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Price is what you pay. Value is what you get. (Warren Buffett)

My older son was 21 years old when he helped my husband buy my car. Now he is married and has two daughters, ages thirteen and nine. My younger son was in on the decision as well. He was still in high school. He now has an MBA and a precious seven-year-old girl.

Both of my sons served as car-buyer assistants again. A brand-new Toyota will be arriving soon. Jay will be driving the 2018 vehicle. I am more comfortable with fewer buttons and an older fashioned style. Sure, I’ll learn the bigger-and-better, eventually. I learn in installments. A different kind of car payment.

My 1997 Toyota waits in the rain, not yet to be moved to the junkyard—for its parts to be organ donors for other needy vehicles.  

The car waits to help someone else, my almost daughter-in-law, my friend and confidante. I pray little green holds out for at least another year until Cecelia graduates.

I don’t recall the old car’s cost, but I had no idea it would be loyal to me for twenty years, more if someone I loved didn’t need little green for whatever is left of the car’s engine life.

The Toyota is a good car brand, but like anyone or anything, it needs maintenance and attention. Oil changes, an occasional tune-up, the mechanical version of you-are-important-to-me. I will notice what you need.

Sometimes the price of human love is high, but since love is priceless, the cost isn’t an issue. At other times, all that is needed is presence, a face-to-face smile, a sharing of frailties.

Value is what you get, a value that can’t always be measured.

Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known. (Carl Sagan)

I laugh at my middle granddaughter Rebecca’s antics long after she leaves with Daddy. She loves to play with an old pair of crutches that are too big for a nine-year-old girl. Each time she has a different pretend reason why she needs them.

Today’s reason: “I have boneless disease.”

She relays the surgical procedure, including plastic-skull placement with an occasional ouch; then she rises from a chair and reaches for the crutches. The OR is our backyard. She claims that all she needs to sustain her now, besides the beloved crutches, is a house filled with medicine. She pretends to swallow the first roomful.

I smile on the outside and chuckle internally.

“You raised my daddy. You raised my daddy,” she repeats the same line with a rising chuckle. Yet, I know she wants to be just like her father.

Rebe’s daddy, Gregory Petersen, is an author and a stand-up comic. Rebe’s wit is already sharp. Moreover, she has my complete attention, and she thrives on it.

When she is not in pretend-mode, Rebe is one-hundred percent honest. Two years ago, when I gave her a signed copy of The Curse Under the Freckles, a middle-grade fantasy, she took one look at it and asked where the pictures were. She knows I write, but she sees me as her ancient playmate.

Imagination doesn’t need to disappear with childhood. I happen to be a very old youngster.

By late spring, early summer, the sequel to my first book will appear—Stinky, Rotten, Threats. (No link yet. All is in progress.)

Chase Powers and his magic woods friends are attending summer school. Chase failed sixth grade—he studies both everyday fractions as well as how to use magical skills. His friends are self-motivated. They have natural smarts; they grew up with magic.

Of course, even school in a magical setting doesn’t follow the teacher’s plan. The adults in Chase’s family enter the woods for instruction, and Chase sees how much trouble newbies can be. Add interference from the evil Malefics… Then, Chase sees a change in the magical world he could never imagine even with the most potent tools.

Boneless disease never appears in my story. That fantasy belongs to my granddaughter.

Chase Powers is a fantasy character in a world that does not exist. However, his character thinks, feels, and acts like a twelve-year-old boy.  Anna, his friend, is a near-genius who has a knack for unintentionally getting under Chase’s skin, the way real people do sometimes.

Even so, something incredible is about to happen.  In the story, and in real life. Yes, a lot of bad news rolls off commentators’ tongues with the same tone of voice used to forecast a partly cloudy day. Ugliness is real.

However, so is beauty. A friend calls. A child draws a picture—just for Grandma, Mommy or the dog. Not all brightness comes from sun. Hope is like a seed, or a plot. You can’t tell how it will grow in the beginning.

I do hope you will bother to turn a page that promises a lead out of darkness. Of course, I would recommend my own work. However, if anyone has suggestions for inspirational titles, go for it. I am always glad to hear about a good, positive-minded book.

Peace, and may something incredible touch all.

What can go wrong will go wrong. (Murphy’s Law)

My computer is unplugged. Temporarily. A few minutes. No more. Its battery is at 69%. I checked two seconds ago. Then, the screen goes as dead as the inside of a serial killer’s conscience. The blackout has just destroyed 83 pages of edits.

On my final manuscript.

Scheduled to go to my publisher.

Today.

Yes, I do know how to write complete sentences. However, under the circumstances, my mind isn’t thinking in complete thoughts, especially as I realize the do-you-want-to-recover document I was editing contains an uncorrected way-too-common phrase I changed on page one.

