment or light-hearted joke from you would help. It’s not easy, but focus on making life better right now.

Help Others

Wonderful and terrible experiences fill your life. Share them with others when appropriate.

Maybe it will help them find a way through a tough time or realize that there is more good in their life than they’re seeing.

If it does nothing more than let a single person know they can survive, it is worth the vulnerability.

Your Best Is Enough

It doesn’t matter what you used to be able to do or what you will eventually be able to do.

Stick with what you can do, right now, today, and do it.

Do any of you have a set of guidelines you strive to live by?

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How to handle personal flaws

Do you ever wonder, like I do, about your flaws and how they affect your life?  It’s not the easiest thing to think about, is it?

Oh, we look in the mirror and pick apart our appearance.  Maybe we even go so far as to think that if we weren’t fat/skinny/beautiful/ugly/tall/short/etc., that life would be better—we’d have more money, better relationships, more success, hotter sex, be able to make a difference in the world, get taken seriously, be appreciated more, and feel better about ourselves.

Or maybe we think that if we weren’t so busy/tired/sick/over-worked/etc., that it would be easier to make the kind of changes we know we should make but never quite get around to doing.

But have you ever noticed that some of the things you dislike about yourself are present in other people, and those flaws don’t seem to hold them back in the same way?  And sometimes people even more busy/tired/sick/over-worked/etc. than we are still manage to do some of those things we think we can’t.  (Yes it’s motivating, but sometimes it also kind of sucks to have your reasons exposed as nothing more than excuses.)

What makes the difference then?

A good friend and I were discussing flaws recently.  We asked each other to name one.  I’m not sure what I was expecting, but it certainly wasn’t the answer I received.  I’ll even admit to feeling a little disappointed when I read it.  I figured there was some deep dirt that I just hadn’t seen because, well, it was my dirt.

When I read his words, I thought,   “What!?  How can that be a personal flaw?  And really, what kind of impact could that have on my life?” 

But a good friend who took a couple days to consider an answer shouldn’t be dismissed easily, so I thought about what he said…really imagined it in vivid detail.

You might be thinking, “What is it?  What’s your flaw?  Tell us!”

Quoted from my friend, “It feels like you’re avoiding your true subject. …  I get a strong feeling that you’ve got a powerful memoir in you, the sorta thing that will knock someone for a loop like a first round Mike Tyson … But that you’re scared of it.”  (The “…” is missing text that is irrelevant to this article or private.)

Yep.  That’s the major flaw a close friend saw in me.  I told you it felt anti-climactic.  If you’re like me, you’re probably wondering how in the world avoiding writing a memoir could possibly be a flaw.  (And there are a few people who just panicked that I might actually write about their role in my life…lol)

It’s not the lack of writing that is really the flaw; it’s the fear of what would happen if I turn my experiences loose in the world.  I have stories within me that are capable of positively changing other peoples’ lives.  They’re powerful experiences filled with self-discovery, kindness, and personal growth along with the heartache and pain that spurred some of the growth.  But regardless of how I tell my stories, someone is going to question them and me—more specifically, they will judge me.

What will people think if they find out that I didn’t understand my father until he was dying?  Would it help someone else to hear about my experience?  Who will it anger because they only saw my father’s public side?

How about if people knew I was once friends with a boy who was later called a monster for the heinous crimes he committed after he and his family moved?  Would seeing the boy through my eyes impact their view of the man?   Would it change how they see themselves?

Talking about the heart and soul of some of my patients would probably go over pretty well, but there would be some nut out there who would want to challenge how much strength and courage fighting your way back from major illness really takes.

Yeah, I think my friend got it right.  How much is fear of what others think of me affecting my life and stopping me from telling my story both literally and figuratively?  The answer is: way too much.  That is, indeed, a flaw.  (So is the reason the fear is there in the first place – but that’s another story.)

My mom always asked me what our neighbor, Hulda, would think if she were to walk up to the door and see me licking cookie dough off the beaters.  My answer then and now is that Hulda would probably think that it must be good cookie dough.

I am certain of how I feel about cookie dough.  The rest of my life is a bit more complex.  I don’t believe that there is one right way to live except that at some point, if we truly want to get anywhere close to achieving the potential that lies within us, we must turn and face our fears.  Perhaps even accept that for some questions and situations there are no easy answers, or maybe just no answers.

