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.

Reading Brian Doyle is a Spiritual Experience

The hotel smelled of perfume when I came home after a week of pet sitting. On tables, kitchen counters, bathroom counters, and window sills, purple hyacinths sat bringing the hope of spring. This same scent and color came to the hotel last year at this time. Robert is dutch. He loves flowers. Throughout the year, he brings home bouquets. We are lucky to have a farmer’s market across the street in the spring and summer. Each Saturday, he brings us fresh flowers for the community dining area. Otherwise, he picks up a bunch at the grocery store. But he goes all out with the hyacinths. Once we have enjoyed the blooms, Robert gathers all the bulbs to take to a friend who plants them in his garden.
Thankfully, I don’t have any pet sitting for a couple of weeks. Robert will have cataract surgery on Friday. Thursday I’ll make sure he gets the eye drops that have to administered four times that day, then drops each day for a week. He will be seeing the world through a new lens.
I woke up at 6:00 AM to the sound of wind pushing at my windows, the dumpster being pushed with it’s force in the alley and Brenda the cat meowing to be fed. My 3rd floor windows are practically at the mouth of the Hellgate Canyon, which is notorious for its winds that blow into Missoula from the northeast. An arctic front has blown in with temperatures in the teens. Thank goodness we have hyacinths to remind us this will pass. So Brenda and I are snuggled up under my down comforter going nowhere. At least not until 2:00 this afternoon for a physical therapy appointment.
Before I turned on my computer to write, check email and before I went to social media land for all it’s good and bad, I opened Brian Doyle‘s book of essays, One Long River of Song, Notes on Wonder. Reading his words are a spiritual experience. We lost him too soon to cancer.
I am making it a habit to not turn on my computer until I have done some reading each morning. As always I grabble with social media. Twitter has become my media of choice as of late as I follow and connect with writers. However, it can feel a bit overwhelming in the pressure to keep up with tweets.


For now I will leave you with the last paragraph of Brian Doyle’s essay,
The Greatest Nature Essay Ever:
“And finally the last paragraph. It turns out that the perfect nature essay is quite short, it’s a lean taut thing, an arrow and not a cannon, and here at the end there’s a flash of humor and hint or tone or subtext of sadness, a touch of rue, you can’t quite put your finger on it but it’s there, a dark thread in the fabric, and there’s also a shot of expresso hope, hope against all odds and sense, but riveting there’s no call to arms, no clarion brassy trumpet blast, no website to which you are directed, no hint that you, yes you, should be ashamed of how much water you use or the car you drive or the fact that you just turned the thermostat up to seventy, or that you actually have not voted in the past two elections despite what you told the kids and the goat. Nor is there a rimshot ending, a bang, a last twist of the dagger. Oddly, sweetly, the essay just ends with a feeling eerily like a warm hand brushed against your cheek, and you sit there, near tears, smiling, and then you stand up. Changed.” Brian Doyle

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

Books To Read in 2022

This is my short list for now. It will grow.

Lit by Mary Karr – the last of her memoir trilogy, completing my read of her memoirs.

The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan – an avid reader friend who works with many writers, feels this is one of the most beautifully written classic westerns set in Montana. When I met Kim, he struck me a kind man, and yes kindness influences me.

Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay – A New York Times bestseller, a collection of essays spanning politics, criticism, and feminism from one of the most-watched young cultural observers of her generation.

Chris LaTray’s One Sentence Journal, Short Poems and Essay on the World at Large. Chris is a local Missoulian and member of Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians His newsletter, An Irritable Metis, is always a gift in my email. I encourage you to subscribe. He has a new book, Becoming Little Shell coming in 2022 that I very much look forward to reading.

Lily Dancyger’s Negative Space,  A memoir from the editor of Burn It Down: Women Writing About AngerNegative Space explores Dancyger’s own anger, grief, and artistic inheritance as she sets out to illuminate the darkness that was hidden from her.

Body Work: The Radical Power of Personal Narrative by Melissa Febos – available March, 2022. “The most necessary book about memoir I’ve read. Daring, honest, psychologically insightful, and absolutely whip smart. A must read for anybody shoving a pen across paper or staring into a screen or a past.”          —Mary Karr

If you have books you are looking forward to reading, suggest them in the comments.

