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.

For my grandchildren

My Grandson

He named me.
Before that, the first time I saw him he had that wisdom in his eyes.
His head was strong and may it always be.
He would run, I mean run to me when I opened the door,
Eyes bright with delight and a giggle that would melt a heart.
If he spotted me through the window, before I got to the door,
The both of us could not get to the door fast enough.

I wonder, will I see that smile, hear his laugh, feel his hug.
Does he want to share that, will he want to share that?
Will there be any glimmer of remembrance?

Are books by your bed, are you outdoors quite often, walking among the trees or zooming past them as you pedal fast?
What are your interest, I’d love to know?
Do you feel protective of your sister even if she bothering you when you’d rather not be bothered?
How is school, do you enjoy learning, making friends?
Will I get to know these things about you?
I love you.

My Granddaughter

You learned pretty quick to take up for yourself when your brother tried to overpower.
In the double stroller, you were delighted to be behind your brother, able to reach up and grab at his hair to make him squeal. I have a picture to prove it.

I am proud, proud of the way you are determined, even if you have to be loud about it sometimes.

And I beamed when someone said, “she looks like you” and when I saw you dressed in the clothes I had saved from your mother’s babyhood.

So peaceful were our quiet times together, snuggling, reading, figuring out a puzzle or singing itsy bitsy spider. 

Tell me now, do you like to draw, read, do crafts or would you much rather be getting on your bike, adventuring outside or a little of  both. What do you enjoy most about school, do you want to know more about numbers or words or science?

By the way, do you remember me? I do hope to know you again someday.  
I love you. 

Woke up, a poem

The family was gathered in the kitchen, cooking, laughing, dancing
then I woke up
Some of us moved away to make new lives for ourselves, we called each other to check in
then I woke up
I call my Mama every Sunday for a chat
then I woke up
My sisters, brother and our children, along with grandchildren are planning our next family vacation
then I woke up
We are listening to each other with empathy
then I woke up
I hear a little voice calling “mama”
then I woke up

A Question Was Posed

A friend on social media posed a question: “Tell me how the past year has irreparably broken your spirit?” The responses were many, varied and poignant.
Here’s my response:
The injustice that has reared it’s ugly head this year has broken my heart, caused me to reflect, go into action and accept some of what is. In research I’ve discovered shameful acts of my Southern family, my grandfather declared a black man insane for trying to enter a white southern university and had him committed. My family of origin’s dysfunction has created a chasm that may be irreparable. Tribalism is creating a divide. We are forgetting we are all connected. It breaks my heart everyday, especially this past year.

I’d love to hear your response.

“The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places.” Ernest Hemingway

Love you all, Frances

Happy sobriety birthday to me

Happy three year sobriety birthday to me. To what do I owe this sobriety? As they say, definitely something bigger that me, AA, dear friends (it doesn’t hurt when one of your best friends has been sober for 20 something years), lots of  therapy, and Neurofeedback.
My father was an alcoholic, went to treatment maybe five times. A couple of times he went to Hazelden.  When I was around ten years old, my three older siblings and I attended a family week at Hazelden. I loved it and learned a lot. I really got that alcoholism is a disease, it’s not the person. It can be treated as most medical conditions can. Any idea I had that I could get my daddy to quit drinking went away. I learned that was not in my control.
I began drinking in high school. Drinking was kinda a social norm in the group I ran with. It was definitely a social norm for my parents and their friends. Drinking was our fun time, ha. Water skiing with Gar and snakes on the Pearl River was the other fun time.  I drank to excess. Not daily. I did have some blackouts. Attending the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss, a derogatory name that should not be used) was like going to the country club, it was one big party. My boyfriend, Tayloe, was a Pike, a Pi Kappa Alpha. I was initiated as a Pike little sister. It may have been the number one party fraternity on campus. I hardly remember attending classes. Passing grades would show that I did though.
When my high school, college sweetheart, Tayloe and I broke up, I moved to Missoula, MT where my brother taught at the University. I finished college there. Excited to actually be studying. But yes, continuing with the party mode, finding the right friends to continue that habit with. That’s how I met my daughter’s father, partying. I got pregnant, we married. We moved to the east coast with no stability in our relationship, jobs, etc. That didn’t last long. The final straw was when my then husband, went out to a party with friends and volunteered me to stay at home with their kid and ours. My reaction helped fuel the premise he liked to claim about me, that I was crazy.
My two year old daughter and I went back to Mississippi. I realized my drinking was problem. My parents agreed to take care of my daughter while I went to rehab at the Mississippi hospital program right in Jackson where we lived. It was a really good program. When I got out, AA was my life. My daddy and I shared some good talks and of course he was supportive. Truthfully, I can’t remember when I started drinking again. It was sometime when I was working at Lemuria Bookstore and met  my next husband to be. He was a good drinker, charming and a good dad to my daughter. Later, I discovered what it’s like to be married to someone who is passive aggressive. That made for a good reason to drink during our marriage! No one “makes” you drink, but as an alcoholic without good coping skills, it was easy to give in to drinking. After 11 years together, we divorced. I was blamed for asking for the divorce and breaking up our family. His love affairs outside our marriage and lack of taking responsibility for anything that might make him look anything less than a nice guy had nothing to do with our failed marriage! He did a great job of playing my daughter against me. All this was even more reason to drink and to attempt suicide. Hence, my second period of recovery and abstinence. I was sober for many years. Started to drink again, and again don’t remember exactly when or why. This go around, I drank alone, not all the time. When sadness struck, such as a failed attempt for my daughter and I to enjoy each other, it would send me to the bottle. That would be a wine bottle or two. Many didn’t realize I drank, some were probably highly suspect that I did. Once my daughter cut me off completely and I lost contact with my grandchildren, the sadness came often. After a night of drinking, alone, I impulsively poured a bottle of Xanax down my throat and woke up to a handsome paramedic standing over me.
That was three years ago. That’s my story as they say in AA.
I honestly, think and feel that sobriety is going to stick. I say this while remaining humble. However, there is nothing in me that wants a drink. The physical craving is not there as it was before. I think that is a benefit of the neurofeedback. Emotionally, I’ve come a long way, have greater insights and tools. And last but not least, I have  surrounded myself with the people who love me and I love them. Many have been there through the thick and thin with me. Thank you, may I be there for you in times of joy and trouble.

