Santa Cruz, California, October 28th, 2014

Santa Cruz, California, October 28th, 2014

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Siva Stephens--Guest Post

My Greatest Adventure

Hi, Redhead fans! My name is Siva Stephens. When Jennifer put out the call for guest bloggers  while she's in Bolivia, I volunteered because – well, partly because we Writers never turn down even the most roundabout invitation to Write, but mostly because  it was Jennifer asking. Everyone wants to support their friends, but so often opportunities to help are limited to things like posting, “Woot! Go for it!” notes on Facebook  or saying, “Tell me if you need anything” at the end of a difficult phone call. I jumped at the chance to do something practical for her!

Since Jennifer is off on her Big Adventure, she has asked us to write about our own experiences in that line. I admit that I've had some adventures that sound pretty great on paper; I lived in The Far East for several years, I honeymooned in Europe, and I celebrated my 50th birthday by diving into the pool at a Nudist Resort.

The problem with adventures is this: they are often more “adventurous” when you're dreaming about them beforehand and remembering them afterward. While you're having them, you're the same big ol' doofus you always are.

I had a baby daughter when I lived in Japan, and I would smack her tender little head into the door frame every single time I put her into her car seat. We were surrounded by wooden-lacework temples, cherry blossoms and roadside vending machines that distributed edible underpants, but all I could see were my daughter's appraising eyes fixed on mine in that split-second before the screams began -  that gaze which said so clearly, “Really, Mom? Again?"
© Bogdan | Stock Free Images
 You just don't see that in the travel brochures.

I spent a lot of time in London wondering how long it would take my washed-in-the-sink panties to dry on the hotel radiator, and my studiedly-casual strut across the Nudie Club's courtyard was negated seconds later by the decidedly unrehearsed shriek of terror I emitted in the deep end of the pool. (In my defense, the club was in a rural area, and I thought I was being attacked by river otters. I had no idea that certain parts would float so high.)

On the other hand, I've experienced giddy waves of rapture at the most seemingly-mundane moments: When that same daughter said “Mama!” and laughed for the first time, and when the love of my life walked into the laundry room, opened a shiny box containing a diamond solitaire and proposed to me while I was taking clothes out of the dryer, and when a friend who Knows Some People said, “Hey! Send me a couple of chapters from that book you're working on. No promises, but I'll see what I can do.”

You know. Life.

When Jennifer was preparing for her first trip to Bolivia, she confessed to me one day that she was having a slight attack of cold feet. What was she thinking, she wondered? She was a suburban housewife, she had children and a husband at home, she had Responsibilities with a capital R. Wouldn't it make more sense for her to support the Radio Project in some other, more prudent way? She had joint trouble, foot trouble, and considered herself out-of-shape. What good was she going to do, prancing around the Andes? She'd just hold everyone back.

In a rare, blinding moment of knowing what to say at a time like this (instead of 2 days later), I shared the story of the seashell. It seems that a missionary in inland Africa was nearing the end of his stay, and one of his students had been pondering the perfect going-away gift. He knew that his beloved teacher loved shells, so he set out on foot to the coast, in search of a flawless specimen. The round trip took several days. When at last he presented his treasure to the missionary, the missionary was delighted. “It's the most beautiful seashell I've ever seen! Is that where you've been? I'm touched – you have traveled so far, just for me!” The boy smiled and said, “Long walk part of gift.”
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 To me, that's the essence of adventure – it's not necessary to be at a different altitude, what we must do is cultivate different attitudes. If we open our eyes and our minds to what's new and inspirational, we'll find Excitement in a trip to the grocery store; if we keep our thoughts firmly stuffed into those same narrow, familiar grooves, we wouldn't recognize Romance at the top of the Eiffel Tower during sunset.

Sure, right now Jennifer is trekking through exotic part of the world, but she's also having an adventure of the spirit - the very best kind.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Whitney Metevia--Guest Post

Jennifer asked me to write about a great adventure. I thought about some of the fantastic adventures in my life and tried to decide which would make the greatest story.

I thought about the time in college I tried to drive home on a Thursday night with my roommate and we encountered an armadillo on the highway. It was either drive off into the dark abyss of a ditch on the right, smash into the 18-wheeler on the left, or steer my tires around the little guy. Steering my tires around the guy seemed like the thing to do but what I didn’t know was armadillos jump straight up when they’re scared. So he jumped straight up and, well, killed himself, and disabled my car, and stranded us in Okahumpka, Florida. (Google Map that!)

Of course, this was back pre-cell phones (gasp!) and my trusty CB radio got us help with a tow truck driver at 10pm who asked us if we had any ether. No, we had no ether, but he towed us to a place where we could get the car fixed. (That’s another story altogether.)