And, no, I did not wait hours before hitting save. The save button would have a hole in if it were made of any earth material—including diamond.

Glitch two—some missed connection with my new Microsoft Word. No-o-o, a two-letter word that now has at least ten syllables.

Time to breathe before starting over. Two friends help make that happen, Ann and Shannon. They are coming for lunch and a personal concert. Fortunately, lunch has been prepared ahead. Simple. Homemade soup and tossed salad. Bagged tortilla chips. These two women appreciate. Excess is unnecessary.

Ann is blind. I pick her up from home and lead her up the steps leading to our house. She has no difficulty finding her way. Her sunshine greeting, light coming from her spirit, encourages me.

I realize there is no way I could have started over on my manuscript in a milieu of internal darkness. Shannon is already at the house and she is talking to Jay. Her laughter greets us as we enter the house.

We begin our afternoon with music. Neither of my friends could come to the Get Lit Festival last Saturday sponsored by Post Mortem Press. (Lit refers to Literature, not buzzed.) Local artists and writers brought their art to sell. I read a short section from my next middle-grade urban fantasy. I also played and sang three songs.

Nathan Singer from the Whiskey Shambles, rocked the program. He has an established following.

However, Ann and Shannon cheer as I play two songs on my guitar—just for them. Jay claps as well, even though he has heard my music so often, I close the door so he can concentrate on something else, anything else. A song may be incredible, but any sound repeated 7, 468 times requires ear canals as calloused as my fingertips. It’s called survival.

My heart lightens by the time I get back to start-over mode. And that is valuable because one beat after I get to the last page, Murphy’s Law shows up again. The computer freezes. Donkey-stubborn, won’t-get-out-of-bed, it refuses to budge.

My unprintable response remains in my husband’s and my memory since the computer is comatose now. It couldn’t hear if it were a living being anyway. Moreover, I reserve questionable language for the computer. I reboot the gosh-darned thing and pray my story has lived.

Trembling, I consider one of the last changes I made. Perhaps one of the angels my friends left in the house is present because I remember two edits. They are both intact.

Bye-bye, manuscript. Have a good time being formatted into a fantasy kids can enjoy where the good guys win. And hello, real life. No, I did not use the hammer or axe on my computer. The old thing will, however, be replaced. My birthday present from Jay.

After all, the innate beauty in life returns. Eventually. Murphy’s Law never destroys goodness completely.

I am much less sure about most things than I used to be. But I feel the pull of the love of God all the time and I don’t care nearly so much about not understanding. (Barbara Cawthorne Crafton)

My father died in December more than a decade ago. I brought home a few of the plants from his funeral and hoped they would survive at least the winter.  I could never forget my dad. However, proper botanical maintenance has never been one of my gifts. My older son joked that if killing plants were a felony I’d be on death row.

Nevertheless, one of those pots survived—even now—and occasionally blooms. It has a flower now.

“Hi, Dad,” I say, as if the white flower carried a heavenly listening device. “What’s it like on the other side?”

Dad doesn’t answer. I suppose I’d be totally freaked if he did, but I move the pot and blossom from the corner to a more prominent position in the sun. My memories answer, though. Too many of them. Hours later. Some are as bright as the sun that shines so bright I wear a baseball hat so I can see the computer screen.

Other memories appear as dark as the Good Fridays of my youth. Always somber. Filled with thou-shalt-nots and guilt.

Somehow storms never coincided with Good Friday and a halo-sun never rose on Easter. Meteorology and religion don’t speak the same language.

I think about a book I’m reading, The Alsolife, by Barbara Cawthorne Crafton. I’m not halfway through, and yet I’m tempted to begin reading again from page one. Then again, perhaps I should wait until I’ve read the last word of the last chapter. Then, I’ll read again with a fuller perspective.

Sometimes today is more than I can absorb, and this is a super-busy week.

The Alsolife explores existence in a fuller context, not as a linear concept—but as past, present, future, the universe—existing as one reality.

Forget aiming toward focusing on punishment. Hell. War. Hate… Choose forgiveness. Sounds right and good. And yet, Reverend Crafton describes how bitter the experience of real-life hurt can be, understood, maybe, only in context with the whole.

I recall a Holy Saturday more than a half-century ago when I thought I would be a corpse the next morning. I lived, but in the aftermath, I believed a morgue would have been a better Easter celebration. Years later, I would see the day differently, with a husband, two handsome sons, and three incredible grandchildren. Color and beauty returned. One moment never remains forever, and yet nothing from the past can be erased.

Now, on this Friday afternoon, I celebrate a moment of silence, sun, the quiet and gentle support of my husband, friends both new and old, family, and the peculiar gift called life—even if I never understand its secrets.