Sometimes, in fact, every possible choice hurts and feels wrong even if one of them is the best answer for the situation.  Other times, the challenged fear will disappear like a puff of candle smoke on the wind.  But until you find the courage to look fear in its hidden face, call its bluff, and rip loose its disguise, you’re giving something else power over your life.

That seems tragic.

So I think that the answer to my earlier question (about the difference between those with flaws who seem to do well anyway and those who don’t) has to do with knowing yourself well enough to be willing to risk facing fear and then taking action.  Easy to say; hard to do.

I’ll close with the following dialogue from a TV show:

My Tragic Flaw, by Ephram Brown

(From the television series Everwood)

The more things change, the more they stay the same. I’m not sure who the first person was who said that. Probably Shakespeare. Or maybe Sting. But at the moment, it’s the sentence that best explains my tragic flaw: my inability to change.

I don’t think I’m alone in this. The more I get to know other people, the more I realize it’s kind of everyone’s flaw. Staying exactly the same for as long as possible, standing perfectly still… it feels safer somehow. And if you are suffering, at least the pain is familiar. Because if you took that leap of faith, went outside the box, did something unexpected…who knows what other pain might be out there, waiting for you. Chances are it could be even worse.

So you maintain the status quo. Choose the road already traveled and it doesn’t seem that bad. Not as far as flaws go. You’re not a drug addict. You’re not killing anyone… except maybe yourself a little.

When we finally do change, I don’t think it happens like an earthquake or an explosion, where all of a sudden we’re like this different person. I think it’s smaller than that. The kind of thing most people wouldn’t even notice unless they looked at us really close. Which, thank God, they never do.

But you notice it. Inside you that change feels like a world of difference. And you hope this is it. This is the person you get to be forever… that you’ll never have to change again.


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“She thinks that happiness is a mat that sits on her doorway.” ~ Matchbox 20

[…Some of you are aware that my father died last month.  Since I process a lot of my emotions by writing, you might even be expecting a post about him. I’ve tried to figure out what to write when it comes to my father, but either I’m not ready or there’s no way to express all that I feel. Maybe writing his eulogy was enough for now…]

Do you ever think about your dreams and wonder what, if anything, they mean?

Most of the thoughts and images that wander through my mind while asleep are just odd fractions of things going on in life. But every now and then there’s a dream that just feels different—the sheer intensity of thought and emotion clouds the barrier between the dream and waking world.

An example is the night I dreamed of running on a forest path and transforming into a white wolf. In the dream I howled quite loudly. I also howled in real life…at 3 in the morning…loud enough to wake up myself and the neighbor who heard me through the not-quite-thick-enough townhouse walls. My wolf howl turned to hoots of laughter once I was awake enough to realize what I was doing. The neighbor gave me very curious looks for a couple of weeks.

Last year I had a different type of dream. An old friend who died several years ago took me by the hand and led me forward in time to view pieces of my future. There were things in the dream I had a hard time imagining ever happening. Some scenes were difficult, but the last one left me feeling happy beyond words.

The grey streaks in my hair showed the passage of time, but I stood on a small stage outside playing the mandolin with a group of people. The music was great, but the most striking thing was how happy I felt—happy in an “I forgot this was even possible” kind of way. It isn’t like I was or am unhappy in my waking life, but it had been years since I had felt the totally blissed-out happiness of the dream.

At the time, I didn’t play the mandolin at all. Matt had bought me one as a Christmas present several years earlier, not too long after my friend who played had died, but I never learned how to play it. In fact, I had considered selling the mandolin several times.

I’m not an “I dreamed it so it will come true” kind of person, but I think that sometimes our dreams have value. Besides, life is short and that sort of happiness shouldn’t be shrugged away as just a dream.

That night, I started learning to play the mandolin. It’s a fun little instrument. It’s comfortable to hold, light to carry, and has a unique sound. Mandolins are associated with bluegrass music, but I’ve been messing with a couple of classical pieces, swing, country, pop, and rock too. (I’m not good at playing any of them yet, but I enjoy working at them.) The mandolin is a lot more versatile than I ever realized.

It’ll be a couple of years before I can play it well, but progress is happening…not just with playing the mandolin but with my life too. As silly as it sounds, that dream and playing the mandolin is bringing deeper happiness into my life. If nothing else, the dream reminded me what it is to have every cell of my being dancing with joy.

One day I was musing over how much fun I was having while playing and I lifted the mandolin to admire the woodwork. On the back of the instrument there are natural variations in the wood grain. If you angle the mandolin a little bit and the light hits it just right, those markings become a smiley-face.

