For the Love Books and Writing

I don’t remember ever being read to as a child. I don’t remember any children’s books around our house. Ask me my favorite book as a child, I don’t know. I do remember a few books stacked on tables for decoration and Mama sometimes reading a mass paperback book.

The first experience I remember with a book was in 3rd grade. Our teacher, Miss Aden, read aloud each day from the Secret Garden. I was transported into the mysterious world of the sick child, the discovery of the neglected garden and the miracle of transformation.

During high school, my older sisters read Kathleen Woodiwiss’s The Flame and the Flower, The Wolf and the Dove and passed them down to me. They called them crotch burners, as when the character, Heather Simmons, seeks refuge in the arms of a virile and dangerous stranger.

It took me leaving my Southern home and culture to discover my love of books. My first couple of years at the University of Mississippi had been a social endeavor. I was to join a sorority and assure I would have a husband. I don’t remember my parents discussing what I’d like to major in, but I do remember that my mama didn’t speak to me for weeks when I dropped out of sorority rush.

My brother, eleven years older, became a professor at the University of Montana. After a visit, and falling in love with the rivers he took me on and the mountains we hiked, I decided to finish at U of M in 1981. I studied, became interested in books and learning. I discovered writers such as Tom McGuane, Richard Hugo, Ivan Doig and started reading Southern writers, Eudora Welty and Faulkner. I couldn’t get enough of this newly discovered pleasure.

No wonder when reading Welty’s One Writer’s Beginning, I wished I had grown up in her house:
“I learned from age two or three that any room in the house, at any time of day, was there to read in or to be read to. My mother read to me. She’d read to me in the big bedroom in the mornings, when we were in her rocker together, which ticked in rhythm as we rocked, as though we had a cricket accompanying the story. She’d read to me in the dining room on winter afternoons in front of the coal fire, with our cuckoo clock ending the story with “Cuckoo,” and at night when I’d go in my own bed.” Eudora Welty

Welty lived in the same town I grew up in, Jackson, MS. My parents never spoke of her. They were more concerned with our appearances and place in society. Once I had discovered Eudora Welty I remember though getting chills of excitement when Ms Welty and I were both buying underwear at McRaes department store.

In the 90’s, I moved back to Mississippi after a divorce, to be close to family. As fate would have it, Tom McGuane came to Lemuria Bookstore for a reading of Keep the Change. A little piece of Montana in Mississippi. After the signing, I said my hello’s to John, the bookstore owner. We knew each other from earlier years. Our reconnection landed me a job at his beautiful bookstore. John had recently moved his tiny bookstore into a brand new space with room for each genre, a children’s section that felt like its own store and a first editions room where John kept his office. He ran a smooth operation for author signings, promoting them, assuring we had plenty of their books and a special booth for them to sit, converse with readers and sign their books.

I was in heaven, surrounded by books, talking to customers about books, buying and reading so many books. (For the first time, I had to get prescription eye glasses) Meeting the personalities behind the writing was also a treat. I was struck by the kindness of writers I met such as Kaye Gibbons, Lori Moore, John Grisham, Mark Childress, Ellen Gilchrist, Rick Bass, Tim O’Brien, Jim Harrison, Jimmy Buffett and Willie Morris (I loved Willie, what a character) to name a few. If I were working there today, I’d be meeting Jesymn Ward, Kiese Laymon, Angie Thomas, Natasha Trethewey and Ralph Eubanks.

Books are what I spend my “extra” money on. Often buying more than I have time to read. I’m not a fast reader nor do I devour several books every few weeks, but I read consistently. I find delight in the craft of writing and the talent, along with hard work of writers.

I don’t know about God, but what about the miracle of making strokes on paper that become letters, then words, then paragraphs, an entire page, then a book, a story.

A writer has crafted the words and sentences in a way that makes a reader cry, laugh, empathize, feel connected and understood. Or one is taken on a journey, can feel the air, smell the scents, see the sky and all the surroundings described. They are educated about things they would have never know of before reading the book. Their eyes are opened. They see things differently now.

