Essay Came Out at Insider

It’s -15 degrees with a wind chill of -30. I’m going nowhere today. Thankful to be in between pet sits for a couple of days at home, snuggling with Brenda the cat. A house mate came home with lots of food from his work (a grocery store) ground beef and spaghetti included. I volunteered to make a pot of spaghetti today. It’s my kind of day; cooking, reading and not going out in the cold.
Tomorrow, temps will start to warm up considerably and I’ll be with a great dog in a great house for the weekend, sharing a meal with a friend on Christmas Eve.

I mainly wanted to share with you, my essay that came out in Insider yesterday.

https://www.insider.com/woman-is-estranged-from-her-only-child-doesnt-celebrate-christmas-2022-12

I do hope you have a peaceful safe holiday.

Thanks for reading.

Another fun Thanksgiving

Did it again, used the easy, no fuss turkey recipe. For the 3rd time it did not let us down. I wonder if I’ll ever try another turkey recipe, would there be a reason to? Maybe just for the adventure of it. We will find out in the years to come.


Thanksgiving at the hotel continues to be my favorite day for all of us who live here. It’s a humble holiday, no fan fare required. The only structure is that the turkey will be ready around 4:00 so others plan their cooking around that. Black kitty, Brenda, got about ten meals throughout the day, turkey, turkey innards, and her regular kitty food. She still tried to tell me she was hungry before we snuggled up for bed!

Once we fill our plates with all the fixings, sat down to stuff our faces, any little irks (believe me they come up when you have fifteen people living under one roof, sharing bathrooms and kitchens) are long forgotten and we are thankful to be under the same roof, happy and mostly healthy. They even made a community toast to our group effort in beating f—ing anal cancer. They all have been so sweet, always checking in to see if I needed anything, hanging in my room for a cup of tea and a visit.


Honestly, it was the first day in a few weeks that I had energy and an appetite. At one point in the afternoon, I thought I was down for the count, but after a short rest, some food and hydration I made it for dinner time, dessert, followed by nerf gun wars in the hallways.
Maybe I’ve turned a corner. For the past two weeks I have hardly gotten out of bed, felt like I had lead in my legs and no food sounded good. It was a bit depressing. They, the nurses, had warned though, saying it will get worse before it gets better. It’s still not comfortable to sit directly on my bottom, but that’s getting better too.


The sun is shining today in Missoula and I’m thankful not to be going to any Black Friday sales. I’ve got a project or two to keep my busy and a bit of clean up from yesterday.


It’s helping my spirits, knowing I’m getting back to my pet sitting gigs. I got even better news when I went by to get last minute instructions for my dog sit starting Monday. Rafa, the dog, has the same routine as me. In the mornings, he gets up for breakfast then demands everyone get back in bed for a bit. We will get along beautifully.


One more piece of good news, I revised an essay I wrote last year, submitted it to Insider and it was accepted, my first paid piece of writing. Once it’s live, you will be the first to know.

Thanks for reading. Have a peaceful day.

View from back balcony

Week 5 of cancer treatment

This is the hard part. They warned me these last two weeks may be the worse. I’ve been nauseated since Friday. Can’t eat. No energy. I make myself go outside and stand in the sun. It’s lonely. It’s unsettling. I fear I will die alone, but many of us do.
I want to hear my family’s voices.

That’s today and the past few days. This too shall pass.

I baked a cake

I baked a cake, from scratch, a chocolate very moist cake. It was easy and I am quite proud. I was able to use the nasturtiums I planted to decorate it.
One of our housemates turned 29 yesterday. Her boyfriend, who caters with a local gourmet company, cooked up chicken enchiladas, made homemade chips and verde, salad, and simple veggie appetizers for our household as part of her celebration.
Another housemate had just rearranged and freshened up our community sitting area. It was all ready to be decorated with pom poms and streamers for the party.
Bob, asked me to order a cake earlier in the week. After several calls on Wednesday we were too late. Seems there were a lot of weddings this weekend, bakeries couldn’t take any more orders. Even though I can count on one hand how many cakes I’ve baked in my 63 years on the planet, I began my internet search for best chocolate cake recipe. I honed in on one, BBC easy chocolate cake recipe, gathered the ingredients, made the so easy, so delicious icing in the morning. Baked the cake around noon. Bob was looking at me with skeptical eyes as I put the very liquidity batter filled pans into the oven. The recipe stated once you add the boiling water, “the cake mixture will now be very liquid.” I was only a little worried about how they would come out.
30 minutes later, it was a very moist and perfectly formed cake. I iced it like a pro.
Dinner was delicious. I was happy to have a decent appetite.
The cake was donned with candles, lit, carryed out to the tune of, you know, “Happy Birthday to You.” I helped slice and serve a few pieces when my body suddenly told me to go lie down. There was no arguing with it. I did get to hear the rave reviews the cake was getting.
It was really a fun day, helping with the festivities. I love the people I live with.
As I laid down with my black kitty, since I was tired, the tears just came. I wish my child and I could share special moments, laugh together. I miss her, damn it.
Life is short, life is precious, hope springs eternal, forgiveness is possible, choose love not fear.