Disregard the ceiling fan reflection and look at the wood grain happy face near the bottom right of the mandolin.

Sometimes it’s good to follow your dreams.

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Giggling with Ghosts

More of Will’s story will be posted soon, but this was on my mind today…

Sun spilled in through colored glass windows and danced with the bluesy melody of a piano as the player’s voice stirred my soul.  Twenty years or more had ticked away, but the place where we gathered seemed unchanged while those of us who shared the day showed telltales of passing seasons.  We reminisced.  We shared stories.  We laughed.  We remembered.
Later, our group moved outside where a gentle breeze stirred the multi-colored leaves and sent soft whispers through the air.  In this place, the markers of time surrounded us…literally engraved in stone.  I walked past several, reading names of people I’d known since childhood.


One marker belonged to the family who owned the land we called Luick’s Hill.  For years, children (and adults) gathered there each time it snowed.  Bonfires, hotdogs, s’mores, and countless memories were made on that hill.  A hidden and mostly unused road ran between it and the cemetery.  Plenty of kids scared the crap out of each other if the sun went down before they started their walk home.  I once walked a friend half-way so he wouldn’t have to go the whole way alone, but I ran all the way back until emerging huffing and puffing in the moonlight again.  We giggled about how scared we’d been for years.  Although it meant going close to 3 miles further, I noticed he took the longer route after that…even as a strapping teenager.  When I returned as an adult, the hill still seemed huge and the road scary.


One marker was engraved with my uncle’s name.  It was his wife’s life we celebrated that day.  They gave me a doll I named Jimmy for Valentine’s when I was four.  Jimmy has patches over his knees and neck to match my frequently skinned knees and the removal of my tonsils.  I left my childhood behind many years ago, but I hung on to the doll my aunt and uncle gave me and I still laugh at everything it has survived.


The next marker held the names of my childhood neighbors although one of them isn’t resting there yet.  They had air-conditioning which was a huge treat since my family just sweated out the summers.  She always offered me cookies, and for a while she tried to teach me piano.  I wish I’d been a better student for her, but she was always very patient with me.  Her husband constantly teased and made me laugh.  His gregarious nature seemed starkly contrasted to her very proper appearance, but they were incredible neighbors.


The last one I walked past was my brother’s.  His children had obviously been there and decorated it for Halloween.  It brought back memories of the Halloween weekend I stayed with him, went to the circus, decorated cookies, and played by the lake.  He was fourteen years older than me, and while I never knew him very well as an adult, I adored him when I was a kid.  His gravestone filled my heart with sadness that his children and the rest of us lost him while he was still young.  But I was also filled with warmth remembering all the fun times with him.


I turned back and joined the rest of those gathered for my aunt’s burial.  As we continued to laugh and reminisce over stories of Opal’s life, I realized that while everyone there with a marker was missed, they continued to make the rest of us laugh and share memories.  Most of all, they silently reminded us to live while the fire of life still flickers.


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Chapter I continued…

This is a continuation of the story that started here.


There was a path through the pine trees and down the cliff on the left.  Deer and other creatures had helped, but his and Lily’s children were the ones who wore it so deeply it could still be found.  It wouldn’t be long before his grandchildren would add their own footprints to the path as they sought to play on the rocks and sand below.

The horses he’d saddled earlier whickered a soft greeting.

“This view never gets old,” Lily said as she approached, bundled in a jacket made of deerskin.  She took Jameson’s free hand and admired the view with him.

“We should get going,” he said after a few minutes.  The horses were getting restless.

“I suppose the bread isn’t going to bake itself,” she said with a smile at him.

“Probably not,” he smiled in return.  “But we’re likely to have help today.”


“Boris paid the boy for his fourth week of work last night,” Jameson said as he helped Lily swing into the saddle of her mare.

“The boy is a curious creature,” she said as she watched her husband hook his foot in the stirrup and swing up into his saddle.  The moonlight shone down on more of his forehead than it had just a few years ago, but her Jameson was still strong and lean with a striking smile.  He had a good heart and ran an honest business.  People could find better prices at other shops, but not better quality.  “What are you going to have him do?”

“Who says I’m going to have him do anything?” he winked.

“Jameson Cole Oliver!” Lily chastised, “I married you because of your kindness.  Don’t you go turning into a mean old man now!”

Jameson laughed and urged his horse forward down the road that led to town.  Lily’s mare fell in beside him without need of command.  “I thought I’d see how clean he is today.  If he’s still all fishy, I’ll have him work the stables.  If he’s clean, he can help me put that new shipment out on the shelves.”

