I Loved My Mother

I loved my mother. 

She wasn’t very good at parenting. She didn’t have the skills or backbone for discipline. She was the queen of denial and avoiding difficulty. She left the job of raising me up to our maid, Elizabeth aka Woosie, for the first six years of my life. After that I was pretty much on my own. 

When Mama found the cigarettes, I was smoking as a teenager she left me a note saying, “if these are yours, don’t smoke it’s a terrible habit,” no words were ever spoken as I watched her, and daddy smoke a pack or two per day. When my best friend, Elaine and I got caught sneaking out the car, our punishment was to sleep in separate bedrooms. We laughed as we meet in the hallway to play our usual game of double solitaire. It was easy to go camping with my boyfriend because I knew my parents would never check to make sure I really was sleeping over at Elaine’s. 

My parents divorced then remarried after a couple of years. It was just me and Mama in our two-story house. My older siblings had all flown the coup. Mama spent her evenings in her bedroom drinking her sorrows away. One evening I was off babysitting. When I got back home the house was locked. Banging on the door and the window right next to her bed didn’t wake Mama. I absolutely can’t remember how I got in that night or if I spent the night with a friend. My boyfriend often spent the night with me on the 2nd floor that I had full reign of. 

She didn’t speak to me for weeks, when I dropped out of sorority rush (because I thought it was a bunch of bullshit). I had disappointed Mama since I came from a lineage of the sought after Chi Omega and Tri Delta sororities. We had spent several days shopping for outfits just for rush. She had loved that I was debutante in my high school years, that we had a reason to go to New Orleans to find the perfect dress for the ball, that we attended and put on mother/daughter luncheons.
It was important to my mama that our family keep up appearances, fit into the high society crowd of our Southern city. That was a value she was raised with. Women’s education, thoughts and desires were not part of her upbringing. Her job was to stand by her husband, make a home, hire the right maid, keep up with society, join the Junior League and attend church. She succeeded in all those duties. 

With maturity I was able to see my mama as the flawed human being we all are. She was a product of her environment, raised in an upper-class Southern family, taught that appearances were everything. 

As an adult, I enjoyed my mother. She loved nothing more than to have all her “chickens”, her four children, in the same room. She loved it when her grown chickens landed in the kitchen raiding the refrigerator mainly to get to her lemony homemade mayonnaise to dip saltines in. She enjoyed cooking for us and having everyone around the table. She loved to laugh. She loved to take us shopping. She loved helping set up our homes. I was tickled by her can do spirit when she came to my newly bought home in Oregon. As we stared at the dated carpet, we began to wonder what was underneath. She got on her hands and knees to pull back a piece. There was a treasure of beautiful oak floors underneath. The rest of the day was spent pulling up carpet even moving the decorated Christmas tree. Nothing was going to stop her. 

My oldest sister threw a party for Mama’s 80th birthday. I told mama I wouldn’t be able to fly down. She only learned of my surprise when I rang her doorbell and offered to drive her to the party. She kept me by her side for the entirety of the party, sharing how pleased and surprised she was when she answered the door. 

When she wasn’t visiting or I wasn’t flying South for a visit, our regular Sunday phone calls kept us in touch. We ended our calls with “I love you” and meant it.  

Since her death in 2010, many Sundays I’ve longed to pick up the phone and call her.

Appreciating the Good in Life

Doing this thing called life and enjoying it, if I don’t listen to the news too much. Physically feeling good, better than I have in years. Winter is over, sunshine and warmth are in the foreseeable forecast.
Robert, the owner of the building I live in, has made it to age 84 with no immediate health issues. He does require eye drops everyday and an anti-viral due to the shingles a year ago that went to his eye. So get your shingles vaccine. I’ve had my first and waiting until I have a day or two to lay low after the 2nd shot. There were no side effects from the 1st shot but I’ve heard from folks and the doctor the 2nd shot can make you feel yucky.
Not too much news to report from the hotel I live in. Our house kitty, Brenda, became constipated yesterday. Thank goodness one of my housemates, took her to the vet to get relief since I am pet sitting for the next few weeks. Brenda is old, we think around 17, and really in pretty good shape for her age.
A friend of mine is coming for a few months this summer and will rent a room at the hotel. That will be fun.
Living at the hotel is such a good fit for my life right now. Very low rent, downtown living, even though it’s community living there is space for autonomy and privacy. A nice mix. My 3rd floor room is spacious with southern facing windows. I get my house and yard fix when I house sit. Presently, I am pet sitting for long time friends who happen to live next door to a house I rented for years tucked into a central quiet neighbor hood. I was touched yesterday when the owner who now lives in the house came out to say hello and mentioned I was her favorite renter. Again, it was the perfect little house for me when I moved back to Missoula in 2010.
My love of animals and babies has a place to go with a calendar full of pet sitting and babysitting. With mom’s permission I share with you some joy and the reason, my lips are numb today from going along with this little guy yesterday.
Enjoy your weekend and thanks for reading.

