Here I will be discussing the aspects of growing old, living young, and being the person you want to become. Also, as life is to be enjoyed, I will be including some short stories for your entertainment. Entries will be tagged Fiction and Non-Fiction for your convenience. If you only want fiction, click the button below, and the same goes for non-fiction. I hope you will enjoy my writing style and voice. Stay tuned, as I will also announce when I complete my books.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Island Fever P.2

This is Part II, please read Part I from Monday

March 2011
Madagascar was everything and nothing I thought it would be all at the same time. I spent most of my time riding bikes and familiarizing myself with the area. We rode up and down cobblestone roads, red dirt staining my polished shoes, black pants, and white shirts. I thought Madagascar would have animals of all kinds roaming freely, but all I saw were cows, chickens, and dogs. There were no packs of dogs. In fact, all of the animals were mangy and run-down, yet nothing was quite as mangy and run-down as my spirit.
My first few months on Madagascar hold the record as the hardest months of my life. I felt like a large piece of flesh Thomas, my new companion, had to carry around everywhere he went. At times, I was treated that way as well. I was a mute, an outcast. I didn’t speak Malagasy and had to mock sounds that I would hear; “Manna-woo-na” seemed to mean “Hello, how are you?” I questioned my purpose, wondered why I was in Antsirabe, and wanted to go back to Réunion. I felt like Jack Shephard from Lost. No matter what I read, saw, or experienced it was like the island was calling me back. I had to go back.
President, who usually decided exactly where each missionary was assigned, assured me that he would send me back one day. However, after seven months of riding upstream in poo-filled flood water, crossing murky rivers, and accepting blood-sucking fleas as friends, I realized that I may never actually go back. So, I decided to embrace my fate. Madagascar was going to be my home for the next year. I was moved to Antananarivo, the land of a thousand hands and capital of Madagascar. I lived in Alarobia, which translates to Wednesday, and life felt like I was trapped in Wednesday for two months straight. 
The beauty of countryside living was gone. Antsirabe was full of waterfalls, rice patty fields, and chameleons. My time in Alarobia helped me realize how much I loved living in the rural parts of Madagascar. My life became more about the people and less about nature. It was in Alarobia that I was able to remotely speak like a native. Sounds were beginning to become words and “Manna-woo-na” looked more like “Manao ahoana.” I was getting the language and making friends. My new companions helped me feel at home, and I was really starting to like my life on Madagascar. I had been humbled by the people and their circumstances. For some reason, when everyone is very poor, life doesn’t seem as hard and God is always present.

May 2011
       I’ve had it with Madagascar. The better part of May was spent in bed. I was sure I was dying. I had an awful fever and no one seemed to know what it was. Late one night, while sweating my brains into my pillow, I had a dream. I dreamt that Death came to visit me. I saw a dark-hooded figure come down the hallway and stand by the bedroom door. There was a large banging on the shed outside that sounded like a thousand rain drops bouncing off the roof. Death stood over my bed, holding a large ax. Nature had come to reclaim me. The next morning, Cryer, my companion, told me that he heard a slow breathing noise in between our beds. I recounted to dream. He heard the rain too, but it hadn’t rained that night. I wasn’t sure why I didn’t, but I was close to dying that night.
August 2011
Late one Sunday night at the end of August, I got a phone call. It was President. We were riding back to Wednesday in a taxi cab that sounded like a rhinoceros in heat. There are no rhinoceroses in Madagascar. I plugged my ear and listened very carefully.
“Cassel, Manao ahoana,” he said with his South African accent. “I just wanted to call and thank you for all of the hard work you have done here on Mada. I know it hasn’t been easy, but we are grateful for your sacrifice.”
“Thanks,” I said, receiving a flush of flashbacks that mimic President promising to send me back to Réunion.
“I’m sorry I didn’t say hello to you at the conference this last weekend.”
He should be, I thought. He was so kind to everyone but treated me the way that Dumbledore treated Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix.
“It’s all right, you were busy,” I said nonchalantly.
“Anyways, that’s not why I’m calling.” I listened as hard as I could. “Cassel, you’re going back to Réunion.”
I was in shock. He had caught me off guard, and I couldn’t believe my ears.
“I’m sorry President, what did you say?”
“You’re going back to La Réunion, so start packing because we’re leaving Tuesday morning.”
I wouldn’t spend another Wednesday in Alarobia. This time, saying good bye was a little easier to say because I was finally going back! Seven months and a thousand promises later, I was going back. I was the happiest I had ever been. I didn’t know any of the other missionaries on Réunion now, but I didn’t care. Thirty pounds lighter than when I started on Madagascar, I got on a plane and was so overjoyed that tears formed in my eyes as I watched the eastern coast of Madagascar vanish away.
October 2011
Réunion was my home and I was more prepared than ever to face the people. I started speaking French again as if I had been speaking the language the entire time that I was on Madagascar. After a few months, I noticed that my attitude on Madagascar had blinded me to what the island was teaching me. Every morning there I had escaped to a small, brick back-house wherein I prayed to find the strength to survive. Madagascar taught me how to be kind, to respect all living conditions, and how to fall in love with a people so very different from my American lifestyle. I had been inspired by the exotic beauty of the island and touched by the wildlife it sustained. I even literally got to touch a lemur or two! I felt pain when my new friends lost their homes to a fire, leaving them to sleep in a Red Cross or UNICEF tent.
I have forgotten most of their language, and I can’t remember where most of them live, but I know why I suffered. I’ve seen infants die, families torn apart, and a community burn to the ground, yet Malagasies continue living. They look up to God every day because they realize that life is precious and that they need Him to survive. La Reunion and Madagascar molded me and taught me to be a better person, because I served others before myself. I learned that life isn’t so much about what we have as what we do with what we are given.
Antananarivo, Madagascar