I’m in a doing mode, cooking, walking dogs, etc and reading of course. Writing is taking a nap and will wake up at some point.

Thanks for reading and subscribing to my blog. Stay safe for sure.

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.

Stories Help Us to Understand

Robert came to Missoula in 1979, and shortly after bought the hotel. I mentioned in an earlier blog, that recently I have had the opportunity to get to know him, learn his habits and some of the reasons behind them.
At the end of this summer, he was walking downtown and was hit be a car. We learned about it when he was brought back home after a visit to the emergency room, showing us stitches along one calf.
As several of us circled around him, checking for other injuries, he insisted he was fine. In fact, after he was hit, he told the policeman he would just walk home. Thankfully, the policeman insisted that ambulance take him to the hospital.
They gave him a strong pain killer and I believe he was full of adrenaline. He insisted on climbing up the ladder to his loft bed in spite of our conclave presenting our best arguments. I in turn, insisted on sleeping in the room across the hall from him as it is kept as a guest room. One of the guys brought him something to pee into. As Robert raised a hammer, he reminded us that he and John who lives in the room directly above him, have a system. If Robert has an emergency, needs help in the middle of the night, he bangs on the radiator with the hammer. That was the signal for John to come running.
Sure’nuf around four in the morning, the banging started. John and I flew into his room. Robert, blurry eyed, stared down at us asking for help in getting down from the loft.
After he came back from the restroom, John and I stepped into the hall as Robert changed his clothes. But he hollered for help. He fell as he was changing pants and couldn’t get up. “That’s it.” I said, “you are sleeping in the room across the hall from now on.” It has a twin bed that is not a loft. He didn’t argue this time.
Thankfully, I had a break in my house/pet sitting jobs for a few weeks and could give Robert the attention he needed. I mean it’s something for anyone to be hit by a car, but even more so when you are 82 years old.
During the first week, the ankle on the leg that didn’t have stitches continued to swell up and it was painful for him to walk. After carefully nudging, I took him back to the ER. Yep, he had a fracture and needed to wear an orthopedic boot.
We spent quiet mornings visiting, drinking coffee and getting some food in him. Robert is a very independent person and has his routine. He is used to getting out everyday for a walk and his card game with friends. He appreciated my company.
I got to hear stories of his childhood in Holland during World War II. How his father buried a car, I suppose to keep the enemy from confiscating it, then unearthing it after the war. How they went without water. “That’s why I have bottles of water stored up, it’s terrible to not have water” he told me. Now, I understood, why his empty juice bottles were filled with water and tucked away.

I love that stories, listening help us to understand each other and our ways. Stories bring us closer, they open our hearts.

Robert is well on the mend. He and a fellow house mate took off yesterday for a trip to Spokane. I miss our quiet story telling mornings. However, we do go out for lunch, take a walk and I still make him oatmeal in the morning every now and then.

Thanks for reading.

It Was a Damn Good Turkey

I did it again, roasted a damn good turkey. The recipe I followed is so simple. Maybe it’s the lemon, apple and onion on the inside that helps keep it so moist. The herb butter sure helps too. Compliments were abound and a toast was made.
We had a full house at the hotel. Only two of the residents were away. Everyone cooked. Jen made the green been casserole with fresh beans and mushrooms, made the cream of mushroom from scratch and real fried onions on the top. She made real cranberry sauce and apple pie. No messing around there.
Don made homemade biscuits and shared his secret. OK, I’ll tell you what it is. Grate frozen butter into the flour mix. Don’s girlfriend joined us, who I had never met. She was a delight.
Jennifer and her boyfriend, John made me smile watching how much they love each other. Jennifer looking at him saying, “your face is so cute, I’m going to eat it.”
We had lots of good conversations and laughs. Most of the residents are young adults. Robert is the oldest, and me next to oldest. Robert went to bed shortly after his two full plates. The others were just gearing up for the night. I was close to pj time but they begged me to come to Charlie B’s with them. Touched, I agreed to come do a walk through, it’s just kiddy corner to the hotel. Charlie B’s like the hotel has not changed much since I frequented it back in the 80’s. It was previously Eddie’s Bar until 1981, where Lee Nye bartended and photographed his regular customers. His black and white portraits line the walls. Tucked in the back is the Dinosaur Cafe serving up pretty authentic cajun dishes, po’boys, jambalaya and gumbo.
My stay at Charlie’s was short and sweet. It was time for bed and back to the very sweet dog, Buzz, I am staying with for a month. He was our guest of honor for Thanksgiving. He is a committed companion, up for most anything. The past four days he has even joined me in cleaning my friend, Ann’s airbnb, taking breaks for a walk along the Clark Fork river.
If you ever need a place to stay in Missoula, check out Ann’s airbnb. She’s a thrifter and lover of antiques. I love caring for her place.
Buzz and I are headed out to clean for the last time on this stint. I have much preferred taking Buzz for walks closer to town. A mama grizzly bear and her two cubs have been spotted up where I am pet sitting Buzz. She’s been getting into garbage and the like. I am hoping she moves along so she and her cubs have a good long life.
Thanks for reading. More hotel adventures to come.