Or there is the time, in my adulthood, my boyfriend (now husband) and I reconciled after a difficult break and went on a rambling trip up the east coast. We wound up in Baltimore for an Orioles game and that evening decided that we’d travel to Niagara Falls the next day. Of course, we could afford such travels because this was a long time ago when gas was cheap and he worked for the Marriott, and we stayed at the employee rates. What we didn’t realize until about 2 hours away from Niagara Falls was that, at the time, there were no Marriotts on the American side. We wound up in Canada that night overlooking the Horseshoe Falls in an upgraded junior suite (on an employee rate!) Calling our parents that night to check involved a good deal of convincing that no, we had not eloped, we are just incredibly poor at planning ahead. Also, this was before you needed a passport to cross the border. Needless to say at that time it was easier to cross INTO Canada than it was to LEAVE Canada. Big grins from the Canadian border staff going in, stiff belligerent questions to get back to the US.

But the story I’d like to tell is from my senior year in high school.

© Creatista | Stock Free Images
I was blessed to attend a small, private Christian high school after having been bullied at a public school in junior high. The people at this school were unlike anyone I’d ever encountered. They were – nice. Genuinely nice. And we all wore the same horrible clothes. This was the best thing that could happen to a certified dork like me. (I was the Cover Nerd of a hand drawn magazine at my old school.)

During my senior year, just before Christmas there was an evening I met with a few other students at our friend Shelly’s house for a study party. I forget which subject we were studying, but problems seemed to be solved much easier when we worked on them together. I think high school was the only time working in groups was a positive experience for me.

At some point, we finished studying and someone got the bright idea to go Christmas caroling.

Now, this is ridiculous. Not just because it was the late 20th century, but it was South Florida. It’s not cold, people would likely think we were going to rob them, and “Christmas” here means generic carols about Frosty the Snowman and Jingle Bells (which aren’t anything that happens in Florida) and anything that is vacant of Jesus and his birth. But for some reason, we thought it was a good idea to go through the neighborhood knocking on doors and singing religious carols.

We weren’t high, or drunk or anything. Just bored and crazy, I guess.

It’s not surprising that we walked around for a LONG time and sang for only one person, who watched us through a chain across the door. This wasn’t a “bad” neighborhood, either.

Eventually we got discouraged and decided to walk back. We came by a house with a circle driveway that had a car with a Christmas tree strapped to the roof. Next to the car was an elderly lady with her arm in a sling. It was quite dark by this time, after 9pm I think. Shelly mentioned to us that she thought it was odd, because this woman lived alone and she didn’t know how she was going to get that tree in her house.

There were 5 of us – 2 guys and 3 girls. We called out a hello to the woman and she waved with her good hand. One of the guys asked her if she wanted help carrying the tree inside. We weren’t prepared for her reaction.

She cried out, “Praise God! I didn’t know how I’d get this inside!”

Now – we were all thinking, “You knew before you bought the tree there was no one at home to bring it inside”. But we didn’t say anything.

The tree was carried inside, and arranged in the tree stand so the tree stood straight and tall. The woman was smiling and chatting about her grown kids. We explained to her that we were on our fruitless mission of Christmas caroling that evening.  She offered us cookies if we’d sing her a song. So we lined up in front of her new Christmas tree and sang. I don’t remember the song, but I remember she sang along with us, and I’m pretty sure it was not a secular song.

After we finished singing, she asked us our names.



After Mark said his name, she started to cry. This kind of wigged us out at first. I mean – hey – we were in this strange lady’s house singing Christmas carols and she started to cry. But then, finally, she spoke.

“My son was supposed to be here tonight to help me with my tree but he was delayed at work. I was in my driveway praying to God for help. He didn’t just send me help – he sent me three angels and two of his apostles!”

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Andrew Budek-Schmeisser--Guest Post