Thanks for reading.

3rd floor community room

Living for the Weekend

Friday they disconnected my chemo fanny pack for the weekend. I haven’t been that excited about a weekend since I was a teenager.
Even though I do have some side effects kicking in,
ie: nausea (under control if I stay on top of nausea medicine), low appetite, diarrhea started this weekend and mouth sores, I felt good enough to crank up the tunes, dance around my room and get some cleaning done.

To add to the excitement, at my Monday appointment to check everything; platelets, blood count, etc, I learned that I don’t have chemo for two weeks, only the daily radiation. I was dehydrated, so I sat for an hour relaxing receiving hydrating fluids. All that happens through the port. Hence, don’t have to get poked all the time.

Some of you have asked for clarification on the port and fanny pack of chemo. Below is a pic of me with the pack. I wear it over my shoulder. The tubing from the fanny pack is pretty long, runs under my shirt and into the port that’s in my chest. It’s with me 24/7 during the weeks I have it. I drive with it, sleep with, bath with it, occasionaly dance with it. Robert, the 83 year old owner of the building I live in, and I often greet each other with a jig when we meet in the hallway each morning. His positive attitude inspired me throughout his health issues during this past year. Now he is cheering me on, telling me, “well, you certainly are a trooper.”

My fellow housemates have been so sweet, offering to bring me anything, making extra mashed potatoes for me, the gift of a journal titled – 52 Lists for Calm. They didn’t even know I have a “list” writing group. My new room as of late spring is decorated, cleaned and organized. It took me all summer since I was pet sitting so much. Happy I bought the tv from the previous tenant, haven’t had a tv in years. Making good use of it now. There hasn’t been much energy to read or write. The adult coloring book that has been on my shelf for ten years is getting used for the first time and I’m cutting from magazines for collaging while watching tv. Back to the basics in the creativity department. They are comforting yet mindless activities.

That’s the update for Tuesday, October 4th.
Thanks for reading.

Appreciated the prayer posted in the hospital elevator today.

Me with chemo pack
Prayer on hospital elevator wall
Secret garden adult coloring book

Side effects came pretty quick

The first day of chemo and radiation left me exhausted and a bit overwhelmed. Lots of information to take in. They sent me home with folders of information, a good thing since my eyes glazed over and my thoughts traveled as the nurses talked. I wanted my mama! After chemo/radiation I was sent to Partners in Health to be adorned with a fanny pack carrying my chemo. We will be be together 24/7 sans the weekend.

Yesterday as nausea set in, the thought of food repulsed me. I reminded myself this is hopefully for only six weeks. I can do this. The strawberry popsicle for dinner hit the spot and I got a good night’s sleep. Meantime, I’m to drink eight glasses of water a day, brush my teeth at least three times to help ward off mouth sores, eat small amounts of nutritious food, cut back on fiber. Other precautions are to wear gloves if gardening and change the water in flower vases daily as it can harbor bacteria. Stay away for sick people – all the things we do to protect a weak immune system.

This morning I popped my nausea medicine immediately and it seems to be working. I was able to get down a breakfast bar. It’s a sunny fall day here in Missoula. At 2:00 I’ll walk the few blocks to St. Pats for radiation. That will be good medicine and plan to do that daily (radiation is at 2:15 M-F) A friend is coming for a visit this evening bringing soup. Another friend is bringing some foods to have on hand, ie: sausage which sounds appealing, something I can cook, cut up and nibble on when needing some protein.

Thankfully I’m at home until mid-October, then to a peaceful cat sit for the rest of the month. I won’t be taking on any dog sits, just kitties, until I am pass the treatment.

I’ve always had compassion and respect for those going through the cancer journey but that is even greater now.

Thanks for reading and all your support. Love, Frances

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.

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.

He has risen!

He has risen. Yes, Jesus did. But Robert, who owns the hotel, went through a bad bout of shingles, got hit by a car and had two cataract surgeries this past year, will turn 83 on Easter Sunday.
The second cataract surgery was this past week, so eye drops are still happening four times a day until the first of May. He refuses to do them himself. He knows his short term memory is going and could forget. Also, I know he loves all the attention, as he hears the latest of any goings on in the house, telling a joke or stories of his past (which he has begun to repeat often). I usually do the drops. When I am away pet sitting I stop by to help when I can. Otherwise, someone created a group text to organize the giving of the drops.
Robert still stays active each day. He plays cards regularly and goes for walks. He stays upbeat and positive.
One evening he said, “I am feeling discouraged.” I replied, “Oh, how so?”
His come back was “I didn’t say anything.” That was the end of that.

Sunday, someone is cooking a ham. Housemates will potluck around that. The birthday man loves mashed potatoes, they will be my contribution. Certainly, we will fill the house with flowers. Robert with his dutch heritage loves his flowers.

Just last week, I showed Robert a picture of a great horned owl, I captured on camera. He loves it and wants a print. We looked through some of my photos from other potlucks, etc at the hotel. I’ve printed those as well and will add to the photo albums of past years at the hotel. Those will be his gifts.

It will be a simple, yet sweet celebration of an 83 year old Dutch man who continues to rise.