It is nothing short of a miracle.

As always, thanks for reading.

Appreciate the contrast

Sometimes we need contrast to appreciate what we have.
For 20 years, I have been a house/pet sitter. It just happened, those years ago, I cared for someone’s pets while they were away, they gave my name to someone else and so on and so on. Even when I’ve had full time jobs, I’ve house sat on the side.
It has allowed me to travel. A month in Baja caring for a dog and casa, a couple of weeks in Hawaii with a kitty. I’ve gone back to Eugene, OR, my previous home, where I have so many wonderful friends, to house sit. Now that I’m settled in Montana, my calendar stays booked. (but I’m still open to travel to care for pets!)
After an injury at a full time job that I loved, a few years ago, pet sitting in now my full time gig, with a few sidelines, cleaning airbnb, babysitting, selling my photo greeting cards. It works, I love it. It suits my care taking personality, my love of animals. There is variety, the companionship of pets, appreciative clients who if aren’t already friends often become friends, great places to care for. It’s going to be 100 degrees today and the house I’m in has air conditioning. (mine and many older homes in Montana do not)
Two corgis are at my feet as I write this. We will get out for a walk along the river before the heat sets in. There will be inside ball throwing this afternoon and of course, treats throughout the day. There will be reading and writing.
Caring for these corgis and my long time appreciative clients comes on the heals of pet sitting for a couple of dogs who’s owners treated me as if they owned me. I had only cared for these dogs once before, during the cold snowy, icy winter. They lived out from town. They required me to come the first day at 6AM, they demanded I snow shovel large areas, they asked for pictures each day (which I do anyway) but they often would take a day to reply to a question I may have about the house or pets.
I had already agreed to this last pet sit for them. But it will be the last. In a text, I asked their arrival time back home so I could meet with a client. They never responded, I twirled my thumbs all afternoon until they showed up.
I’m lucky, very lucky. I love “my” pets and their owners. I’m thankful many of them are friends. I apprecitate the contrast that keeps me in gratitude.

Daddy

Even though my daddy didn’t want another child when I came around, (I’ve been told) I knew he loved me. I can imagine that at 37 years old, he wanted to be done with having children. They already had three and two miscarriages. I can appreciate his practical thinking.
He wasn’t a hands on daddy, but when I did get his attention there was laughter and teasing. The kind of teasing that feels like love.
He was the youngest of four as I was. His father, Frank Scott, attorney, held positions such as chancery clerk and sheriff. His mother, Effie Lee, I understand was adored by many. She died a year before I was born, July 12, 1958.
Daddy’s family held high prestige and had to hold up appearances. But there was a lot of heartache and probably secrets.
I never remember a conversation with my grandfather who lived until 1985, but he had a strong presence when we gathered as family. In his later years he was known for sitting at the local park watching my high school’s cheerleaders and marching girls practice. (kinda creepy)
My grandmother, Effie Lee, lost her three old second son when he ran from her arms and was hit by a trolley car. The newspaper article of the event is graphic and heartbreaking. Her son, Walter Scott, awarded a Purple Heart, silver star and bronze star was killed by Germans. Her son, Charles Scott served, was captured and imprisoned in a Nazi prison camp for 18 months. He was never the same, an angry alcoholic for the remainder of days. My daddy served in the Navy as a pilot.
Effie Lee must have carried grief with grace until she died from stomach cancer at age 64.
Aside from having birth order in common, my daddy and I shared the disease of alcoholism. Only in the last ten years of his life was he sober. As I began to struggle, he was there for me. We went to AA meetings together, a place he was very loved and respected. Resentment was his main offender he shared with me. He never shared the details of that resentment. I can make some guesses. I think he was a creative man who never had a chance to pursue his own dreams. He was molded into who he should be in our Southern culture, becoming an attorney and president of a savings and loan. He was asked to resign from his presidency due to his drinking and manic episodes. He was still loved by those who worked with him. The letter asking him to resign was most kind and full of concern. He was not the disease.
When he took his own life in 1996, I only felt compassion, knowing how he had fought his diseases, alcoholism and manic depression, all of his adult life. As he said in his letter, he was tired.
I miss him. I miss his joking ways, when the phone was for me, he would reply “I think we left her in the monkey cage at the zoo!” I miss his love of dogs (another commonality) love of hunting and fishing, his fried corn, his antics in keeping the squirrels from climbing up the pole to the bird feeder by covering it with vaseline and watching them slide down, him climbing onto the roof setting up the sprinkler to keep the house cool. I love that he tried cross country skiing when he came to visit in Montana, all the while asking where we were going and stopping for a cigarette. How my friends all loved my daddy and thought he was so funny.
Yes, our house had a lot of chaos and dysfunction because of his diseases. He was not the disease. He was a kind, funny, flawed human being.