Monday, July 27, 2015

Island Fever P.1

October 2010
I had never left the American continent, let alone visited more than five states, before travelling to the island of La Réunion. Four months after my parents’ separation, I was on an airplane, flying to the other side of the world. Réunion is a hidden island, which the French look to for vacation like the Americans look to Hawaii. For many it is a tourist attraction and promises breath-taking hikes and thrilling views. The island is secured about five hundred miles off the coast of Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world. Réunion, however, is close to being the smallest island, yet it is home to the tallest peak in the Indian Ocean: Piton des Neiges. If this “Snowy Peak” ever gets snow, the citizens go wild. Réunion thrives in the equatorial tropics so snow is a rare attraction.
I arrived on the morning of October 21. La Réunion would be my home for the next two years; I would engulf my life with island air and twist my throat to speak with the native Créoles. When I walked out of the airport, I saw the tallest mountain I’ve ever seen. The entire city of Saint Denis twisted and climbed up several hundred feet of earth. The air smelled humid with a hint of beer, many of the islanders’ favorite drink. 
            Exhausted from the nearly forty hour journey from Salt Lake City, Utah, to the Roland Garros airport, I couldn’t wait to get something to eat and sit down in a normal chair. I was assigned to work in Saint Pierre, the southernmost city of the island, which was roughly an hour from St. Denis. Saint Pierre is one of the oldest cities on the island and many “true Créoles” still live there. It was here that I began to realize that the island had a lesson to teach me. There were three other guys who lived with me in St. Pierre, Loose, Rellaford, and Farnsworth.
December 2010
It was the middle of summer, a strange phenomenon for someone from the northern hemisphere, and Rellaford, an exercise enthusiast, decided to take us to hike the Grand Bassin, to a small village at the bottom of a giant basin. This was one of the most interesting hikes I had ever been on but only the first of many Réunion hikes. The flourishing green journey to the bottom of the basin took about thirty minutes. The small city was surrounded by nature. Sugarcane, Réunion’s prominent crop, and banana trees grew freely around the city. The climb back to the top took about two hours.  The hike was only about two and a half miles, but I felt like I was climbing a colossus. Looking back I realize that the island’s beauty had a lot more to teach me than I had realized when I started there.
January 2011
My journey on Réunion was cut short, and it wasn’t until I moved from the island that I realized how much it meant to me. As I was serving an ecclesiastical mission, I couldn’t choose where I went or how long I stayed in an assigned area. Three months after arriving on La Réunion, and just as I was grasping the French language, everything changed. We got a phone call from our superiors. I knew they were calling to tell us if we were staying or leaving. I knew Rellaford would be going to Mauritius, another island, because he had already received his visa. I was prepared to stay on Réunion and watch over our area. Rellaford passed me the phone.
“Hey, how are you doing?” Johnson said, trying to find a way to tell me the news.
“Are you ready for the transfer news?”
“Yeah,” I said, sure that I wasn’t going anywhere.
“Are you sitting down?”
Just tell me already, I thought.
“You’re going to Antsirabe, Madagascar. You leave this Friday.”
I was shocked. I gave the phone back to Rellaford and went to see Loose and Farnsworth. My face was pale. Fear filled my heart. What was I going to do? I loved being on La Réunion. I hadn’t heard much about Madagascar, but the internet said that packs of wild dogs roamed the streets at night. It was a third-world country. I leaned up against the doorway, finding it hard to stand.
Loose said, “You’re going to Mada, aren’t you?”
I nodded.
His face dropped. He was only joking. “Are you serious?”
I nodded again, unable to use my mouth.
“You don’t look so good,” began Farnsworth. “Go sit down.”
Before I had a chance to say good bye to the many people I had worked with and made friends with over the past three months, I was on an airplane. I was on my way to Madagascar with a new language to learn, food to eat, and people to understand. During my time there, I would realize how much of my heart was left walking the streets of La Réunion.

