The girl with the funny accent…

The girl with the funny accent…

A pretty fourteen-year-old girl with dark-hair and brown-eyes newly relocated to a Marine Corps base in the middle of the California desert. The year was 1972.
Several young teenagers, including myself, sat on the curb or on the grassy hillside under a large shade tree, comparing places we had lived with our Dad’s military service.
I said, “I just moved from Georgia.”
A skinny, dark-haired boy looked at me and pointed, laughing, “That’s what that accent is!”
I had no idea what an accent was and why this boy thought that I had one. I pushed back, “What accent? I don’t have an accent! Um, do I?” Obviously, his comment had made me self-conscious and a little bit embarrassed.
He went on to say, “It’s so obvious. I hope you can get rid of that accent, because if you don’t, it’s going to follow you around the rest of your life!”
“Huh, uh. That’s mean!” In my young and naïve mind I prayed that in time he wouldn’t be right.
Within five months my family moved to Fresno, where I became entrenched with California traditions, wearing bell-bottoms, midriff tops, Keds sneakers, headbands, and mood rings. I dreamed about having long, straight dark hair like Cher’s and fell in love with rock n roll music.
My friends and I held up the peace sign to our friends or to an occasional acquaintance without myself really knowing what the true meaning was behind a peace sign. I would later find out that it was about ending the Vietnam War and, at the time, unbeknownst to me personally, the Vietnam War would unknowingly make an impact on my life. But that’s another story.
Those were just the kind of things we did back then.
During my first days and months at Kings Canyon Junior High School, we talked about the Olympics in Social Studies class and I always looked forward to my last and favorite class, art.
And, within a few days I quickly became known as the girl with the funny accent.
I tried desperately not to talk like a ‘Georgia peach’, but the accent continued, following me through high school and well into my twenties. As much as I like to talk…uh, hum, somehow, California’s articulating accent began taking up residence. I’m not sure if that was a good, or a bad thing.
Well into my forties and on one occasional trip visiting family in Oklahoma, one of my nieces, about the same age I was when I first learned about accents said,
“Aunt Cheryl, how come you talk so funny?” Words strung into a question that took about ten seconds to slowly spill out.
Laughing, and with the same drawl inflection, “I don’t know Lauren. How come you talk so funny?” She walked away, with a look of bewilderment and everybody in the room laughed.
I knew exactly how she felt. I’ve never figured out why, but I’ve always had a fascination with accents. Although, I miserably failed French in the tenth grade, I still love to hear a foreign accent and find it interesting and fun. To ask somebody where their from and hear stories of other parts of our country, or even from around the world fascinates me. On many occasions Pete and I may be in a public place and hear somebody speaking with an unfamiliar accent. We almost always listen and discuss where we think their native country is. Sometimes, we’re brave enough to ask. It just amazes me how other people’s lives are so different from my own.
Sometimes, a person’s accent can really get in the way of a conversation. One stands out in my mind of a woman that I developed a very close friendship with when I lived in Oregon. Her name was Joanne.
Joanne was born and raised in Maine and her Northeastern accent, with the inflection on the rolling ‘r’ was quite obvious once I got to know her.
We talked about our lives and I listened intently to stories of her childhood and family members still living in the area. She told me about their family visits to the beach, lobster villages, and the Cape Cod style homes.
Joanne was in the prime of her life in the 1960’s. The way I saw her was that she was the new modern woman. She and Ron met when they worked together at the Safari Club in Estacada. Her personality was firm and she knew what she wanted and she wasn’t afraid to tell you.
We spent hours together, sitting at their dining room table, quilting, as she was who introduced and taught me how to quilt. I still enjoy it, although I really do miss her.
One early afternoon, Ron was reclining in the living room watching an old rerun as Joanne and I sat at the table, when out of the blue she said, “Cheryl, have you ever strip-pieced before? She spoke with her head down, facing her sewing machine so I couldn’t see her when she said it.
Thinking what does that have to do with what we’re doing, I laughingly responded, “What did you say, strip-tease? Um, no. I’ve never strip-teased!”
“No, strip-piece? Laughing at what I had said. “I’ll say it again, have you ever strip-pieced before?
I responded, “I’m still not sure what you’re asking? Did you say strip-peas? Yes, I have stripped peas.” At this point, I was thinking, Really? What does this have to do with anything we’re doing!
Ron eavesdropping joined in and laughingly responded, “That’s good!”
“No, like this,” as she took two pieces of fabric, placed them facing each other, and sewed them together, one after another…you get the point!
The three of us laughed hysterically for the next several minutes. I don’t think I had ever laughed so hard. I wasn’t able to attend Joanne’s memorial service in May 2005, but occasionally, I miss hearing her northeastern accent, and when I’m strip-piecing, I have to look to the sky and say, “Hey, Joanne! I’m strip-piecing!”
Like I said, those teenagers on that curb and grassy hillside had said something that would eventually come true because through the years my accent morphed into one of a West Coast native mixed with a little southern drawl.
I think I’m happy with it. But I have to ask, “Where are you from?”


Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson

October 2011: Pismo Beach, California.
Inviting aromas of Splash Café’s world famous clam chowder, served in a toasted San Luis Sourdough bowl and Mo’s Memphis style hickory smoke barbecue drifted up Pomeroy Avenue, towards the rocky cliffs separating the Central coast from the rest of the state.
My husband and I were on another vacation to an area of California that’s all too familiar for both of us, since that was the area where we met and fell in love. We leisurely made our way past rows of storefronts on our way to the pier and miles of sandy beaches stretched along the pacific coast.
Warm afternoon breezes and valley tourists packing up, preparing for the two and a half-hour drive back to the San Joaquin Valley.
Strolling hand in hand, reminiscing over previous years, once again taking in the thunder of the waves, and the cool, hard sand beneath our bare feet. Another pursuit, searching for a unique, yet somehow abandoned, discarded, home of a sea creature.
We sat down together on the soft warm sand, watching surfers riding an occasional wave and skim boarders sliding over a sheet of sand that looked like a giant mirror reflecting a biplane in the clear sky above.
I stopped a young man and asked, “I’ve never seen this before. The sand looks like it’s an enormous sheet of smooth glass. What does it feel like when you skim over it?”
“It feels like you’re floating on it.”
“Wow, that’s amazing!”
“Yeah. When it’s not this smooth, and we try to skim over it, we fall off our board a lot easier. We love it when it’s like this.”
“That is so incredible! You guys have fun!”
Two others, around fourteen, tucked their boards under their arm and waved goodbye.
Watching from a distance, I commented “If they’re fortunate enough to have a father who cares about their day, I bet when they walk into their house, Dad says, “Hey son, what did you spend this nice day doing?”
To which his reply may be, “Oh, John and I spent the day at the beach, skimming waves. The conditions were perfect.”
I don’t have a penchant to go into a political discussion, but I wonder if we really realize how good our lives are in this country.
Pete and I sat snuggled together and began an in depth contemplating conversation about how privileged we are and how much we take our freedom for granted. The reality of a difficult economy has kept many families from being able to afford to go on long vacations, but consider how freeing it is to be able to pack your family in the car and say, let’s go to the Coast for the weekend.
It’s so commonplace for us to just jump in our own car and drive anywhere we want to go, whether it’s to the grocery store, an afternoon matinee, or to a nice restaurant with a list of entrees a mile long.
If we think about it, one hundred years ago, only the wealthy would have had the type of luxury we enjoy today.
How about those living in impoverished nations? I have never been to a nation as poor as many third world countries, but by what I’ve read and seen in documentaries it makes me extremely thankful to be an American. I’ve never experienced the horrors of starvation and unhealthy living conditions friends have told me that they’ve experienced on a vacation or perhaps while sharing God’s love on a mission trip.
May 1998, after landing at Charles d’Gaule Airport and standing in the security line for what seemed like hours, Pete and I hopped onto a shuttle headed into the city of Paris. Naturally, everything was printed in French and the buildings had roofs that reminded me of old Disney movies like Peter Pan and the 101 Dalmatians. I felt as if I had landed on another planet. This was my first visit to a foreign country and it felt exactly like that, for me, foreign.
While in France we toured ancient castle ruins and saw how severely Christians were tortured for their faith as we made our way south towards vacationing for a few days along the Mediterranean coast. I was so thankful when we landed on US soil that I felt that I would kiss the ground.
Living in this Great Country, we have our own citizens living in unhealthy conditions and families that have a hard time making ends meet until the next payday, or those who are homeless, living on the streets, searching through a restaurant’s garbage to find something worth eating.
Why can’t we see how our nation is so fully loved by God? How is it that we’re so privileged and we’re able to live in a country so richly blessed, when there are so many souls in our world suffering? The amount of various responses to that question, is way more than I could possibly answer.
Sometimes, I think we lose sight of the freedom God has given us. We tend to take each other for granted.
Don’t forget that we live in the United States of America, where freedom reigns.
Our greatest happiness does not depend on the condition of life in which chance has placed us, but is always the result of a good conscience, good health, occupation, and freedom in all just pursuits.
Thomas Jefferson