Lily nodded her approval.  “If you’re done with him before I leave for the day, maybe he can come back to the cabin and help me pick some of the vegetables from the garden.  The garden won’t care if he smells fishy or clean.”

“I reckon that’d be fine too,” he nodded.

The road into town was short, but they always rode the horses.  Rain could blow in without warning and sometimes supplies or projects needed carried back and forth.  Jameson felt safer having Lily on horseback when she left the shop without him.  He’d never tell her that or his beautiful but stubborn wife would walk every day.  Her deep blue eyes smiled at him as moonlight reflected off of the scattering of grey that grew amongst the thick black hair she wore pulled back in a bun.

They both loved the trip to the store in the mornings.  The townsfolk still slept, the birds weren’t yet fighting over scraps from the boats, and the only noise came from their horses’ hooves or their own hushed voices.

“Definitely a curious creature,” Lily whispered with a nod toward the stable as they turned their horses into the alley behind their store.

“Curious indeed,” he replied.

“Good morning,” the young boy said when they were close.

“Good morning,” they echoed as they dismounted.

“What’s your name, son,” Jameson asked.

“Will, sir,” he replied.

“Will, it’s a bit early for a lad your age to be out, isn’t it?” Jameson asked.

“Yes sir,” he said with a nod.  “It’s just that I was hoping maybe I could work for you and Miss Lily for a while.  I figured I had to be here when you get here if I had any chance of you saying yes.”

Jameson didn’t even look at Lily.  She’d have that “give the boy anything he wants” look in her eyes by now.  He studied Will.  The lad had taken a bath and put on fresh clothes that were clean but too small.  His shoes had the opposite problem.  They were dusty and way too big.  The boy had initially stood tall, but he began to fidget as Jameson looked him over without answering.

“I reckon we can find something for you to do, but first I want you to answer a few questions for me.  Can you do that, Will.”

“Yes, Mr. Jameson,” Will nodded.

“You’ve been going from store to store.  I’ve talked to the other owners and they all say that you’re a good worker.  After a month, even though they’d be happy to keep paying you for the help you give them, you quit and move on to the next store.  That seems odd to me.  So my first question is why you want to work for Lily and me,” he said as they led the horses into the stable.

“I figure if I’m going to work for the rest of my life, I might as well like it.  But there’s no way to know what I like to do until I try it.  That’s all,” Will said with a shrug.

“Lily’s the only one who makes bread, but I’m not the only store the trades and sells other goods.  Is it only Lily you want to work for?” Jameson asked.

Will wiggled the toe of his overly large right shoe against the floor of the stables.  “No sir.  I want to work for both of you.”

“What do you think you’ll learn from me that you didn’t learn from the other shops?” Jameson asked.  When Will was hesitant to reply, he added, “Lie to me, boy, and you might as well head on home.”

“I’m not going to lie, Mr. Jameson.  I just don’t know how to answer without you thinking I’m saying something bad about the other store owners.”

Jameson saw a touch of fear in the boy’s eyes and softened.  “I don’t want you to say anything bad.  I’m just trying to understand what you want.”

“Well, you and Miss Lily work the furthest from the dock, but people that come in on the ships will walk past other shops to trade their supplies and spend their coins with you even though your things cost more and they have to carry their stuff all the way here.  I want to know why they do that,” Will said as he stuffed his hands into his pockets.

Jameson nodded.  “That’s a good enough reason.  The second question is why a lad as young as you is working.  Where are your parents?”

Will bit his lip and looked at the door.  For nearly a minute he stood and fidgeted as he looked at Jameson, Lily, and then the door over and over.

“I told you that I’m trying to figure out what work I want to do and am just trying different jobs,” Will finally said.  He licked his lips and looked at the door one more time, weighing if he could answer Jameson’s question or if he should just leave.  “My parents are at work.  They’re there a lot.  My dad said I could work if I wanted to.”

Lily touched Jameson’s arm.  He felt the same compassion Lilly did.  “I don’t think you’re lying, but I don’t think you’re telling me the whole story either.  Is that true?” Jameson asked.

Will nodded and then hung his head.

“Today I’m going to have you help Lily mill the grain, and then this afternoon you’ll go home with her and help her in the garden.  If you do a good job and want to come back tomorrow, we’ll come up with a plan to teach you about most things in our store.  We’ll feed you breakfast and lunch as part of your pay.  Some days you’ll work harder and earn more copper than on others.  How’s that sound, Will?”