Meet Some of My Unexpected Family

My new room with a silver ceiling had a loft bed that I decided to use for storage, not wanting to go up and down the ladder each time I had to use the bathroom.  I bought a twin bed, hung twinkle lights and my star light from the ceiling, arranged books on the shelves, set up a writing desk, put my half & half in the frig and I was home.

Winter was coming in Montana, and I couldn’t wait. Eugene held my dear friends, but it didn’t hold my heart, Montana has since I came to visit my brother in the 80’s. 

My cocoon of a room had all I needed. Covid times have not been social times. But for me, social times began to slip away in 2017 as I began to grieve the loss of my relationship with my daughter and grandchildren. Now that the rest of the world had joined me in isolation, I felt a comfort that felt unfair because the rest of the world was now grieving. 

Slowly but surely, I meet the other residents of this historic hotel. With Covid protocol, residents mainly kept to themselves in their rooms, a twist from its history.  Back when Robert acquired the building some forty years ago, bohemians inhabited the rooms, art was created, and parties thrown. Friends who are long time Missoula residents have said to me with a laugh, “oh yea, I remember the parties at the hotel.” Surprisingly, I didn’t attend parties at the hotel during the 80’s but I was certainly at other parties, after waiting tables then out dancing. 

Completed in 1902, it was bustling with a restaurant, and saloon on the main floor. Rooms were rented for 75 cents by railroad passengers and workers. It’s been said it was a brothel at one time. With travelers and a saloon downstairs makes sense. 

The extend of socializing when I moved in was meeting in the kitchen while preparing a meal. Jennifer, lived in the room next to me. We’d chat as hot water ran through the cone for morning coffee. Sleepy eyed, she told me about her work at a peach orchard, her love for plants and her boyfriend. Eventually, she shared about her conflictual relationship with her mother, but how she was committed to loving her. Of course, I commended her for this commitment. On her 30th birthday, Jennifer, proudly showed me the presents her boyfriend had given her; a plant and an apron he had sewn himself. 

John, lives at the far end of the hall in the biggest room at the hotel. It even has its own bathroom. He’s around 30 years old, works for the forest service Bless his heart, he tries to keep everyone in line, leaving notes on the white board, reminding everyone to lock the doors, shared stats on daily Covid deaths. He’s a sweetheart but I wish for his sake he didn’t worry so much. 

Sam, what a sweetie. He’s early twenties, in school and works for the forest service. He’s from Virginia. His room is small, and he is a growing boy, so we’d end up together in the kitchen mornings and evenings. We talk food, the South, it’s history, the why of it all and how can we bring justice to this world. As I cooked pancakes for the two of us, he said, “man you remind me of my grandmother” Well shit, he had won my heart! 

The common areas weren’t and aren’t as clean as I care for. It doesn’t seem to bother the others too much. They are young, in school, working, and keeping a social life such as it is. After a few weeks, I was able to rally Jennifer, John and Sam to deep clean the 3rd floor kitchen. Jennifer tackled the refrigerator, pine soled the ceiling light fixtures that had years of dirt of them, Sam scrubbed the oven, John and I threw out items in the cupboard that were, yes, years expired, plastic lids with no bottoms. Counters were scrubbed and the floor swept and mopped it. It felt good and I got to know my fellow roomies a little more. I learned that Jennifer and John had never heard of Walt Whitman nor Leaves of Grass. I remedied that at my next visit to the 2nd hand bookstore. 

