Van envy and other highlights

There were many highlights from my weekend stay at my writing coach’s house. It started with Ingrid, my coach, and I walking a couple of blocks from her house for an excellent meal (seafood for this landlocked Montanan) and visit. Then a hot tub before bed.
She really wanted me to meet one of her other writing clients from another group. Saturday we meet Ruth for coffee. Yep, it was immediate sisterhood. Ruth is maybe a couple of years older than me. Shares her time between Seattle and Taos, traveling in her van. The layout of her van is pretty much like mine. She has it all set up complete with twinkle lights and hand sewn curtains that attach with velco. That’s exactly what I want to do. It was such an inspiration. I hope to use some of my winter, making curtains and a platform for my bed.
I hope some of my friends get a chance to meet Ruth. She’d like to come visit in Missoula. For now, I’d like to recommend her online game that is very soothing. I downloaded it onto my ipad and gave it a whirl. CanCan, a game of color and creation, where everyone is an artist.
The rest of Saturday afternoon, I got to cook jambalaya for our memoir writing group that evening. Ingrid and her husband had granted me their downstairs apartment for the weekend where I made myself right at home. Late afternoon, Ingrid, her husband, John, and I got a walk to the Pudget Sound in. John is just as personable and laid back as Ingrid. I loved being with them. John joined us for the jambalaya then left us five women writers to our giggles and stories.
Sunday a quick stop at the Ballard goodwill where I scored. Made it to Olympia just in time for dinner at Taj’s. Wow, does she have a nice set up right on the Sound. I felt like I was at summer camp. She and her roommate cooked a meal to die for, salmon and all fresh veggies and salad. Lovely young women and good conversation.
The past two nights, I stayed at The Tradewinds in Rockaway Beach. I’d recommend it, right on the ocean, with a kitchen and quiet. Just ask for Neil at the front desk. Really I rested, took a walk on the beach, not much else, a little writing. I’ve got a low energy thing happening, tired when I wake up.
Before I make my way to Eugene for a few night stay today, I’m meeting some friends from Missoula, former co-workers from the Good Food Store, who are just up the road. We’ll get a walk on the beach in. I’m excited to see them.
Thanks for reading.

Nice curtains!
Ruth calls this her sunken living room! Oh I like the carpet too.

Like I Promised

Like I promised, fall is here. The van is set up for camping and I take off tomorrow.
First stop, Seattle for a weekend with my writing coach. When she realized her downstairs apartment was available for the weekend, she invited me to come stay. Four other memoir writing women will join us on Saturday. We have been zooming for months now, sharing some of our most intimate, joyful and painful tales. After learning each of our stories, I would say we make a group of some strong, resilient women. We have cried and laughed together virtually. I’m guessing the laughter will magnify as we physically come together.

Then to Olympia to visit Taj, who I cared for as a child. She is now a grown woman and holds special place in my heart. Her mother is like a sister to me. They are both family.

From there I plan to drive down the coast. The beauty is, from Olympia there is no agenda. Just me, my camping gear, books and pen and paper.

Happy camping everyone. Thanks for reading.

Fall is My Favorite Season

Fall can’t get here soon enough. Aside from it being my favorite season, it will be the end of summer travelers, the heat and smoke and my schedule will settle down.

Missoula has been run over with people from all over the place, making for increased traffic, prices and more unattractiveness. We had one of those stupid (yea that’s my opinion) party vehicles that people pedal while drinking. It went up and down our main street at five mph, people yelling like a bunch of newly released convicts, attractive!


The river was packed and littered. The cost of hotels tripled. Locals can’t afford increased rents much less buy a home in this most unfair market. I haven’t floated the river this summer.

My schedule has been full with pet/house sitting, doing some childcare and cleaning Airbnbs. It’s been good for my pocketbook but my soul could use a little down time.


Come fall I’ll get my van set up for camping, find a body of water and get to camping.
And get back on track with writing which has taken a back seat in the midst of busyness.

Thanks for reading.

Noticing Joy

Did it happen in the middle of the night, maybe while I was eating a meal or while I was meeting a new pet sitting client or walking a dog, maybe while I was dancing outside to live music with some of my favorite people or swimming in the river…I’m not sure but I noticed it. That’s what matters.

It dawned on me; I feel good, physically and emotionally. Was it the thyroid medicine my naturopath put me on, the new gluten, dairy free meal plan I’m adhering to? Was it the world opening a bit and getting busy again with house/pet sitting, and gathering with dear, dear friends? Probably all of the above. I’m experiencing joy. 

Things have fallen into place. I don’t want that to go unnoticed. I am living simply in a place I’ve wanted to live since I discovered it back in the 1980’s. I have the most amazing authentic friends. My occupation of house/pet sitting is the perfect complement to my writing life. I am not wanting of much, not a new house, car, relationship, I don’t want anymore stuff. I want to live simply. Yea, I like to travel, and I will. 

