Carry On

You wake up early, determined you will carry on, enjoy your coffee, write, take a walk in the snow.
Something pushes you down when you suddenly remember your daughter has deemed you crazy.
You want to call your mother but she is dead.

The cat comes to sit with you, your heart begins to calm. She will want her treat soon so you can’t stay down for long.

On writing, it’s magic and sharing writing

I love Eudora Welty’s One Writer’s Beginnings. It’s the perfect size book to keep by my bed or carry in my purse for a possible wait. Eudora was born and lived in Jackson, MS, my home town. Once we were buying underwear at the same time in McRae’s department store. That’s the closest I ever got to her. I was in awe. The old Sears building in downtown Jackson eventually converted to a library, The Eudora Welty Library.

The first chapter of One Writer’s Beginnings evokes a sense of peace, looking back at simpler times, her growing up in a home where reading was like breathing. Eudora reflects, “I learned from the age of two or three that any room in our house, at any time of the day, was there to read in, or to be read to.” I am green with envy, wondering what would my life have been like if reading was encouraged, even a part of our everyday lives growing up. I don’t have any memories of books, of being read to. My introduction to books came in high school, from my older sisters who read Kathleen Woodiwiss, The Flame and the Flower, The Wolf and the Dove. We referred to her books as crotch burners. But I was reading and that got me going.

I was in heaven working at Lemuria bookstore in my late twenties, surrounded by books, overwhelmed with what to read next, meeting and talking with writers who came for readings and signings. Tom McGuane, Tom Robbins, Willie Morris, John Grisham, Jimmy Buffett, Lorri Moore, Tim O’Brien, Rick Bass, Mark Childress, Kaye Gibbons, and Jim Harrison are just some of the writer’s I was blessed to meet. My daughter was lucky to reap the benefits of my time working at Lemuria. Books were what she sleep with, not stuffed animals. I toted the boxes of children’s’ books I had acquired every where I moved to, so she would always have them and could pass them down to her own children. It was somewhat of a relief to hand off those heavy boxes once my twin grandchildren were born.

“It has been startling and disappointing to me to find out that story books had been written by people, that books were not natural wonders, coming up of themselves like grass.” Eudora Welty

This morning I read Chris LaTray’s newsletter, reflecting on the past four years of Presidential office and the new office we are entering. I find him gifted, able to put into words what I am feeling sometimes, a natural wonder. Read and find out for yourself.

I cry at the threat of democracy

I cry at the threat of democracy

I cry that black lives don’t matter

That whites think they are supreme

Democracy was always fragile, if it even existed in my family system

Schedules and decisions were centered around the men, I am a woman

individuality, even if it was shopping, was kept secret

Only certain voices were heard, are heard, some are marginalized, treated as though they never existed or exist now

Human life is not important, being right, being supreme is, mammonism rules

I cry for those who no longer have a voice, whose pleas fall on the ears of those who care but have no power. Those in power say I am too emotional.

Let your voice be heard and begin our return to democracy, power to the people

Honoring Barry Lopez

Many of you know we lost the legendary Barry Lopez on Christmas Day after his struggle with terminal cancer. For lovers of language, this world and it’s people it is a great loss. My heart hurts for those close to him, his wife and daughters. They have endured much loss this sorrowful year. The Oregon fires up the McKenzie River, left their property charred and them unmoored. They received the midnight knock on the door demanding they leave within minutes. They grabbed the cat and left. The house is damaged but fixable.
On Christmas Eve, this piece was published in LitHub, An Era of Emergencies is Upon Us and We Cannot Look Away. A gift to have Barry’s viewpoint that day.
In an All Things Considered interview, March, 2019, Barry shares some of how his cancer diagnosis changed him and created more empathy, “I imagined in everybody I passed there was some story that they carried with them that would break your heart. So how could you have the temerity to approach that person and say, here’s what’s wrong with you?”
A few days ago, Literary Arts: The Archive Project re-aired an interview with Barry. It’s worth a listen, more than once, to glean all he has for us to contemplate. A grown up is someone who no longer needs supervision, “meaning they know immediately how to act in a way that harms no one and takes care of everybody in so far that is possible. We are in a time where we are desperate for grown-ups, people who have gotten over themselves, to come together and using the power of imagination that each of us has, create a landscape that no one has ever seen before.” Barry Lopez
In Barry’s honor donations may be made to McKenzie River Trust.

A note for you: If you are looking for a way to seek connection, inspiration and a consistent practice of journaling, The Isolation Journals is offering journaling prompts free for ten days beginning January 1st. Click here: https://www.theisolationjournals.com/10-day-challenge

I am off to buy black-eyed peas to cook and serve on New Year’s Day in order to bring good luck for this new year.

Yellow lilies for solstice

For the shortest, darkest day of the year I share with you beautiful writing from a friend who also moved West from the South.