Salad

I giggle almost every time I tear pieces of lettuce for salad makings. It’s a memory that has stuck. As a young girl, I was proud to be given the task of making salads for family dinner. Mama told me, “make them bite size.” I did. As we all gathered at the table, she remarked, “why are the salads so small?” Of course she meant to tear the lettuce into bite size pieces!

That particular salad was a standard in our house:
In individual wooden bowls tear green leaf lettuce into bite size pieces, top with crumbled bacon and hard boiled eggs. Dress with vinegar and a dollop of my mama’s homemade mayonnaise.
I guess the lettuce made it a salad!
Her mayonnaise, with a strong lemon essence was another staple. First thing after school, my favorite snack was saltine crackers dipped in her mayo.
Instead of a salad, sometimes mama would serve half an avocado and fill the center with oil, vinegar and Worcestershire sauce. It was yummy.

Salads have become an almost daily meal for me, now that I am dairy free and gluten free, they satisfy my hunger while replacing the go-to sandwiches I used to eat.
Green leaf lettuce, chopped carrots, celery, avocado and sesame seeds with homemade oil and vinegar dressing. Sometimes I cheat and put in a little grated cheddar cheese without any ill effects.
I have yet to find a bottled dressing that I love. Annie’s green goddess is pretty good.
Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a bit of honey, mustard and salt make a tasty dressing. My friend, Wendy, makes a good one, adding a little orange juice to it.

A favorite of mine and many of my friends since I have made it for them is feta salad:
In medium to large bowl, add olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, salt and pepper. I never measure, just taste as I go. You can leave out the garlic if you don’t like it (Lola). Whisk or stir well, add green leaf lettuce, avocado and feta, and toss. Although I’m not a fan of the Athenos brand. Deli sections usually have a better selection of French or Greek fetas.

The dressing is what makes a good Caesar salad. My friend, Jane, who I met waitressing in a restaurant 40 years ago makes a mean one. She’s since been a baker, chef and worked as the family chef for three different Montana governors. She can cook for a crowd, make it look effortless and want you coming back for seconds. I texted her for her dressing recipe. Five minutes later the phone rang. After an hour of laughter and tears, she remembered to speak of her dressing before we had to hang up.

Caesar salad dressing:
1/3 white wine vinegar
1/3 oil (she likes to mix canola and olive)
garlic
anchovy paste
mustard
Worcestershire sauce
lemon

Salad:
Romaine lettuce
Homemade croutons
Parmesan cheese

Thanks for reading and happy salad making.

My Little Window Garden

How’s Your Heart?

A friend of mine asked, “how’s your heart?”
It’s many things: tender, grief stricken, achy, touched, forever hopeful, strong and beating. My heart and mind are gaining radical acceptance. It is what it is, and I will move forward. 

I was fortunate to have alone quiet time this week in my home, no pet sitting. Our house cat, Brenda, has not left my side sensing her comfort is needed. I left the house and found water to sit by. 