Old Man of Zion
By Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

© Rkudasik | Stock Free Image

“Them’s ghosts up there.”
The gathering dark was embracing Zion Canyon, as the last of the day tourists made their way back along the road.  I was going in the wrong direction, and an old man called me on it.
“Them Paiutes didn’t go up there at night. They worshiped their wolf-god back in there.”
Yeah, right. That was a hundred and more years ago. It’s 2000 AD now, and I’m an engineer, and I ain’t worried about no stinkin’ wolf-god. “Well,” I said, “be that as it may, but I’m flying back to California tomorrow, and I promised myself I’d have a look at the Temple of Sinawava.”
The old man looked me in the eye. “You’re an idiot.”
“Thanks. A lot of people have told me that.”
He sighed. “Well, Lord says we gotta protect fools from they’s selves. I’ll go with you.”
He turned, and walked with me while I was trying to remember where in the Bible it said that fools have to be protected from their own stupidity. “You from around here?” I asked, to make conversation.
“Nope. Used to be. Live in Philly now.”
He went on, “When I was a kid, before this place got popular with you tourists,” he turned his head and spat ahead of my boots, “before then, we’d come up here. Had a pal, he went up at night.”
“What’s he say about it?”
“Dunno. He didn’t come back. Never found more than a piece of him, neither.”
“A piece?” The skin on my neck crawled. “A piece?”
Propelled by a hysterically morbid curiosity, I asked, “What piece did they, uh…recover?”
“Couldn’t tell.”
Okay, I thought. This is insane. This guy’s nuts.
“That’s when I decided to get outta here. Went to Philly, then joined the Army. Went to Korea.”
I had a friend who’d been in Viet Nam. “That must have been rough.”
“Zion got me ready for it.” He walked on in silence. Occasionally he stumbled, and I gave him an arm. He took it.
“Yeah,” he said. “Got back, went to school.”
“What’d you study?” I was on familiar ground now, and it was comforting, as the shadows grew deep around us. Far off down canyon I heard a truck start up, and then move off to the south. It sounded like in it’s mechanical heart it couldn’t wait to leave.
“Medicine. Psychiatry.”
So much for first impressions, if that’s really the truth. “Freudian?” I asked.
“Freud was a pervert.”
We crossed to the west side of the road as the canyon turned, and the color drained fearfully from the sky. No birds sang.
“Coming up on it now.” The old man looked up at me. “Still want to go on?”
“No,” I said.
He laughed. “Good boy! Honest.” But he didn’t stop walking, and I stayed in step.
An amphitheater of rock opened to the left, more felt than seen, and there, bulking its shadow from the black ground, was the Temple. The Virgin River moved softly over its rocky bed, making low music.
“Come on.” My companion left the road’s verge, and led me across a still meadow, toward the dread mass of the Temple.
I can see it fine from here, I thought.
He turned, and said, “Well?”
“Coming.” It was like walking into a strong wind. I didn’t want to be here, not anymore.
We crossed the river, cold and clear and swift, and splashed through the grass, forward, forward. The rock edifice rose up over us, and my eyes were wide, trying to drink in all the ambient light I could. There were things moving at the edge of vision, and I swung my head to look.
“See something moving, didcha? That there’s autokinesis. See something moving, but it’s just your own eyes.”
“The stuff you’re afeard of, you ain’t gonna see.”
“Uh, okay. We’re here, right? We can leave now, I mean, I’ve seen it now, and really, thanks…”
There was nothing but the river, and high in the stratosphere, a jet, carrying normal people to bright-light cities. I wished I were among them.
“You hear it?”
“I, ah…don’t hear anything.”
“Shhh! It’s coming…”
My mouth was dry, and I could barely say, “What’s coming?”
The old man looked at me, and in the dim, dim light, I could see his smile, white and glowing. “Your honor, son. There’s one less thing in the world to be afeard of.”
Then he threw his head back, and sent a long, melodious wolf-howl into the haunted night.

Andrew Budek-Schmeisser is the author of Blessed Are The Pure of Heart

He also blogs at Blessed Are the Pure of Heart 

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Barbara Schmeisser--Guest Post

Ever Feel a Mountain TREMBLE or hear a Bull Elk’s bugle answered by a pack of Wolves?

I learned magnificent lessons the first time I crossed the Mississippi River heading west. I saw the wagon wheel ruts of the Oregon Trail, the rolling plains filled with corn and milo, stood in the fort where Custer and his troops were last seen before Little Big Horn. 

Then I saw on the great horizon a figure that reminded me of thunderstorms over Indiana farm fields. But the figure reached as far as my eyes could see north and south. That’s not a thunderstorm; those are mountains.

© Cantondog | Stock Free Images

As my truck moves closer toward the mountain range the more purple and majestic the range becomes. I am glad I am the only vehicle around for a mile because driving and looking are not mixing well.

Entering the Rocky Mountain National Park is awe-striking. Words are made up here to try to express the experience. Thousands of feet of granite rock tower above you and guard rails line the passage road to keep you from being a statistic. If you happen to become one, you will drop hundreds of feet down jagged ledges. Yet my being is at total peace like a deep ancestral memory of coming home.

It takes a while to actually get to the interior of the park and find the campsite. The truck is supplied with all the camping necessities and more, including my 35mm camera and 10 rolls of film and of course a human friend and a canine companion.

My companions are elated at my reaction to the park; they have been here before. Huge boulders lay everywhere and oh my, did we get lucky--our campsite is across from Pike’s Peak. The pines are poignant, since it has recently rained. I must walk down and sit on a boulder in front of the mountain; it leads to the moraine below. Pike’s Peak is overwhelming and all I can do is sit with awestruck wonder.

© Alandyck | Stock Free Images
Then I remember, I told a friend just diagnosed with cancer that I would send up a prayer for him when I got near the mountain. While I am praying in this surreal place I notice more clouds moving in time to set up camp.

At a frantic pace, our accommodations are set and the storm puts on its show. Inside the tent the fabric flaps deafeningly then a flash with an immediate crash of thunder. Wow, did you feel that, the mountain trembled beneath our hindquarters.

The storm clears off to the east and the air becomes still, eerily silent. Then we hear a Bull Elk bugle from the western moraine and in response the howling of a wolf pack like neighbors checking on one another. They continue to communicate for some time, moving closer together and then falling silent. Everyone is safe.

Nature is full of surprises--arch enemies have concern for one another and mountains tremble fearfully.

How connected are we?

Barbara Schmeisser