Grand Bassin, La Reunion

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Boy and His Purse

Once upon a time, there was a boy named Me, and Me was fortunate enough to have lived a majority of his life with all four of his grandparents. When Me was in high school, some of his closest friends lost their grandparents, and some even lost their parents. Me didn’t understand how this was possible, for his grandparents were still very young. Wasn’t the California sun magical enough to keep everyone young?
Me was a peculiar child. He enjoyed climbing trees and cooing with the doves. Sometimes he wished he could fly and even asked God to sprout wings on his back. Another peculiar part of him was that he was extremely close to his grandparents. Especially the one he called Geegee. Me and Geegee seemed to go everywhere together and it was almost always his duty to keep track of her purse. If they went to the movies, the restaurant, or the store, it was Me who wanted to carry Geegee’s purse. She wasn’t apt to losing it, but he was extra sure it’d be safe if he had it with him. Young Me was wise beyond his years.
A few years passed, and Me became a teenager. Much of his life had changed, but he still loved his grandparents very much and would still be seen carrying his Geegee’s purse. If she would lose it, Me could find it again. He seemed to also have a talent for finding things that were lost. Me graduated high school and left for college. When he was finished with his first year of college, Me packed his bags and left on a volunteer mission to the other side of the world. Me and Geegee were so far away that the boy who carried the purse wasn’t able to help her anymore. This was very hard on Geegee. The boy who was once a phone call away, was now in the Indian Ocean speaking French.
It seemed that there was no one to make sure the purse stayed safe. When Me was a boy he used to chase things like butterflies and birds. Perhaps he was envious that they could float along without a care in the world. Occasionally, when Geegee felt most sad without Me to help her, a beautiful Monarch Butterfly would flutter along her path reminding her of the boy who was missing her too. After all, Me loved his grandparents very much.
A few years passed, and Me came home. He was so happy to see his family, but also very sad because they had changed much since his parent’s divorce shortly after his departure. He went back to college to finish his education as a writer. Things were much easier for Geegee, now that Me was only a phone call away again. Soon, Me grew up even faster, getting married and starting his own life. His family was still very important to him and seeing them happy made him happy.
But what about Geegee’s purse? Me didn’t live very close and so keeping track of Geegee’s purse wasn’t easy. He was only human after all. He would talk to Papa on the phone, who would usually start a conversation this way, “Guess what your mother did this week?” Since he viewed all his grandchildren as if they were his children, he always referenced Geegee as Mother. “She forgot her purse at the restaurant again. That’s the second time this month.” Could it be that Me’s best friend was becoming forgetful? Couldn’t be.
Me, now in his early twenties, was finding it hard to believe that his grandparents also aged while he did. They still seemed the same to him, so he hoped they would never grow old. But he knew that life didn’t work out that way. He had an idea to help Geegee remember her purse. Every time he called, he would ask if she knew where her purse was. Seemed simple enough. However, there was a huge flaw in this plan, what if he called after it was lost? There would be no way to retrace his steps to the lost purse.
Then, as if an idea lit up in his head, Me said, “To keep track of a dog, you put a leash on her, so why not do the same for your purse?” It seemed too simple and silly to be a good idea, but Me suggested it anyways. Needless to say, Geegee doesn’t lose her purse anymore. When she goes to the restaurant or the movies, she clips one end of her purse-leash to her side and the other to her waist. And so the boy is still able to keep track of his Geegee’s purse, even if he’s far far away.