The outpouring of love, phone calls, texts, cards, invitations to dinner, flowers, someone brought me coffee, has wrapped me in comfort. I feel very loved. Thank you all!

It felt serendipitous, to have a conversation with Lee Rizzo about my idea of connecting the older generation with the younger generation. She has a CD release concert coming up on June 11th at the Dennison Theater here in Missoula. Part of the proceeds from the concert will go to Mother Moon Project, supporting mothers and babies in birth and postpartum. She encouraged me to reach out to them about the possibility of creating a network of “grandmothers” to help during infant hood. I’m waiting to hear back.

If you live in Missoula, I highly recommend Lee’s concert. Last year, she gave me one of the early release CDs. It’s a driving companion and I find myself singing her songs in my head. CD’s available at local record stores with a digital download available soon on her website.

Hard Truths

The judge did not grant me time with my grandchildren. I was prepared for that. Even so, the tears are there, as well as the need for quiet and reflection.
Bottom line:
I was not the mother my daughter needed me to be. That is my sorrow.

This thread popped up on twitter. A friend is writing about the repair of her marriage through her husband’s addiction and sobriety. It is a remarkable story. She often post thought provoking questions.
What is true for my daughter is she remembers things I did, that I don’t. She felt fear when she saw my anger. She did not have the mother she deserved. That is truth.
Yes, I am a different person today, recovered. Even with the news of the court ruling, nothing in me wanted to go get drunk. That is what I would have done in the past. I would have lashed out at someone and lost their trust and respect.
My emotions are with me today. What I do with them is what is different.
This weekend is Mother’s Day. I plan to walk among the trees and find some water to sit by.

Eye drops, pet sitting and a new room

It’s been a week since I’ve had to do Robert’s eye drops four times a day. My last day of dog sitting for two very sweet Aussies is today. It has felt like a vacation, in a house on the south side of Missoula overlooking the valley, waking to springtime songbirds.
After Robert’s cataract surgery that’s been the routine, eye drops 4X/day. At his post op appointment they discovered an infection in the other eye, so more drops. Once that’s cleared up, then surgery on that eye. After two weeks of this routine, I realized I needed a break. That’s the beauty of pet sitting.
On the other hand, I’ve become somewhat attached to Robert, who I sometimes refer to as my pretend grandfather. Thankfully, our newest housemate, has the same caretaking gene I do and jumped on the eye drop routine.
Tonight when I go home, I’ll be sleeping in new room. Yep, moved again. This time into truly the best room in the hotel. The person before me moved away. Robert asked me to move in as it is above his room and he wants someone quiet, above him. You may remember me writing about the system he and the previous occupant had, if Robert had a emergency and needed help, he would bang on the pipes. The room was remodeled back when Robert’s brother moved in for a bit. It’s large, at the back of the building. There is a shower, larger closet, but no toilet.
I’ll also get back to helping with eye drops for a week before pet sitting again.
In the writing world, I’ve got a few essays submitted. I like writing essays. It’s the waiting game and very competitive. But you keep trying just as Maurice Ruffin, a now established writer did. His submission spreadsheet revealed 291 rejections and 3 acceptances.

Thanks for following and reading. Happy spring.

