Magic in the air

The journey of 9-11-10.

I’ve met the most amazing people, and I know you’ll want to learn about them and hear their stories.

As I have been on my roller coaster the past couple of years, theirs is in an entirely different park, a special outta this world place.  It’s sort of the super-coaster, one that holds the “important men” of the world.  It’s the place where heroes live.

While we each journey to the next moment and place, some folks experience incredible events.  On rare occasions we have the chance to come together from all across the world and get to know one another.  Personally, I got the better end of this experience, by far!

What are the chances that I would ever meet Kelly Hillyer, the soldier assigned to guard, transport, and befriend Saddam Hussein?  He is the first one who comes to mind.  And then there were other soldiers, with amazing stories.

As I get to know them in the priceless few moments we speak, I am truly humbled.  For who they are and what they’ve done, yes… but mostly because they don’t see them-selves as unique or particularly special.

When I first saw Kelly at the Scottsdale Princess, I thought – what a handsome guy.  I know, who says handsome guy? I guess us older women maybe.  (Shh…did I just write that, oh well.  I own it, I know I’m older than Kelly.)  He had a nice casual camp shirt on and just wandered around meeting people like the rest of us.   When I got to talk to him, he was polite and I couldn’t believe the incredibleness that is him.

At one point, while listening to him speak about his time guarding Saddam, Hayden and I looked at each other in amazement.  I swear there was a bubble over our heads that read, “Are you kidding?”  His story is remarkable, and not at all what you would expect.  (You’ll have to wait for him to finish his military career before the book or documentary comes out.)  Here he is with the opening speaker at the event, his friend John.

Kelly and John McCain

Before I go on, let me share how I began on this track.  It started with David Haddad, the owner of Fumar Cigars.

While I do not partake, Mike does… oh and Hayden too.  This is a special soul, this Mr. Haddad – his life and adventures should be a book series.  One great thing he does is support Fighter Country Foundation by hosting an annual fundraising event called, The 9/11 Patriot Day Celebration.  Meeting David came about after an introduction from our high school friend, Fred Lanier; who I love, and cherish the time we share with him and his family.   Anyway, David, Mike, and Hayden became fast friends.  Hayden was asked to do the video production stuff for the event (and the commercial before hand.)  Mike also helped out and got Bank of America to join as a sponsor of the 9-11 Patriot Day event.  This allowed us to attend and meet so many great people at a pre-event party.  Which by the way was an event on its own.  David does it up right.  (If you are ever in the vicinity of Deer Valley Air Park stop in Fumar, or )

This was the first time I met Dennis Clark.  I don’t think I know the words to express how much I like this man.  He lives in Iowa and his resume reads more impressive than any President or business mogul.

After a couple of days, when someone would ask who is Dennis Clark, I’d say, “Oh he’s the man, the king, the greatest guy.”  They’d ask, “No really, what does he do?”  I’d say, “What doesn’t he do.  Today he is here with Derrick, and can share with you the wonderful thing that his company is doing with prosthetics, just like they did with Derrick’s legs.”

Dennis Clark, is the president of  OPGA (The Orthotic and Prosthetic Group of America (OPGA) which is the largest network of independent orthotic and prosthetic patient care facilities in the nation., and POINT- Health Centers of America.  Their moto, “At POINT we are committed to our mission; to function as a vehicle for independent, ABC accredited orthotic and prosthetic facilities to compete with the large, national and regional firms in the managed care health-care environment.”  He also has Clark & Associates, Prosthetics and Orthotics. Whew…. And he’s also a friend of Fred Lanier.  So, he’s in! ; )

But that’s not what keeps him busy, he is a champion, a friend, a father, and guardian of his grandchildren.  He and his wife will soon adopt his two grand children because their parents cannot care for them. To think, he was so excited to know my affiliation with American Adoption Congress!  I twitch, move, and bounce as I laugh inside at his excitement.

Funny though, the first thing I thought, “I wonder if the kids will have new birth certificates issued stating they were born to Dennis and his wife?”  It’s an occupational hazard… maybe next time we’ll discuss that.

Dennis introduced me to his friend Derrick.  He’s like my neighbor’s son, who I adore.  Or like a friend of Ashleigh or Hayden’s.  Such a nice polite young man.

Sue & Derrick @ Patriot Day event

Susan & Derrick at 9/11 Patriot Day Event

While walking with him, two small kids about 5 and 7 years old came up and finally one took a deep breath of courage and asked why he had “those” legs.  When he explained that he’d had an accident, etc. the other boy asked what happened to his real legs.  To which he said, “Well, I’m gonna be honest – they got blown up.”

The boys, with eyes like saucers asked, “Where did that happen?”

“In Iraq.”

With a scowl, “Where’s Iraq?” And the boys looked around, like Derrick was crazy.

Derrick continued to explain as the dad came over, and while you never know the knowledge or understanding of what someone has or what a child may say, Derrick was comfortable and very friendly.  He showed them his legs, and explained how he is good as new.

While I didn’t know him as a service man, or how he got “blown up” – the guy I spent time with was the nicest person I’d met in a long time.  As time went on and I learned more about his story, I marveled at the courage and his love for life.