 Charles, who doesn’t leave his room much, stopped me in hall one day, “hey, would you roast us a turkey for Thanksgiving? My work is giving me a free turkey.” “Sure” I replied. I started my internet search for how to roast a turkey, it had been a few years. I asked Robert what he would like to have served at our Thanksgiving meal? He put in his request and meal planning began. 

Unexpected Family, how it came to be

It’s been a year since I moved in with my unexpected family. The end of summer 2020, I was back in Missoula to get more of my things and live in Eugene. But at an outside concert in my friend’s yard, I met Chris Sand, aka Sandman, the Rappin Cowboy. He mentioned there was room in the “hotel” he lived at in downtown Missoula. As Chris shared more with me about where he lived, I became more and more interested, almost certain I wanted to live there. He offered to show the place to me, introduce me to the man who owns the building and lives there. 

Coming through the front door, a fairly large plastic spider moved up as the door swung open, back down as it shut. The carpeted stairway leaned to the left a bit and a sculptured gnome like being meet me at the top. I felt the adrenaline of being in a fun house. Chris and I walked past the community kitchen with an artful colorful titled floor, gas stove/oven from probably the forties. Across the way, the wooden floored dining area held a round table and chairs, an old couch (that needed to go in my opinion) shelves with a turntable, album collection, books and plants that reached from floor to ceiling. 

We walked past three of four rooms, and a fish aquarium before coming to Robert’s room at the end. The globe outside his room was not lit up, meaning he probably wasn’t around. We knocked anyway. Chris letting me know Robert can’t hear well so it’s best to speak loud and clear. We yelled his name a few times but got no answer.

As we walked back down the hall, Chris pointed out the twinkle lights above. The high ceiling had concrete with circular clear glass sections that supposedly came from the old Missoula underground. (I started to research Missoula underground, there is much to read, and I will eventually).

He pointed out the two bathrooms on the 2nd floor before we made our way up the next very slanted set of stairs. (the 1stfloor houses a store) The 3rd floor’s full bath was a full mural of fish, octopus and other ocean creatures on all walls, giving me the feeling, I was swimming in the ocean. The smaller bath was fully collaged with pictures and sayings from magazines, so you are never bored in this bathroom.

The kitchen is stocked with dishware, silverware, microwave, stove and all the necessities with a sitting area across from it with more floor to ceiling plants. The twinkle lights from below shone through the glass in the concrete. The 3rd floor also had a fish aquarium. At the front end of the 3rd floor is the “yoga” room that has become the tv room with an extensive library of VCR tapes and dvds. Above is a large loft with several beds. Before Covid times, Chris mentioned that a traveling band may stay in the loft. For payment, they would buy the house a large box of toilet paper from Costco or find some way to make a contribution. I was liking this place more and more. 

The 3rd floor has 9 rooms, each is furnished with a bed, desk, chest of drawers and a mini frig. Some are larger with a sleeping area as well as a sitting area and sink. He showed me the available room, small but with a loft bed and built-in bookshelf across one wall. Looking up at the silver painted ceiling, I knew this place was my silver lining. The affordability made it a no brainer. Once my house/pet sitting picked up, I wouldn’t be paying an arm and a leg for a place I was not at very much. 

I left a note for Robert to let him know I would like to rent the room. A day later I came by early in the morning as Chris said that was the best time to catch him. He was happy to meet me, laughing, he had assumed I was a male because he has a male friend by the name of Francis. Many people don’t realize that males spell it with a “i” and the female version is Frances. He likes to have an equal mix of males and females living at the hotel. 

As we spoke loudly to each so he could hear me, he asked if I had any crazy boyfriends or a large dog. My answer was no. 

Chris phoned later to say I got the room! On a handshake and $100 deposit, I told Robert I would be back in a few weeks with my things from Oregon. 

*The fist of my writings on my unexpected family. More to come. Some names have and will be changed. Real names will be used when permission is granted. Chris Sand has granted permission. Be sure to check out his music at the above link.

Chris Sand