And there will be hard knocks again. Life has a habit of giving us those. 

A quick exchange with a friend yesterday was confirmation. His precious daughter got cancer at two years old. She’s now in remission. He now has a 2nd daughter. For a few years his life was hell, now it’s full and joyful. He witnessed me experience the disconnect with my daughter and grandkids while he was unsure how long he might have his daughter. But yesterday, we reveled in our good fortune as of late, acknowledging it could all change tomorrow. 

I am feeling much more equipped to handle challenges. My living situation could change tomorrow, someone I love could die. I’ve come to accept that we don’t just get to a place and stay there, no we keep on traveling, experiencing the adventure of it all.

Thanks for reading. 

PS, if you haven’t seen Summer of Soul, I highly recommend it for it’s educational, uplifting entertainment. It’s streaming on Hulu and playing in theaters.

I don’t wear jewelry anymore

I don’t wear jewelry anymore

Did I beg mama to give me the cluster of pearls ring that was my grandmother’s
Or did she just give it to me willy nilly and send me on my way
all I remember is I was around nine. 
Memory is sometimes vague, often it only comes with a certain feeling. 
I remember being in the back yard searching for it, just me. 
Did she know I lost it, I don’t know but I hate that I don’t still have it.

My high school/college boyfriend, yes he was the love of my life really in truly, brought me a necklace of an etched whale’s tooth from his family trip to Hawaii. I still have the Bulova watch he gifted me. Wish I still had him, ha. He is dead though, he died from ALS. His wife invited me to come visit several times before he died. It was precious. 

Mama wouldn’t let me pierce my ears. I took care of that with an ice cube and a sewing needle. I don’t think I got in trouble. She usually didn’t have the energy to punish or guide me. My pierced ears created a tradition, my daughter would always get me a new pair of earrings for my birthday. I kept some of those earrings even though I don’t wear them anymore. 

A few years ago, my ears began to turn red every time I put an earring in. They would itch and burn. The best solution was to no longer wear them. I gave away most of my earrings, kept the ones that hold a special memory in my heart. 

In 9th grade, Mama took me and my older sister, on a ten day tour to Europe. In ten days we went to London, Stratford on Avon, Paris, Lucerne, Rome, (day trip to Assisi), Florence and Venice. My memories are fairly vivid from this trip. We were blessed by the Pope at the Vatican. In Lucerne, Mama announced we could get a special piece of jewelry to commemorate our trip. My sister chose a watch. I chose a sapphire diamond ring. Eventually I passed it down to my daughter. I hope she still has it.

The one last piece of jewelry I possessed from my grandmother, a stunning, unusual turquoise and diamond ring was stolen a few years ago. Traveling through Portland. I went out to my car after a night’s stay at a boutique hotel in the northeast neighborhood. Not only was one window busted out, but two. I had the ring in the car because I was taking it to be repaired. It is gone. I searched craiglist ads, placed an ad. I still think some weird miracle could happen, shopping in Portland and spotting it. Who knows, none of us know. 

Playing with poetry

It was a lovely reprieve to take part in Luther Hughes’s workshop, Reaching for Joy last week. Writing memoir has already proven to be hard, rewarding, triggering, and necessary. Luther’s workshop felt like playtime in comparison. I am not a poet, but it’s fun to try it.

The assignment guidelines: start with “it”, a time you made a choice to basically have faith and also include a food.
Some of you may recall this “story” from a blog post in the very beginning of this blog as I drove from Montana to the southern tip of Baja.

Somewhere In Mexico

It was noon
Driving slow, low shoulder, two lane highway
Potholes in the middle
Didn’t see it coming but heard the pop, felt the bump
Damn only sand
It was the only way to go
All alone as far as the eye could see.
A man came along as we tried to understand
Resigned to not panic, only to trust
He tried with his truck and chain to get me unstuck
But fuck
As if from the sky, a bus fell into sight
Angels who looked like farm workers descended and lifted my car
I witnessed a miracle
Then was on my way to the next town to get a taco

Radio Silence

I might be coming out of radio silence. A little over month ago I got stopped in my tracks due to shocking news.

I have been reconciled with the fact that I likely will not have a relationship with my adult daughter in this lifetime. That acceptance has helped me to get on with my life a bit.

But I had held out hope that I might know my grandchildren who I knew for the first two and a half years of their life. It’s been four years since I have seen them. That hope was diminished at the end of January when I learned my daughter has put it her divorce papers that I am not to have contact with my grandchildren. My ex son in law was wanting me to know them again, but my daughter has made sure that will not happen. It’s heartbreaking. It has set me back. I was writing, I haven’t been writing.

I go to the store, someone asks me, “how are those grandkids of yours?” I say, “I don’t know” as my eyes start to water. This person tells me her cancer is back, her husband just beat colon cancer. She is chipper in her brightly colored clothes. My tears are still there, now for her and the gift of witnessing her strength. I tell her so.