 

You can never spend enough time with children. (Dwayne Hickman)

Dakota sits in the Captain’s chair as he punches tickets for passengers. When he isn’t driving an imaginary boat, I use that seat to work at the computer. (However, when I write I don’t use the swivel function for steering.) Dakota is spending time with me and Jay because his mommy is working toward a degree. She is in class, and Dakota isn’t. He is recovering from an ear infection. With the same speed he does everything else, quickly.

“How much are the tickets?” I ask, knowing that as a crew member this question would be ludicrous. Uh, shouldn’t that be printed somewhere on a board with letters the size of the E on an eye chart? Dakota is in a fantasy world. I am investigating his play. For fun. Imagination adjusts the rules.

“Three dollars.”

That sounds reasonable. However, after a few more hole punches and the tiny centers create confetti on the rug, he hands me the next ticket. “Four dollars.”

From my point of view the cost difference is either for inflation or the cost of clean-up. Then he turns, eyes wide. “This one is twenty-three-hundred dollars.”

For the boat? “Wow! That seat must be really special.”

His eyes sparkle. I manage not to laugh out loud, and he nods. I place the ticket, representing the position of the paying passenger, next to his chair.

My little buddy is priceless.

I had other plans for today, nothing set in stone, only in intention—to finish more projects than possible. Instead, I received the opportunity to meet heart-to-heart with an almost six-year-old boy, a far richer time for my spirit.

Dakota takes a picture of me while I take one of him.

 

The only way out is through. (Robert Frost)

I don’t know the age of the woman to my far right in exercise class, but I’m impressed with her attempts to follow the instructor’s directions. She has a pronounced dowager’s hump and an unsteady gait, yet she shrugs, holds onto a chair, and fumbles with a length of elastic tubing used to increase strength.

Later, Jay and I chat with some friends, a couple who also attended the class.

The wife says the elderly lady told her at the end of class, “I wish I were seventy again.”

I smile, as if some angel were trying to get through via direct line, since I missed the subtle cues.

I am seventy. Sure, I have limitations. The mirror is far more truthful than I would like. However, this seventy-year-old blogger can tread water for an hour. Two hours with an intervening bathroom break. My balance, despite vertigo issues, isn’t bad. I can play with my grandchildren—on the floor—and then get up again, without the help of any mechanical device. Or groans. Gracefulness may be another issue.

Perfect doesn’t exist anyway.

Goals for improvement? Yes, I’ve got plenty of them. Some reasonable, some not. That doesn’t mean I need to live inside expectations. (Easier said than done.)

At home I haven’t finished breakfast dishes. There is laundry sorted in our tiny hall; mundane chores fill my schedule and complicate my priorities. And, uh oh, did I double book something this weekend?

As the four of us share my husband says something funny. In Spanish. I laugh. My knowledge of the language wouldn’t fill a tortilla, but I understand. Right now, life is good. The only way out…? Through. Every day. Up, down, and around as the path leads. Sometimes days and choices become difficult. At other times, they are as ordinary as a spin through the wash machine.

If or when, I reach the age of the woman in today’s class, I hope I have the courage and self-acceptance to struggle among the younger seniors, yet know inside my fragile body, my spirit is whole.

Whole, always whole, even in the most broken places…

my left hand, small, heavily veined, arthritic, yet capable

I think self-knowledge is the rarest trait in a human being. (Elizabeth Edwards)

Instead of buying cards for my husband, I make them. Simple, fashioned from photos. Personal, displayed for just the two of us to share. He taped the most recent ones along our bedroom windowsills.

In one of my designed-for-him creations, is a picture of the two of us at our wedding reception. We look more than a tad younger—because we were.

In my mind, I speak to that young bride accepting a bite of cake from her new spouse, as she offers a bite to him. Gently.

Intellectually, I knew I wouldn’t be twenty-five forever, but the turn of the century was more years away than I had already lived. An eternity from a new bride’s perspective.

You have an…I pause…interesting road ahead.

No way could a photo of a long-ago-me hear my thoughts, and yet I feel a sudden urge to protect this former image, as if a flat scanned photo had listening power. Not everyone who attended my wedding would be alive as time moved through inevitable days and years. I would lose parents, cousins, aunts, uncles, friends. A pulmonary embolism in my lung would bring life-long change.

This young-bride-me didn’t know what crises would arise, what joys or challenges. I thought I was strawberry-blonde hair and a well-shaped, pain-free body. (My hair is the only thing that remains remotely the same.) However, wonder also awaited. Two sons. Grandchildren. The joy of art and words. New friends. Love for my husband that reaches deeper than romance.

“Hey, just enjoy the moment,” I say. “As fully as possible. Celebrate who you are, and who your husband is.”

The phone rings—one of my newer friends. “In fact, I think I’ll follow that advice right now.”

picture taken in the Redwood Forest during a California vacation