The Waterfall

15-112612 The Waterfall

Chapter 15: The Waterfall

“God, where are you in my life?”
When you ask that question, you had better be ready for his answer. As this recollection of events will reveal, He answered in an unexpected way when Pete and I moved from California to Oregon.
Shortly after Pete and I met in 1993 and I first visited his bachelor pad in Santa Maria, I noticed a poster that his sister Linda had given him. He had mounted it in a plain black poster frame and placed it on the living room wall. The picture centered on a rushing waterfall that flowed into a rocky stream, surrounded by lush green ferns, trees, and thick moss, all under a darkened forest canopy and fair blue skies. My awe in the beauty of God’s creation in a full range of blue and green colors was breathtaking, and Pete and I couldn’t help but feel privileged to be able to enjoy something so beautiful together.
In 1997, while our new home was being built in Buellton, we removed the picture from under the poster frame, painstakingly trying not to tear it, which we did accidentally, having to discard part of the clear rocky stream. Once we had carefully removed the waterfall portion of it from the frame we rushed it to Michael’s crafts store and had it set within a simple wooden frame behind glass.
We were settling into our newly built home and wanted to place it in an area where we could enjoy looking at its beauty every day. So we decided to hang it in our small dining room, where it remained for the next five years until we carefully packed it away for our move to Eagle Creek, Oregon in June 2002. Once there, we decided to place it in our bathroom to create a feeling of the green Oregon outdoors.
It had been nine years and many hours of meditation, asking, “I wonder where that waterfall is, or it could be anywhere, only God knows where it is, and we’ll probably never know.”
Santa Maria is well known for its “Santa Maria style” Tri-Tip barbecues, prepared over red oak, and we wanted to share Pete’s expertise in preparing the mouth-watering meat for our new friends from AEC. We had settled into our new home and thought it was a wonderful way to begin making new friends.
Within minutes, a few of the guests came out to our deck, asking, “Where did you get that incredible picture in your bathroom?”
“Pete’s sister gave it to him before we met and we’ve loved it so much that we had it framed a few years ago. We’ve been enjoying it ever since.”
“Do you know where that waterfall is located?”
“No, we wish that we did, though.”
“You’re not going to believe this, but that waterfall is called Punchbowl Falls and it’s about a two-mile hike along Eagle Creek off of the Columbia Gorge highway!”
We couldn’t believe it! Of all of the waterfalls on this earth, God had placed this waterfall into our lives and we believed He was using it to guide us to where He wanted us to grow in our spiritual journey. He truly does work in ways that are mysterious to us and that we can’t even begin to fathom!
In August 2002, Pete and I took a three-day trip to San Francisco and Hopland, California for Fetzer Wineries’ annual event, “Fun in the Sun with Emeril Lagasse.” We knew the day we planned to return would be the perfect opportunity for hiking to Punchbowl Falls, so before leaving home, we made sure that we packed clothing and our hiking boots in the car.
When Sunday finally came we were both ecstatic and ready to fly back to Portland. Our plane touched down and we hurried to our car parked in one of the two long-term lots and made our way east on Highway 84 towards another new adventure.
I have to confess, I’m terrified of heights and rocky trails, much as I like hiking. But, somehow I managed to endure the two-hour hike along steep cliffs, cliffs that dropped off to Eagle Creek, one hundred feet below. It seemed as if I had a six-inch path to make my way on, trembling, wanting to close my eyes at times, wishing I wasn’t experiencing this. But, I was determined to see Punchbowl Falls for myself.
My feet hurt terribly when I asked somebody, “How much further is Punchbowl Falls?”
“It’s just around the corner!”
The last turn, there it was, Eagle Creek gently flowing into the small pool, making its way down a rocky stream towards the Columbia River.
Pete and I stood admiring this wonder located within a mere hour’s drive from our home in Eagle Creek, Oregon. We both knew that God had placed this into our lives for his purpose. We were in awe as we contemplated what the Lord was going to do in our lives next, and we didn’t want to leave.
A few moments passed, and as we turned to hike back to the car, a pure white butterfly flitted around my feet until it finally rested on my boot. I sensed God saying, “I’ve brought you here for a purpose. Trust me.”
Pete and I believe that God led us to Eagle Creek, Oregon for His divine purpose. God already had an incredible plan for our lives when I had asked, “God where are you in my life?” a few months earlier. He had already determined to show me!
Neither one of us believed that any part of what happened that day or in the weeks before could have been coincidental. When God does something this powerful in your life, you know in your heart that it can’t be just another coincidence.
I’ve shared this story with nonbelievers and they have said they think it was a mere coincidence. “I don’t believe in a god works that way in our lives,” more than one of them has said.
I know that my God does. It may sound strange, but I believe that God can use any circumstance, person, any place, or any thing, to make a positive change in somebody’s life.
We have had the opportunity to repeat this story, as well as other profound moments, with many of our friends and it never fails to amaze me how sharing the magnitude of God’s work in our lives amazes and touches their hearts. Ours has been a journey of unfailing faithfulness and trust. Punchbowl Falls made a lasting impression on us, for sure!
Jeremiah 29:11, has become the foundation of my decision to place my trust in the Lord. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD.

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