On social media someone is showing off their new grandchild. I click away, happy for them while reminded that I do not have that privilege. I instead go searching for an island vacation.

What I know is that this feeling is temporary. I have to be gentle with myself and everyone involved. I will write again, I am writing now.

What I also know is while the family thing hasn’t worked out so well, I have some of the richest, most authentic friendships a person could ask for. I have kids in my life, a couple of them consider me their stand in grandmother. This does not go unnoticed and is not taken for granted. A therapist of mine says if you have one person you can call during your worst times you are rich in friendship. I have several of those “one” persons. I think they know I am that person for them as well.

In telecommunications, radio silence or Emissions Control is a status in which all fixed or mobile radio stations in an area are asked to stop transmitting for safety or security reasons. I believe it has been a safety issue to not be writing. It’s getting safe again.

Love you all, thanks for reading.

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.

Dia de los Muertos, who would you celebrate and what would you cook for them?

The next couple of days, the Mexican culture will celebrate Dia de los Muertos . During the Day of the Dead, Mexican families set up altars in their houses and decorate them with photos, candles, and various objects of their deceased loved ones. Family members come and connect in a spiritual way with their departed family members and offer them gifts. The Marigold flower (Cempazuchitl) is a popular flower that families place on the altars and on the gravesites at this time. Also, food items are placed as ofrendas for the deceased to come back for one night to eat their favorite foods again.
I love this tradition, that it is a celebration, not mournful or sorrowful. If I were Mexican, if my family were gathering with painted faces to cook the favorite foods of some of our dead, and bring them to the altar with photos laced with marigolds, this is who I would celebrate and cook for.
1. Nanoo, my maternal grandmother, would be served biscuits and coffee on a dainty saucer and cup.
2. Matt Miller, a dear friend, who died our senior year, would be served a Krystal hamburger and fries.
3. Daddy, fried corn, corn scrapped from the cob, sautéed in butter and salt and pepper.
4. Tayloe, my high school, college sweetheart, a city club sandwich from Ole Tyme Delicatessen, oh and his mama’s devil’s food cake.
5. Amedee, the elder gentleman I had the honor of living with and caring for, there would be many dishes to choose from as what we were going to eat for our next meal was a main topic. I’d serve him food from House of India. That was his request in his parting words to me just before he died. Then for desert, I’d serve him Kozy Shack rice pudding.
6. Mama, a steak and baked potato.
7. Woosie, Elizabeth, the black woman who raised me, I’d be cooking for days. I’d want to serve her every good meal she cooked for me and my family. For desert, The Joy of Cooking, floating island.
8. Elaine, lifelong friend, we shared many joys and dramas. I’d make her a big jug of sweet tea.

Driving through Idaho (a different kind of place)

My last stop in Idaho was at the Cenex in Salmon, ID. Guns and ammo stores with large signs lined the streets. Huge Trump flags flew outside homes and from backs of oversized pickup trucks.
I ran into the Cenex, which had a True Value hardware store in it, to use the restroom. I was one of the only mask wearers in there. As I waited for the restroom, I peeked in the camping section. A young male employee approached me, not wearing a mask. I backed away as he asked if I needed any help. “I thought you might be looking for your husband, since you are in the fishing and camping section,” he said. “No, no husband, I’m a camper,” I replied. “Oh you are one of the lucky ones, there aren’t many of you,” he smirked.
After a quick visit to the bathroom, I couldn’t walk fast enough out of there.
It is beautiful country, with a sense of fear in the air. As a liberal woman traveling alone, it wasn’t the safest I’ve ever felt. In fact, I felt 100% safer traveling through Baja, Mexico alone.
When my map app announced, welcome to Montana, my tension relaxed, I took a deep breath of relief.
Yesterday, I had an appointment with my favorite chiropractor here in Missoula, Dr. Van Eerden, at Hickory Street Chiropractic Clinic, http://www.hschiro.com/
He really is good, gentle and uses the activator. Our visit was mainly me on the table with him doing visceral manipulation. We talked of Idaho, shared stories that only confirmed my sense of fear driving through there. His son played soccer, thus they found themselves traveling there for games. Ivan’s gentle touch gave my hips some relief. By evening, I was feeling the pain again and exhausted. I have a doctor’s appointment next week to continue the search into what is causing this discomfort.
Meantime, Aranda Bowman LMT, https://www.massagebook.com/Springfield~Massage~Aranda?src=external (highly recommend her) who I saw in Oregon a week ago sent out this Youtube with some self myofascial bodywork. Check it out and take good care of yourself.

Thanks for reading and coming along on the journey.

Need some community tonight? Join in for live storytelling at Tell Us Something, https://www.tellussomething.org/ $10 per ticket. Support the arts, support storytelling.

Pink barn in Idaho with smoke filled skies