Making raspberries

My Article on Next Avenue

I wrote a little something about “butt” cancer that was published today on Next Avenue. Yesterday, I had a three month check CT scan. The results came back this morning. Everything looks good. It was a big morning.

Learn the Facts About Anal Cancer

After reading Suleika Jaouad’s Between Two Kingdoms, I realize how easy I had it compared to other cancers. The treatment although brutal was for a short period of time with an excellent outcome.

It’s day four of the Isolation Journal’s 30 day journaling project. So far I’m sticking to it! I’m committed.

Meantime, in Missoula we are having the 3rd longest winter on record. Yep its gray and in the 30’s today and will be all week. I’m planning my tropical getaway for next winter.

Today I’m caring for a little ray of sunshine, a seven month old baby boy. Off I go – mainly wanted to share my article.

Thanks for reading.

Suleika Jaouad’s 30-day Journaling Project

I’m going shopping today for a new journal, one to use for Suleika Jaouad’s 30 day journaling project beginning on April 1st. Through cancer treatment and since I’ve written some but not much. I miss it. I miss how writing brings me into the present, brings awareness, insights and healing.

I’m finally reading Suleika’s memoir, Between Two Kingdoms, after a friend sent it to me. She shares her journey with leukemia as well as her writing practice through it all. It’s all speaking to me. I am committed to her journaling project. Mornings first thing, with coffee of course, will be the time I put aside before distractions of the day keep me from writing.

If journaling with daily prompts appeals to you may sign up at The Isolation Journals. The cost is $6.00 per month.

Meantime, I did have an article accepted with Next Avenue sharing my diagnoses with anal cancer, how anal cancer is on the rise. March is colorectal cancer awareness month so the timing was right. I’ll let you know when it’s published.

No longer avoiding a secret subject

Trigger warning – reference to sexual assault

I’ve been thinking about how I’ve never talked about being sexual assaulted. Shame kept me quiet, as if I should have known better than to put myself in both situations. It’s on my mind after watching She Said, a movie that left me feeling empowered by the women who came forward with the truth. In 2017, New Times reporters, Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey wrote a piece revealing accounts of women who had been sexually abused by Harvey Weinstein. After the article 82 more women came forward with their own allegations against Weinstein. The women had waited years to be heard and validated. 

I have lived with the secret of sexual assault for 40 years. There won’t be any justice served for my perpetrators. One is no longer living.
“We have been discouraged from writing about it because it makes people uncomfortable. Because a patriarchal society wants its victims to be silent. Because shame is an effective method of silencing.” Melissa Febos, Body Work

I was twenty when my cousin fourteen years my elder, a counselor, invited me over with the pretense of offering me comfort. My long-term boyfriend and I had broken up. On his couch, he offered me condolences while rubbing my back. That’s my last conscience memory before pulling my pants back on and leaving. Many years later an ex-girlfriend of his told me she had been sexually abused by him and that he was very sick sexually. I’m sure in his case there are others. 

It’s typical to not remember, to dissociate during any traumatic event. Glennon Doyle and Sarah Polley discuss this in the March 1. 2023 episode of We Can Do Hard Things. Sarah Polley wrote and directed Women Talking. It’s very well done.

Ironically, eight years later, that cousin’s sister introduced me to her out of town friend while out at a local restaurant bar. By the end of the evening, he extended an invitation to dinner. I beat myself up for saying yes, I wasn’t that comfortable with him. The next night while my parents watched my daughter, he took me to the nicest restaurant in town. Of course, when he took me home, he offered to see me in. It was quick and furious, and he was out the door. 

I was in shock after both incidences, never spoke to anyone about it. I locked the trauma away sometimes drinking to numb the horror when I would remember the incidences. I lost trust in myself; I hadn’t paid attention to my intuition. Melancholy loomed like a cloud. 

Hearing others speak out in reported pieces, movies, books, etc. has given me courage to do the same. It helps me understand I am not to blame. I have suffered and I have recovered. 

