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

Unexpected pet comes with unexpected family

Not long after I moved into the hotel, a year and a half ago, the aloof black “house” kitty tip toed into my room, began hanging out and sleeping with me at night. The story is; she wandered in about 13 years ago during a party and never left. Doug took on feeding and caring for her but she belongs to the house and everyone in it. Most folks call her black kitty, some call her Brenda. I prefer Brenda.
She is another blessing of living here. As a pet sitter, I have often thought of getting a pet of my own, always deciding against it. It would have to be the perfect little dog that could accompany me for pet sitting. Having a pet would work with most of my clients, but for some it wouldn’t, such as the all cat households. Also, I do enjoy my freedom to travel some when I am not pet sitting.
Now that Brenda and I have bonded, I feel like a pet owner. Whenever, I am home she is in my room. I have treats and food for her. She’s not cuddly, sleeping in a chair or the very end of my bed. But every now and then she surprises me and gives me some love.
Just yesterday morning, as I laid around waiting to be picked up for meniscus surgery, she found her way to my tummy and stayed there. Same this morning, purring away, sending healing energy throughout my body.
My friend, Katie, drove me to surgery, giving me the inside scoop on what to expect. She had this surgery earlier in the year. She was my inspiration for going forward. After I had two cortisone shots with lots of pain as the shots wore off, it was clear surgery was the best choice. I trust Dr. Willstein, my orthopedic. He did my ACL surgery a few years back. He knows my knee.
My house mate, Jennifer, picked me up. Her smiling face was there, soon after I woke up. She found me chatting away with the nicest nurse. He moved out here a few years ago from Nashville. The comfort of his southern accent, story telling and kindness along with Jennifer next to me gave me the feeling all is right with the world. The pain meds didn’t hurt either. It’s been a weary few years, so a few hours of artificially induced happiness was appreciated.
So far not too much pain. Keeping knee iced and elevated with a kitty taking good care of me, recovery is going well. Housemates are checking in on me.
Robert comes up to my room to get his eye drops and a visit in. He and I drove to Lolo Hot Springs last Sunday. We both needed it. He likes to take his car, but I drove (really he shouldn’t be driving at all, that’s another subject.) Boy, is he a bossy backseat driver. Reminded me of my mother, the way she would tell me which way to turn, what the best route was. I learned it’s best to take directions with grace.
I want to share one more sweet hotel story. Night before last was Chinese New Year. Our housemate, Anne is Chinese. She is quiet and keeps to herself. The day of Chinese New Year, she wrote on the community board that she was cooking a feast to celebrate. All day she labored over dumplings, noodles and soup. What a delightful treat as she served up a beautiful spread, educated us about the dishes and shared a little more of herself. She left China when she was two and is adopted. She is just beginning to embrace her heritage. You could see the pride on her face from learning more about her self. The night ended with a send off of a red lantern to bring good fortune for the year of the tiger.
May the year bring you good fortune.
Thanks for reading.

Rememberings

Well two covid tests came back negative. However, I’m not convinced. Someone I know felt terrible, tested three times. It didn’t show up positive until the 3rd test. I’d be curious to have my antibodies checked.
I’m back at the hotel for a couple of weeks. Feels good to be home. Back to helping Robert, who needs eye drops four times a day to clear an eye infection. Once it’s cleared they will schedule his cataract surgery.
Next Wednesday, I’ll have outpatient meniscus surgery. Supposedly, not too big a deal. You walk out of surgery, then need to keep knee elevated and iced for 2-3 days. I’ll hunker down with some books and writing.
At the library, I picked up Rememberings, Sinead O’Connor’s memoir, which was on my wish list. Five chapters in, I’m loving it. Another testimony to human resilience.
From her forward: “You’ll see in this book a girl who does find herself, not by success in the music industry but by taking the opportunity to sensibly and truly lose her marbles. The thing being that after losing them, one finds them and plays the game better.”
In speaking of her Aunt Frances, ten years older with Down syndrome, “She is like a big walking heart; she loves everything and everyone.” I love the analogy of someone being a big walking heart!
This morning I googled Sinead and learned that her seventeen year old son, Shane O’Connor committed suicide in early January. News I missed and so sad, damn it.
I think I’ll stop there.
Until next time. Thanks for reading. Go gently and seriously be kind.

Nothing Compares 2U

Everything mostly alway works out

Everything mostly always works out.
The last few days of a three week dog sit with two very sweet chocolate labs, I started to get a headache, fatigue, runny nose. All the symptoms of you know what. Several people I know have gotten this new strain of Covid in spite of being fully vaccinated.
The day my pet sit ended I went to the county health department for a test, then home (wearing my N95 mask) for a couple of nights. I slept for 48 hours, received a negative test result before starting a cat sit. Again, I know folks who test negative while not feeling good, re-test with positive results. My cat sitting clients have had Covid and we don’t cross paths so that worked out. And cats don’t need to go on a hike. Yesterday, I re-tested, waiting on results. Still not feeling 100%.
This is not the first time, I thought I had Covid while pet sitting. Both times, I’ve had just enough energy to tend to pet duties, aside for a hike. And just enough energy to wash everything and wipe everything down. So that worked out.
I cancelled meeting a new client, cancelled a physical therapy appointment, turned down doing childcare this weekend, turned down a pet sit for a dog I love. My February pet sitting clients cancelled their trip to Italy. Can we cancel Covid?!
It’s disruptive, but we are alive and it does most always work out.
Hang in there, everyone.
Thanks for reading.