Today happens to be Tayloe’s “birth” birthday as well. He is deceased, I think of him often. That’s another story.

Really, thanks for reading.

Prom night
Tayloe and I at prom night, drink in hand. My best friend, Elaine, far right, alcoholic, now deceased.

Mother daughter relationships

Mothers are either glorified or blamed, the job description is almost impossible to live up to, daughters are often angry at their mother and don’t know their mother’s history before they came into the world. It’s hard for daughters to come to a place of compassion, without realizing their mother had a whole complicated life before they came into the world.
What happens without healthy dialog? Stories and diagnosis are often created.
My daughter and family certainly have a story and have diagnosed me. And there is no dialog. I’ve tried, but it seems their story and diagnosis of me is serving them somehow.
We weren’t taught how to have hard conversations, how to listen in order to understand.
This is some of what I gleaned from listening to this conversation with Harriet Lerner and Sheleana Aiyana

Navigating mother/daughter relationships with Harriet Lerner

I remain open to miracles, healthy dialog with a willingness to own up to my part and with compassionate listening from all parties involved.

Thanks Wendy for sharing this youtube.
And thanks as always to all who read this.

 

Forgive

Sometimes, I fall asleep crying and wake up crying. I’ve come to accept that and move through it, knowing in another moment I won’t be.
I cry for missed opportunities, family gatherings, my grandchildren turning 6, hearing them call me Gaga, the comfort of family checking in on each other during a pandemic, sisters, nephews, daughter and grandchildren calling to wish me a happy 61st birthday, planning the next gathering, and laughing together.
For reasons, some of my own doing and some I’m not sure of, those opportunities have passed.
I do believe, if we all listened, really listened with the empathy to put ourselves in each other’s shoes, we could grow to understand and forgive. I believe there is a story to be told, one of love and redemption. Fear  is erased, holds on control and the need to be right are loosened, and hearts are opened.

But for today, I’m off to Black Lives Matter Rally in Missoula. Black Lives Matter Rally
Showing up to show support, listen and learn.

Side note: the dolphin is running good. I took it to have oil changed at Lube It. The guys there loved it. I love it when whoever is working on it, loves it. Taking it into RV shop on Wednesday to have a few things taken care of.  I love it and it needs so much work!

Questions I wish I’d asked

My writing group is writing in the form of list. One of our prompts today is:

Questions I wish I’d asked my departed ones but didn’t

Elizabeth,

Where were you raised?

How many siblings do you have?

Is that white uniform uncomfortable?

Tell me about your parents, about your childhood.

Who takes care of your daughter while you are taking care of me?

Where did you learn to cook all the delicious food you cook for my family?

How much do my parents pay you?

How much is the bus fare to get to our house?

Which church do you go to?

What’s it like to witness all that goes on in our household?

Can I come over to your house sometime?

Elizabeth, do you know I love you very much?

 

Real love

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This picture came up as a memory today. Elizabeth has been at the forefront of my mind lately. She raised me from infancy until 6 years of age. We had the days to ourselves in the midst of a chaotic, dysfunctional family. I was the youngest of 4 and there were 7 years difference between me and the next sibling.
Once everyone was off to school and work, she put me on the kitchen counter, served me toast with honey and coffee with cream and sugar. (I’m drinking my coffee with cream and sugar as I write this) I was content as she went about cleaning the kitchen. I was her side kick all day. Life was peaceful and full of love during our hours together.
A friend of mine is doing ancestry.com. I asked her to look Elizabeth up. After no avail, I am going to start my own research on her background. She is who I am interested in. The woman who loved me, sacrificed time with her own daughter and gracefully put on a white uniform, got on the bus and arrived at our house to help make it appear beautiful on the inside and out.
I already know my grandfathers on both sides were corrupt. My maternal grandfather was director of war bonds under President Taft. My paternal grandfather became sheriff in the south during prohibition. He had a check on his desk the day he went into office from the bootleggers.  No pride in that.
I’ll let you know what I find out.