I thought, “I don’t want to dwell on my challenges, on being adopted and having so much death in my world.  I want to be like Derrick and think forward and be grateful for what I do have.”

Derrick is so obviously grateful for what he has, and what he doesn’t have – he doesn’t focus on.

I only wish he didn’t live so far away.  After the event he traveled back to Missouri, where he celebrated his “re-birth” anniversary and hopefully friends and family showered him proudly with love.  Then it will be back to work for him at his landscape business.  If I remember right, it was a 6 year re-birth party.

Derrick's legs

I can only imagine where his roller coaster has taken him these past years.  I know for sure that it is a proud red, white, and blue coaster with Dennis right behind him in a big white rescue-horse-cart filled with supplies such as love, care, and compassion.

The time spent with these people meant a lot to me; I knew it each moment by moment.  It was one of those times in your life that is great and you know this too shall pass.

So I took deep breaths,  smiled body and soul because I knew something magic was in the air.


This Too Shall Pass

Last night as my cart rolled in for the evening, I over heard my husband as he was getting into bed.  He was talking to the dog.  Well, not just any dog, it was our “Princess.”

“Mom’s gonna be a famous writer.  Maybe she’ll write about you one day.  Yeah…” he paused and then spoke in this adorable soft-spoken voice, “It could be called, ‘Ramp it.’  Yeah… and maybe she’ll even tell how you fell in the pool today, poor baby girl.”



I asked from around the corner, “Are you talking to me? It kinda sounds like you were talking to me… or Bicki?”

I got in bed and he said, “uhm… yeah I was just talking to Bick.”

I hold this sweet man’s face.

“I know, I heard you tell her about the book,” I say, “I love you, and thank you for being so proud of me.”

I’m thankful, at peace.

“Ramp it,”  is a term we use to tell Bicki to climb her ramp, make her journey up to the bed.  I also “Ramped it” the past week or so to get here myself.

Such a flurry of activity the past 10 days, and I see that there’s many more miles of ups and downs on this ride.  At first, I thought – Has there been miles and miles of track added?  And, where am I going now? I had to completely put away the book I was reading, The Help (by Kathryn Sockett I believe)-  and hold on!  (I don’t want to forget what was happening with Miss Minny.)

As I neared August 26th I realized that two years had passed since I sat at my mom’s and learned about the DNA results.  It was a foggy-realization day until my email messages popped up on my computer.  One at a time, revealing the last one, received at 9:04 a.m.  It was a message from a publisher discussing their proposed contract.  My index fingers cleared my eyes, once and then twice.  After a hard blink, I read it again.

“We look forward to working with you and publishing your fine book.” He wrote.

Oh good God, thank you – someone thinks I have a fine book.  I danced around, I have a fine book. I felt like Rudolph, “She thinks I’m cute… She thinks I’m cute…”

I have a fine book!  I have a fine book!

On August 27th it was my 27th anniversary with Mike, and together in my sapphire blue cart we had a lovely weekend away.  Surrounded by cool thin air, we climbed to 11,000 feet to gaze upon the beauty of Northern Arizona.  Ha, bet you didn’t know my cart could jump the track and hop on a ski lift?

Once back in oven-of-the-valley where I cannot even touch the sides of my cart, it feels like I rolled into a hurricane. There’s mess everywhere and you feel like you want to crawl away over the debris, and find a safe place to hide.  Or at least sleep for a few days.  What didn’t frighten me in those few days, exhausted me.

Thankfully, as I push my “rosies” back up onto the bridge of my nose, I get it together and one would hardly know of said difficulties, exhaustion or storm.  Thanks in part to a half-day in Paradise.  There’s nothing like a friend who’s on your side to lift your spirits.  This friend, by the way, will make the best pre-k teacher around.

My cart maneuvers me through every bit of joy and difficulty that I need.

I learn lesson after lesson of what angry people look like and how to bravely pass by them.  When I truly see them, with lowered glasses, I can only feel pity and want to be far away.

I grow as I find ways to cope with losing my mom two years ago September 5th.   (Hmm… A cope-tini may possibly be a new annual spirit to enjoy.)

I’m less angry at her for not telling me I was adopted, yet still conflicted about whom she really was and how she could keep such a secret.  It is all embraced as my path, my ride, and I accept and love who I am today.  What she did, well – that’s on her, and I can’t change a thing.

However , it was a time of rebirth this late discovery and loss.  If it weren’t for the DNA results, or my mother’s passing I would not be a writer with a book deal.  Those events were like Miracle Grow.

(Late Discoveries will be published and at your local bookstore and next fall.)

Beginning in 2009, I was propelled like no coaster could with nuclear drive and energy.  As I look back at early chapters, the date/time stamps – I’m even impressed.  I may have gained a little secretary spread, but I created hundreds of documents and told beautiful stories.  The images blossomed and my creativity kept me excitingly alive.

Yesterday, I got the final contract – it was so fun to look over all these pages and investigate what I was getting into.  Mike and I researched, Googled and asked others for help.

When something didn’t sound right, I just smiled and thought – this percentage for subsidiary rights in my contract doesn’t sound right.  Oh my God, I have a contract and I’m learning about subsidiary rights!

I’m basking in the glory, for I know THIS TOO SHALL PASS.