Summit for family estrangement

The word “estrangement” came into my orbit about five years ago on a much to intimate level. For the first two years of my estrangement from family I was constantly sad, triggered and felt hopeless. I began to read everything I could get my hands on about the subject. Learning about it, talking to others who are experiencing it, has taken me out of crisis mode and into an acceptance mode.
Coming from a tight knit, yes dysfunctional Southern family, yes down there, family is everything, it was devastating when I learned of a trip my sisters were taking with my daughter, niece, and grandchildren and I was not invited. My sisters and I were still speaking at that time. Now it has been several years since we have talked. When I say devastating, I wanted to kill myself and I did attempt to.
What I have sadly learned is, suicidal thoughts are a common reaction with those who have been cut off from loved ones. Estrangements occur for a variety of reason, but also have many commonalites. Each situation is unique and has its own set of complexities.
Yesterday was the beginning of a three day summit, Moving Beyond Family Struggles put on by Family Support Resources. Yasmin Kerkez has done an amazing job, bringing many expert voices to the summit. I’ve enjoyed and learned a lot just from one day. Hearing the perspective of those who chose to estrange is enlightening.
I still hope and think repair in many situations would be the most peace giving for all involved.
If you are interested, as someone going through estrangement or you are counselor who could benefit from learning more on the subject or you are just interested, click on the link to register for free, Family Summit registration
Meantime, I will share a talk from yesterday with David Lewis, a therapist who has experienced estrangement from his adult children. He describes the shock and aftermath most accurately. 2022 MBFS Summit Conversation with David Lewis He also discusses the power of our mind and what we can change for the good, using that power. It’s worth a listen.
Thanks for reading.
Love to all,
Frances

Link from a conversation today with <a href="http://<iframe title="vimeo-player" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/670855449?h=0fd6e4d8f1&quot; width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen>Tina Gilbertson

Questioning the Facts

I’ve read differing accounts of the long term effects of anesthesia. Some say it lingers in your body for up to a year. I’ve always been a low energy person, slow to get going in the morning. Lately after meniscus surgery three weeks ago, I want to nap in the afternoon and have pj’s on by 8:00 PM as well.
Last night I went to a friend’s house for dinner at 6 PM. Embarrassingly, my eyelids were suddenly heavy at 8:00. Of course, my body is still in healing mode. I was fast asleep in my bed (the bed where I am cat sitting) by 9:30.
But I wonder after a total of ten surgeries in my life, starting with a tonsillectomy, then appendicitis, ectopic pregnancy, C-section, uterus removed, then an ovary, then the last ovary (three separate surgeries), ACL repair, ankle tendon repair, and meniscus repair if long term effects of anesthesia has any effect on my low energy.
With summer around the bend, sunshine, a healed pain free knee I may be bouncing out of bed with new found energy. How’s that for positive thinking?!
Meantime, Robert had his cataract surgery on Friday. All went well. Now we are continuing eyes drops four times a day for three weeks. Every time I’ve done them the past two days, he acts surprised when I say, “we have to do these four times a day for three weeks.”
“REALLY?”, he exclaims! As if the questioning will change the fact.
What do you question, hoping it will change the facts? Are there situations where the question will change the facts?

Something delightful

My first pet sit, a week after meniscus surgery is perfect. It’s not far from where I live, a single level small home and two dogs that do not require walks. They have a fenced in back yard. And it’s just for a couple of nights.
Physical therapy has started. I’m moving around pretty well and have visions of summer hikes. But when the dogs and I had lain down to read at 2:30 in the afternoon yesterday, they fell into a delicious nap with me for the next two hours. I still get tired.

I got the most delightful email. I want to share the highlight of it with you. A dear friend of mine, LeBrie Rich, is a felt artist. A few years ago I was lucky to pass through Portland, OR while her art show, “Groceries” was up at an art gallery. It was remarkable.
Almost twenty years ago, she and I chatted while safety pinning wool together in order to create beautiful felted scarves. Next we would sit with a bowl of warm soapy water, rubbing wool around in our hands to make colorful felted balls for an assortment of her creations; earrings, ornaments. Her craft has become fine art. She loves to share her love of felting through her workshops and felting kits. I love to share what my artist friends are up to.
Her emailed announced her as a featured artist with PBS Oregon Art Beat. It’s fascinating and up-lifting and it’s not long. You’ll be glad you watched it, Lebrie Rich on Oregon Art Beat.

I’m getting back to writing my memoir. I submitted a couple of essays, still waiting to hear back. It can take up to four months. Meantime, tomorrow I have an online memoir writing workshop I’m eager for.

Now it’s time to do my physical therapy exercises. Have a great day and thanks for reading.

Felted Balls
Strawberry basket felting kit