January 8, 1998
Westminster, California, USA

Before driving me back to Len’s house, Rony gave me a triangular stained-glass medallion on a leather necklace, as a reminder of my visit. He told me that his sister had made it, and insisted that I return it to him the next time we met.

That afternoon, Len drove me and all my belonging to Marni’s home in Huntington Beach, which is just south of LA. Marni is the daughter of Mrs. Reed, a long-time family friend, and next door neighbor at my summer cottage on Washademoak Lake in New Brunswick. Mrs. Reed is here at Marni’s home now also. This is where she spends her winters.

That evening, I went with them to the Crystal Cathedral to view the final performance of the Glory of Christmas -- a musical enactment of the Christmas story. Tickets were in the $20 to $30 price range, but fortunately since Marni and her husband, Warren, were ushering, they were able to get me in for free.

Bus loads of people from all over the US had come to see the presentation. Some people had traveled from Canada and as a far away as Russia to attend. It was very professional, just as I expected from the cash they were asking. There were ballet dancers, opera singers, and angels suspended from the ceiling flying over the audience on thin wires. It was incredibly impressive.

I have been here at Marni’s house a week and a half now. Time seems to go by much faster when I stay in one place. I’m back to work: getting my website materials together again, and formulating a concept of what the new site will look like, how it will work, how it will pay for itself, and who will manage it. It’s a lot of work, and takes a lot of time, but I know it will pay off if I do it right. I’m in no hurry... Mexico isn’t going anywhere.

All the writing practice I’ve been giving myself is really starting to show. My reading and writing have improved more in the last five months than it did throughout all three years of high school. If someone had told me I’d be a writer when I was in grade ten, I would have laughed at them. I hated writing. I didn’t like reading either. Not that I disliked it... I just didn’t find it fun. I was a horrible reader in elementary school -- always the worst in my class. To this day I can count the number of novels I’ve read(outside those I was made to read in school) on one hand.

I’m not a big fan of fiction. I read my first serious book just two years ago in preparation for the journey I am now on. It was a true story about a father and son who paddled a canoe from Winnipeg, down the Mississippi, to the mouth of the Amazon River. I was able to get into the story, because in my mind, I knew that the events had actually happened. I hope that my journals might spark the same reaction from others who aren’t fond of reading.

Beside me is a book shelf. Often when I’m sitting here typing, I’ll turn to the shelf, pull down a book, open it to the middle, and begin reading. I do this for inspiration, and to see how other writers write. So far, these are the books I have pulled down: The Godfather, Jaws, and The Celestine Prophecy -- all fiction. Now that I’m a better reader, I’ve begun to like reading.

On the left side of me is a billiards table. Sitting at my computer all day sucks. Between pages, and sometimes even between paragraphs, I will shoot pool to clear my head.

On Sunday, I went to the morning service at the Crystal Cathedral with Marni, Warren, and Mrs.Reed. The Church’s architecture is incredible. It is shaped like a diamond and is completely covered in glass. Separate from the cathedral, a futuristic 200 foot stainless steel bell tower reaches up to the heavens.

The service was actually entertaining. They had several musical guests, a couple guest speakers, and the preacher, Dr. Robert Schuller, was exceptionally dynamic. The services at the Crystal Cathedral are filmed and turned TV show into a called The Hour of Power, which is the most viewed religious television program in the world.

I have been searching a new website designer. I have it down to two companies. I am now in the process of drawing the website down on paper, so they can give me a quote. I know one of the companies is going to be far more expensive than the other, but I’m quite sure I will get what I pay for.

New Years Eve was nothing special. I stayed in and watched TV. At midnight, I stepped outside, summoned by the sound of fire crackers and the wizzz-bang of bottle rockets. Micro fire works displays were taking place in neighborhoods for miles around. I wished I was falling from a plane 10 thousand feet over the city when the clock turned twelve. It would have been a spectacular sight.

Christmas was no big deal either. However, it did give me an excuse to talk to my parents, my three brothers and two sisters, my cousin, my uncle, and my grandmother, on the phone. For most of them, it was the first time we had spoken to each other in over five months. That doesn’t include email. I exchange email with everyone quite often.

Before departing on this journey I knew there were going to be sacrifices, and missing Christmas would be one of them. But... now that I think about it, I guess Christmas really was a kind of special time. It was just different - unlike any Christmas I had previously experienced. There wasn’t a decorated tree, I received no gifts, I ate a single bowl of cold cereal for breakfast(quite different from the extravagant spread my mother always prepared), there was no talk of skating, cross-country skiing, or snow-boarding, and I was still wearing shorts outside. "How could I possibly feel Christmasy?" I asked myself; but gradually, with each "Merry Christmas" email I received, I began to realize that none of the other stuff really matters.

I received many emails. Some from close friends and family members, and some from people I hardly knew or didn’t know at all. The following was sent to me on Christmas eve from Jeff, a man in New York I have never met. It was perfect in every way. Reading it almost brought tears to my eyes. I may never read a more appropriate poem; one that will capture my spirit as this did:

For Christmas and all through the year...
May You Always Have an Angel by Your Side.

May you always have an angel by
your side. Watching out for you in
all the things you do. Reminding you
to keep believing in brighter days.
Finding ways for your wishes and dreams
to take you to beautiful places. Giving
you hope that is as certain as the sun.
Giving you the strength of serenity as your
guide. May you always have love and
comfort and courage. And may you
always have an angel by your side.

May you always have an angel by
your side. Someone there to catch you
if you fall. Encouraging your dreams
Inspiring your happiness. Holding your
hand and helping you through it all.

In all of our days, our lives are always
changing. Tears come along as well as
smiles. Along the roads you travel, may
the miles be a thousand times more lovely
than lonely. May they give you the
kind of Christmas gifts that never, ever
end: someone wonderful to love and a
dear friend in whom you can confide.
May you have rainbows after every
storm. May you have hopes to keep
you warm. And may you always have
an angel by your side.

-Written by Emilia Larson