“What I have observed is that avoiding a secret subject can be its own kind of bondage.” Melissa Febos, Body Work

Thank goodness for the Big Sky Documentary Film Fest

Well, trip to Santa Monica was cancelled. My friend has Covid. She sounds like she has a pretty bad case of it. Of course, we are both disappointed as we had this planned for a while now. Hopefully, she’ll be able to be around family for her birthday this weekend.
We will make plans for a future trip. The weather down there is not great, in the forties, raining with gust warnings. It wouldn’t have been the trip we wanted it to be anyway.

On the bright side, I was able to say yes to babysitting for today. Also, the Big Sky Documentary Film Fest is going on all week in Missoula. I signed up for volunteer shifts and look forward to the films. Several are virtual. Check them out, you may find something that appeals to you.
Especially looking forward to the documentary on Ivan Doig (not available to stream). With temperatures in the single digits for the next couple of days, films are just the ticket!

That’s the quick update. Thanks for reading and stay flexible.

Back to the Land of the Living

I continue to feel better and better, as if entering the land of the living after several years. Covid, isolation, grief and cancer have taken up much of my head space.
This morning I had my port removed in what I call a drive thru procedure. In choosing not to have anesthesia, only numbing of the area, there was no waiting an hour afterwards. I was able to drive myself, run a few errands afterwards and was home by 10:00 AM.
Next week I fly to Santa Monica, to warmth, the ocean and a dear friend to celebrate being cancer free.
All that remains is a re-check for cancer every three months.
My wish to care for babies has come to fruition, babysitting occasionally for a couple of different families. Pet sitting is busy with a couple of trips for myself planned.
What’s in store for this blog? That remains to be seen. It’s purpose has evolved, starting as a way to keep friends informed of my drive to Baja. When isolation hit, it was a way to share and stay in community virtually. Then as a way to keep folks informed of cancer treatment and recovery.
Stay tuned.

Thanks for reading.

I Love That I Ran Into You

( A Snippet on Running Into an Old Flame)

I love that I ran into you, that you have moved back to town. 
I love our weekly outings: coffee dates, a stroll in the woods, dinner and/or a movie, our conversations. 

I love that you looked me in the eye and apologized for your past dishonesty and I accepted and told you we wouldn’t be sitting together if I didn’t believe you were sincere. 

I love that you brought dinner and presents over on Christmas eve.
I love our capacity to have fun together, to have meaningful conversations. 

I love our shared past, the magical walks during movie perfect snowfall, our travels, slow mornings, and the time in between before it was time to cook dinner together.

I love that I have come to love my autonomy in the six years since I was with you, that I am not interested in romance or partnership.
I love that I love you and you love me.
I love our companionship. 

Cancer Free!

It’s confirmed, I’m cancer free.

I only have to go every three months to get checked for awhile.

At the beginning of the year, the New York Times Well section created a 7-day happiness challenge. “For over 80 years researchers at Harvard have studied what makes for a good life. They found one surefire scientifically proven predictor of happiness: developing warmer relationships.” To sum it up, each day suggested an opportunity to nurture new and existing relationships: make the phone call, talk to strangers, share a living eulogy by writing to someone who has meant a lot to you, make friends at work, keep social engagements, identify areas in your life where you’d like to be more connected and keep going.
Another source of inspiration has been the How to Build a Happy Life podcast from The Atlantic.

I’m convinced community is what got me through cancer treatment and recovery. Friends came out of the woodwork from as far back as elementary school, ex co-workers, and pet sitting clients who are now dear friends. Honestly, I’m missing the daily interactions of friends calling, bringing food and staying for a visit. I even miss the gang who administered radiation (not the radiation!) each day, hearing about their kids, telling jokes and what they did over the weekend.
No doubt I am a people person. Although I do like my alone time the older I get. I need it to refuel. Partnership is not what I’m looking for, I love my autonomy. “That party’s over” as a friend once said. Community and purpose are what I’m looking for.
A friend texted me the other day, “what is bringing you joy these days?”
“Good question” I replied. That has been on my mind and now it’s time to get back to joy.
It’s time to play with friends, help others. I’m actively looking into volunteer opportunities with children, really I want to hold babies. Someone has connected me with a new mother who would like me to come do just that.
I’m lucky to have several pet sitting gigs on the calendar and a trip to Santa Monica in February to stay with a long time friend from high school.
Today I feel lucky, thankful for my health and warm friendships.

Love to all and thanks for reading.

Why I Pet Sit

I don’t want to get up
there’s one against my thigh
another at my feet
and something warm behind my knee

They follow me where ever I go
to the bathroom, definitely to the kitchen
my meals have a close audience of three
it’s never just me

I wouldn’t have it any other way
for the two weeks with this pack of three
and their two kitty housemates
this is why I do what I do