Growing old stinks, but it doesn't have to be hard. Share this idea with your aging folks and grandparents, and they’ll thank you later. Just tell them I sent you. This is for my grandparents, which I am very grateful to still have in my life. May you continue to live long and keep your heads on tight. Me loves you all.

Derek (refindthetime)

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sandy Beach

This story was renamed "Dreams that the Heart Remembers," inspiring me to start writing my first novel. Since that time in 2008, I have begun many projects totaling to 11 books. This story is obviously fiction and will be tagged as such for the blog. All non-fiction pieces will also be noted. I wanted to rewrite this piece, but I just can't.
Get your cheese hats on because this story embraces the gold mine of romantic cheesery.

Let me know what you think. Also, look forward to posts once or twice a week on this here blog!

Sandy Beach

A man speaks to his newfound sweetheart under the beautifully encrypted sunset of the painted sky. “My love,” he said, “I have searched for you all my life, and now I have brought you to the only place that I find as beautiful as you. Look! Off there in the distance! Do you see the sun crawling down the sky, as it calmly says goodnight to us and good morning to those on the other side?”
“I do, but why must you bring me so far out here on this cold summer’s night?” said the lovely maiden.
“Why, my dear? Well, can’t you see? This place, it is far greater than any other place and the cold chill of the night makes my heart desire to hold you closer, to stay true to our love. You see, as I walk with you by this ocean side, I cannot help but admire your beauty and see the glorious gift that God gave me: sending you into my life.”
“Oh, my dear, I knew I loved you! I knew I did!” cried the girl. “The only man I could dare say ‘I love you’ to, would be you, for your heart is so refined and pure from all the others.”
“My love,” spoke the young man, “I am left speechless, for you words have cut my tongue and pierced my heart.”
The romantic night got darker, as the couple sat and stared into the starry night, on the soft sand of the wondrous beach. As they went to sit down the man took off his white, warm coat and laid it on the soft, dreamy sand for his love to rest upon. The night grew cold, but his love for her grew warmer and warmer.
“My love,” said the man, as he carefully filed through each tiny grain of sand, that fell trough his tender hands, “even if I were to count each individual grain of sand on this beach and all other beaches in the world, the abundance thereof would not be as great as my love for you. Your smile radiates with happiness, as the moon begins to rise high into the sky; for it is your happiness that brings me joy and your tears that break my heart. But do not fear my love, for I will not let you stay sad for much longer. Our time here is limited, but my love for you is eternal and our tears shall be shed together. To think that I have been searching for you my whole life is incredibly hard to imagine. Come, my love, let us walk.”
The beautiful couple got up from their restful spot and began to walk down the beach, with the white foamy waves floating alongside them. While under the clear moonlight that was breaking through the senseless clouds, they came to a tall, gallant, stone arch found on the southern side of the shoreline.
“Oh how my heart is gladdened this night,” said the women “and I never would have expected to find such a beautiful place with a man as handsome and gracious as you are.”
“Well, my dear, as I have been told since I was young, ‘a heart will teach you all things, good and bad, but the feelings you receive from other’s hearts are how you know you are truly in love.’ This arch that we stand under was created by a supreme power, through the waves and the sand, but the power of that being brought me to you and has made my heart change so much that it has fallen in love with you.”
“Oh my...” said the women astonishingly, “I cannot seem to find the words to respond to such great poetry.”
“My dear, do not speak,” calmed the young man, putting his finger to her mouth, “for your unbreakable love has already spoken your words for you.” He fell gently to one knee. “So, answer me this one question… Will you marry me?”
“Yes!” she cried, as she fell to the ground, “Of course I will! When I first met you, I would not have said yes, but now that I know your heart, I cannot say no. I love you.”
“My dear, I love you too, and no power in the sky could ever be capable of taking my love from you. Let us go and share our love with our families and friends, for your eyes are gleaming with the sight of tears and I do not want to see you cry.”
“But,” said the woman calmly, “these tears are different; they are not tears of sadness, but tears of joy and love.”
The newly united couple ran back to their car and drove off into the still, silent night. Yet as the youth and joy left that cold summer’s night, the sun began to rise and shine with glorious colors. In the morning, a family arrived at the same beach that the lovers had recently departed from that night.
“Honey, look at that beach. Does it look familiar?” asked the husband excitedly.
“Oh my goodness, it is so different than what I remember,” said the wife, discouraged.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, this is the same beach that, twenty years ago, you asked me to be your wife and now it is far more ugly and nothing like what I fell in love with before.”
            “Well, honey,” said the husband fearfully, “maybe others still find it beautiful.”
“How? There is nothing here but a sandy beach and an old stone arch that is covered with ugly shells. Look at the ocean, the waves that crash on the beach, they do nothing but make the sand shrink and disappear.”
Almost instantly, the ocean departed from that place, the archways, under the once glorious ocean, became visible and the sun rose high into the sky. The land heated up and the beautiful sandy beach grew larger and larger as the water diminished.  Millions of arches appeared and the heat grew so intense that nearly all life that was ever capable of living left that place, and those that failed to make it out, died. This valley of death, as it is now called, became a glorious encryption of stoned arches and intriguing artwork, but the true beauty of the once glorious and sandy beach could never be seen again. To have love for something must mean that the love for them will never fade, no matter how much the object, substance, or person changes over time. Just as the waves shape, mold, and diminish the stones into sand, so must we embrace the changes that fall upon our shores.
Derek (refindthetime)