On The Solstice: Deep Winter Dreams of the Spring to Come by Rick Bass

“I believe they dream of beauty: of the yellow lilies of Easter, and the wild violets and rank mushrooms and pink flesh of trout; of berries, of stones, of antlers, feathers, moss, fire. And fire’s warmth.”

It was a gift to have this be my first read of the day. Hope it is for you as well.

What I know and what I’m guessing

Here’s what I know, the rest I’m guessing at.

It’s been four and a half years since I have seen or heard from my daughter, fact.
She and I have struggled in our relationship since her teenage years. The struggle intensified when I divorced her step dad after an 11 year relationship. He was a good step dad. I stayed in the marriage longer than I should have because of that. He was a good man, but our marriage wasn’t. We both had a part in that. He and his infidelities, me choosing to stay with him in spite of that. Me drinking to deal, becoming angry, sometimes showing rage that my daughter unfortunately witnessed. It sucked for her. I have days of wishing hard for a redo or an opportunity for understanding and forgiveness.

I’ve read of relationships either strengthening or ending during this Covid time. In the beginning, I thought surely my daughter will want to connect, with all the fear this disease has evoked. Time passed, I got wind she was going through a divorce. As more time passed, the message was clear. She will not be reaching out. She has me blocked on all forms of communication. Covid will not be bringing us together. Nor will it be bringing me together with most of my family of origin. My sisters had a summer visit in the same town I lived in this summer. I didn’t hear from them. I learned on social media one sister has a new grandchild. The message is clear, for whatever reasons, some I am responsible for, divorcing, drinking and suicide attempt our family won’t be coming together. I suppose some things are unforgivable. Sometimes we are seen and defined by our worst actions.

I’m guessing, my family has deemed me crazy, unforgivable, toxic while the diagnosis of varying mental illnesses have certainly been tossed about amoung them. Since we don’t talk, I’m just guessing.
Some days, most days, I realize I have a pretty great life. I’m content really, living in a town I have loved since I discovered it. I’m healthy, have such dear friends, I’m pursuing creative outlets. I’m sober, I’m seeking, will never stop seeking and growing hopefully. I’m not pining to be in a relationship, nor do I feel I need another person to complete me or take care of me.
Some days I miss my daughter so badly, it kinda messes up the entire day. But those days are fewer and they will always happen. I am a mother. I miss my child.
As Dr. Joshua Coleman mentions in his talk here, I chose to feel the pain instead of avoiding it or pushing it away.

Thanks for reading a blog that started as a travel blog turned into a variety of blog posts, favorite shows, podcasts, writings, great places to donate, businesses to support, sometimes it’s sharing the journey of family estrangement. I feel it is an important topic to bring to light and discuss openly.

From Scientific America: “Family estrangement is one of my most requested topics from listeners and readers coping with the loss and isolation they feel when someone cuts family ties. In a way, the grief of family estrangement can be more painful—or at least more complicated—than the grief over a loved one who has died. When a family member voluntarily walks away, you may miss them and feel confused, ashamed, frustrated, and disappointed, especially if the hope of reunification is dashed.”

Love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us. Anne Lamott

“Hope is not about proving anything. It’s about choosing to believe this one thing, that love is bigger than any grim, bleak shit anyone can throw at us.” ~@ANNELAMOTT

This holiday season, I’m believing it Anne. Holidays have become so different from what I was brought up to believe they are all about. Lots of decorations, lots of presents, parties, food, family and sometimes drunk daddies. All of that did feel magical at times, the anticipation of Santa and what he would bring was real and exciting. No matter how old I get, I can feel that on Christmas Eve, as ridiculous of an idea that it is. Maybe I kinda like that feeling for a moment though. Is it possible that there is magic, is it possible a gift will be left tomorrow, even if it is a phone call from a loved one?
Even though we did have a pile of presents before us as we entered the living room on Christmas morning, I don’t remember what the presents were, except for the sting ray bike. I still have a picture of me on it. We did some miles together and made some memories. A few fond Christmas memories stick with me: the year we had children from the orphanage over to make cookies and the times we visited the orphanage after that. Our time with orphans was a project my mama was involved in through the Junior League or church. I’m not sure which one, but it was her duty to society none the less. I loved it. I also love the memory of running around Christmas eve day delivering presents of baked goods or the like to friends and neighbors. And Christmas Eve service at church was always calming with the candles lit and carols being sung.
Aside from those memories, it all felt like a lot of show. Once I moved to Montana in the 80’s, my older brother lived here in Missoula as well. Christmas Eve, we shared a meal then geared up for a cross country ski at the neighborhood golf course. Silently sliding across the glistening moonlit snow ❄️ I felt warmth, peace and love.
I have a little bit of Christmas in me this year for whatever reason. I won’t be buying any presents. I will be hiking with friends, gathering greenery to decorate with. Some baking will happen. Baked goods will be delivered to dear friends. There will be warmth, peace and love. Wishing you the same.