“Yes, Mr. Jameson.  That’s more than anyone else has paid me, sir.”

The boy looked almost defiant and Jameson realized that Will thought pity was involved in his pay.  Jameson squatted down on his heels to be at eye level with Will and placed a hand on his shoulder.  “There will be a lot of people in this world who want to pay as little as possible for the goods they buy and the work others do for them.  That’s fine for them, but I try to be a man who appreciates good quality supplies and the hard work of other people.  It makes me feel comfortable expecting other people to appreciate my work and the quality of my supplies.  I’m asking you to be at my store earlier than you were at any of the other stores, and even earlier than you were at the docks when you went out on the fishing boats.  That’s worth a couple of meals to me.  Do you understand?”

Will furrowed his brows as he thought about it, but finally he nodded.

“Now off you go with Lily.  I’ve got to get the horses settled and get to work or we’ll not be ready when customers arrive.”

What have I got myself into? Jameson wondered as the lad followed Lily out of the stables.


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A Novelette Experiment…

The following is an experiment.  I’m working on a project that won’t be done until the end of the year, engaging in a self-directed programming class, and writing a novelette to help introduce readers to the characters in Chasing.  That doesn’t leave much time for blogging, and while I’ll continue to post some different content occasionally, I’ve decided to post the first draft of the novelette as I go.  It will eventually be edited and put together in eBook format—and first drafts seldom look much like the final version—but some of you might enjoy seeing a first draft and comparing it to final version later.  


Chapter 1


Jameson watched his neighbor drop 5 coppers into the hand of a boy who smelled like fish and ocean.

“Thank you, Mr. Boris,” the lad said.  He pulled a leather pouch from his pocket, added the coppers to the other coins already there, and walked away.  “Good night,” he called over his shoulder with a friendly wave.

Boris looked at Jameson and grinned.  “He’ll be at your shop tomorrow.”

Jameson nodded as the gulls at the docks fought over fish tails one of the sailors tossed overboard the Good Catch.  “I reckon you’re right.  Is he a good worker?”

“For a lad who hasn’t been in this world more than 7 years, he’s one of the best,” Boris said as he locked the door to his shop.

“I s’pose it really doesn’t matter.  That mop of black hair, those sparkling green eyes, and that smile of his has already won my wife to his cause—whatever that might be,” Jameson said with a sigh.

“Don’t know what his cause is, but the boy will work hard until he decides it’s time to move on to the next shop.  You ask Vince and Xandr.  They’ll tell you the same thing I jus’ did,” Boris said as he pointed up the street at the other shops.

“If he’s gonna steal my wife’s heart, at least he ain’t big enough to steal her kisses,” Jameson grinned.

Boris threw his head back and laughed.  “That’s why my Anya stays home.  If all the little ones she falls in love with look like me, she’ll forget that I’m not very good looking.”

Jameson shook his head and chuckled.  His own children were grown enough to be away at school, but Lily had brought them to the shop even when they were little.  She’d find something for the boy to do just like she’d found chores for their own children.  “Goodnight, Boris.  See you in the morning.”


* * *


Jameson stood at the peak of the cliff that looked out over the bay.  He and Lily had built their house up here for this view.  The sky was still filled with stars, but below him and to his left he could hear the waves crash against the rocks and throw spray into the air.  To his right, the bay curled into the rocky wall that wrapped its arms around the water like a protective lover.


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My first novel is published!


From the back of the print version of Chasing

The life of a Chaser seemed to fit Ottum like well-made armor. She hunted and killed evil without questioning the path her life had taken – until the day evil started hunting her. In that dark moment, Ottum’s past and present collided to shatter what she once believed to be unquestionable truth.

Ottum’s dead mentor begins talking to her in dreams, asking her to come to him. Another Chaser is poisoned and used as bait to lure her into an evil trap. And as she struggles to save her brother from the Avil’s tortuous acts and the other Chaser from the poison, Ottum wonders if she is losing her mind or seeing life as it really is for the first time.

My first novel, Chasing, is now available at Amazon.com in both print and Kindle versions!

For those of you who are more adventurous with technology, the eBook version also available at Smashwords (where you can download it for your iPad/Kindle/Epub/Kodo/SonyReader.   The eBook is also available at Barnes & Noble.

If you purchase and read Chasing, please feel free to submit a review of it on the site where you purchased the book/eBook.

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