Books to Mark The Past and New Year

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions nor do I enjoy a big celebration. Tonight, you will find me settled in with the two sweet chocolate labs I am pet sitting; the wood stove roaring, reading one of the two books I have going, actually three if you count the one I’m listening to on audible. Listening to books is my best company on trips and driving to pet sitting jobs that are miles away from town. Yesterday, I spent the afternoon cooking (the kitchen is a great cooking kitchen, where I am pet sitting) with my audible book going, a soul enriching experience.
I’ll mark the end of the year with a list of books I have read and a list of books on my “to read” list for the new year.

For Christmas I bought myself at the local bookstore, Fact and Fiction, Heart Radical: A Search for Language, Love and Belonging by Anne Liu Kellor. I took a writing class from Anne, enjoyed her, enjoyed the class and her memoir is taking me on a journey that I am eager to continue on.
From the library, I am reading: Good Morning, Monster: Five Heroic Journeys to Recovery by Catherine Gildiner. Stories of five memorable patients and their journey of recovery. I’d consider myself lucky to have a therapist such as Catherine, as she guides people through and out the other side of trauma. Forgiveness is key to healing.
On Audible, I’m listening to Dear William: A Father’s Memoir of Addiction, Recovery and Loss by David Magee. David lost his son to an overdose. David, a Mississippi boy, struggled with his own addictions. Already, I’m only on chapter two, I can relate to how David grew up in a home that looks happy on the outside but not so much on the inside. His drinking journey is familiar as he starts to drink in high school, finding some relief from his sad home and before you know it, has a drinking problem. He is now a change maker at the University of Mississippi on the education of drug and alcohol use.

Throughout the year I have mainly read memoirs, they are great teachers when writing your own:
Mary Karr’s, The Liar’s Club, Cherry, as well as The Art of Memoir.
Kiese Layman’s Heavy, this was a re-read. Kiese grew up in my hometown of Jackson, MS. I’ll read anything of his!
Rick Bragg’s It’s All Over But the Shoutin’, story of growing up dirt poor in Alabama. Just started this one.
Maya Shanbhag Lang’s What We Carry: A Memoir Maya writes with efficiency about her experience caring for her mother who develops dementia. I loved this quick read.
Tena Clark’s Southern Discomfort: A Memoir, set in rural Mississippi during the Civil Rights era about a white girl coming of age in a repressive society and the woman who gave her the strength to forge her own path—the black nanny who cared for her. You bet I could relate to this one!
Ingrid Rick’s Hippy Boy: A Girl’s Story, about growing up in a dysfunctional Mormon family. (Ingrid has helped me map out my memoir, which she is very skilled at.)
Jesmyn Ward’s Men We Reaped, In five years, Jesmyn lost five men in her life, she revisits their lives and the agonizing loss. Again, I’d read anything of Jesmyn’s.
Kate Moore’s The Woman They Could Not Silence: One Woman, Her Incredible Fight for Freedom and The Men Who Tried to Make Her Disappear, set in 1806, true story of Elizabeth Packard whose husband was threatened by her independence and intellect, had her committed to an insane asylum. When one is conveniently labeled as “crazy” one loses their power and their voices are ignored. (one reason I want to write my own memoir) Elizabeth was later released and went on to free millions and changed the system. A great history lesson and very empowering to read this. I highly recommend.
Ashley Ford’s Somebody’s Daughter, of growing up a poor Black girl in Indiana with a family fragmented by incarceration, exploring how isolating and complex such a childhood can be. Loved and highly recommend.
Matthew McConaughey’s Greenlights, uplifting and entertaining. I listened to this on audible which is fun to “hear” him tell his stories. Don’t think it would be as fun to read it.
Chanel Miller’s Know My Name, whew that was a tough one. Her memoir about her famous rape case on Standford’s campus. I listened to this on audible during a trip.
I’ve read some tough, sad stories, but I think it’s important to learn about other’s trauma in hopes that we can be educated and empathetic.
I needed something a little lighter after Chanel’s story. I chose,
Tiffany Haddish’s The Last Black Unicorn, a sidesplitting, hysterical, edgy, and unflinching collection of (extremely) personal essays, as fearless as the author herself.

I started a couple of novels, but haven’t finished them. I will.
Kiese Laymon’s Long Division
Caroline Patterson’s The Stone Sister

I may have left out some books, but I’m not with my bookshelves at the moment. Coming soon, books I look forward to reading in 2022.
Thanks for reading, and may the New Year bring you happiness and something you’ve been wishing for.