Contemplating God

On a recent drive, I finished listening to Love is the Way, Holding on to Hope in Troubling Times by Bishop Michael Curry. It was so comforting and got me thinking, contemplating God, religion, my church upbringing and how do I feel about all that now. I had heard Bishop Curry being interviewed on
Brene Brown’s podcast. His voice, Southern accent, Southern stories and his message of love got me interested in his book. I grew up in the Episcopal church. Even though I don’t attend church anymore, I appreciate growing up in this somewhat liberal church with rituals of communion, incense, and fellowship. 
How do I feel about all that? I appreciate the experience of the Episcopal church, although I can only remember feeling the presence of God there once. It was a Christmas Eve service at our church, St. James in Jackson, MS. My parents and my daughter attended. The church had invited the children’s choir from a local black church to join our children’s choir. As those precious faces looked out and sang Happy Birthday Jesus, I was moved to tears. This coming together of people who are not the same is where I see God. I didn’t feel him at any of my three church weddings, the obligatory Sunday morning services or in the priest office where I was sent as a middle schooler when my family was experiencing trouble. When the priest asked if I had ever masturbated and suggested I try it, I never went back for another session. Who knows where that might have gone. 

Attending a webinar with Kiese Layman and his auntie Rev. Carolyn Coleman, I witnessed love. Reverend Coleman reminds us silence is a great teacher, a great communicator. I have learned that during the past four years more than any other time in my life. She also reminds, until you learn to forgive the unforgivable, you don’t really know how to love. Recognize there are imperfect places in all of us, the grace of God covers us and calls us to still rise. With silence and forgiving myself, I am loving myself and others more and more. Someone recently said to me, “I can forgive you”. Those genuine words have brought a sense of peace and lighter heart. Although neither of us are church goers, God was felt. Ironically, some of those I know who are church goers and followers of Jesus are the ones I feel the most judgement and lack of love from. 

Krista Tippitt, On Being, Remembering Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks – Rabbi Sacks tells us we need to be enlarged by people who are different from us, not threatened. We should see that the welfare of others is linked to our own and is best for our own welfare. He wrote Dignity of Difference which is a radical proposal for reconciling hatreds. I’d like to think we can reconcile civilizations and our closest personal relationship and love will rule. 

How do I feel about all that? God shows up in all of us, in community, in nature, in silence, yes sometimes church. I believe most, if not all religions are trying to get at the same thing: love, and how to live in communion in this world. I believe our relationship with God is private. 

“Follow your dream, speak your truth” Rev. Carolyn Coleman

Art and small business gift buying

It may not be the holidays of large family gatherings this year. Who knows maybe that relieves a lot of stress for some. But we all need connection. I continue to me amazed at the connections and support I have made through writing groups and workshops online. Certainly regular phone calls and short outdoor visits with friends go a long way. Won’t it be amazing though when you can run up and give those friends a hug.
Some of my friends are amazing artists and creators. In the spirit of the holidays and connections consider supporting some these creative spirits, send a gift to that person who could really use a package showing up on their doorstep.


Annie Heron Ceramics – I have watched Annie from the beginning, creating pottery, seeing the absolute joy it brings her, and making a living for herself through her pieces. A cup of coffee or tea is sure to taste better in one of her cups.


LeBrie Rich, PenFelt Studio – be sure to check out some of her “way beyond esty” level felted art work. She has introduced some felting kits for all levels to get you through the winter.


Paul Jean’s Garden – Paula is a fellow Southern gal who made her way west to Montana. She lives in beautiful Paradise, MT. One of her woodland lavendar wreaths would make someone very happy.


Joule Art – Terry McIlrath is the artist behind Joule Art paintings, cards and prints. “Artists are the guardians of the human spirit.”


FildiDesign – cool stuff from badass brain – Joyce offers up cool stickers, apparel and more. She also has started a tile business serving Missoula, MT, JOYceof Tile


Savona’s Bitchin’ bohemian boutique – Clothing, jewelry, accessories and more. I worked for Savona years ago. She was my mentor when I opened my own vintage re-sale store, offering up her business sense and good taste.

Susan Carlson – See the world through Susan’s collage, it’s a treat.

Cry-kerchief – Taj hand embroiders kerchiefs, a place for your tears to land. Custom orders welcome. Find her on instagram.

I always have photo greeting cards available for purchase, my heart puddle is perfect for almost any occassion.


Heart puddle greeting card

Comes with envelope in clear sleeve.

$3.00

Dogs in The White House Again!

Everything is lighter, more hopeful. Yes there is so much to be done. But for today I am mainly excited to have dogs back in the White House. So welcome Champ and Major Biden.
Champ and Major on twitter
Champ and Major on instagram

And a dog love song by Annie Heron

Upcoming post: artist to support with your holiday gift buying.