Friday, July 17, 2015

The Poison that Nearly Killed Me.

Hello Internet, friends, and family! Today is July 17, 2015. I’ve got a story to tell you. For the past few months, I have been free from most responsibilities. Summer break from school came, and I had big plans. Plans to write every single day and to finish at least one book before I graduate college next spring. However, I started to fail myself. In a world filled with technology, the illness of procrastination came over me. Why spend all day writing, when you can do mindless internet shenanigans?
So for the past few months, my life was filled with gaming, Facebook, Youtube, and endless amounts of screen scrolling. In the amount of time I have spent scrolling on my smart phone and staring at my computer screen, I could’ve written multiple short stories and probably finished a novel by now. So, what does this mean? Well it means I’ve caught myself in the act. Thankfully, it hasn’t been ten years before I noticed. I’m a writer. I won’t make money playing games, and no one will pay me to scroll down on a Facebook or Twitter feed. My dream is to be an author and see my name at a bookstore nearest you.
For the last few weeks I’ve been pleading with myself to get back to writing. I got a nice desk and study area. I even bought a little fountain for the desk! I was so excited to claim the area as my own and write, write, write. But it just didn’t happen. It didn’t happen because I have to ignore the internet while I’m in there. The internet/wifi connection has been my poison. I’ve been addicted to it and unable to break free. Then yesterday, everything became clear.
I was watching Netflix on the Wii U, using the internet. It was a movie I’ve seen before, but I really wanted to see it again: Without a Paddle. This movie discusses a crazy treasure hunt of three best friends trying to fulfill the final wish of their fourth friend who recently passed on. They, like me, go up a creek and without a paddle. Then, when they’re at their lowest moment, a forest man takes them into his house at gun point. His name is Del Knox and he has been living on the mountain for thirty years, searching for his friend who was lost in a parachuting accident.
After some brief conversation Del says something extremely profound, “I spent the best years of my life sittin' on the porch, playin' the harmonica, waitin' for somethin' better. And the years have been goin' by faster, and faster, and then, all of a sudden, I was an old man.”

“Well I bet you can play the $#@% outta that harmonica!” says Tom Marshall.

“That I can. 'Cept there's no one around to hear me play it. Piece of advice: you can lose your money. You can spend it - all of it. Maybe work hard, get it all back. But if you waste your time, you're never gonna get it back.”
As this blog is called “Never Grow Old,” I wanted to begin it with this entry. Ten years from now I want to look back on this day and be able to say that I began living my dreams today. I don’t want to sit on the porch, mindlessly being sucked into the internet. I want to live. So, I have to be who I want to become by starting over. I don’t want to wait any more. So before I miss my opportunity, I want to take that opportunity and run with it.
When I was on a service mission in the Madagascan islands, a smart man told me that if you work hard in America, you will become rich. The truth however, is that if you work hard in any country you will become wise, and with that wisdom you will be able to serve your family and others more willingly.
So Internet, this is goodbye. I am disconnecting the wifi from my laptop, and I will only emerge when I have something to report. Thank you all for your support, love, and friendship.

I will return.
Follow my blog to see my updates.

-Derek (refindthetime)