Bringing Generations Together

It is the eve of a court ruling. A judge will determine whether I am able to see my grandchildren or not. It could go either way. I am preparing myself for the either way. 
There are a lot needs in the world that need to be met. One is childcare. The other is for some who are aging; a sense of purpose. Our contemporary world allows folks to travel, to move to a desired place. Often, leaving parents and grandparents behind. I could begin a network of connecting the two. It could be for one-on-one childcare, or a childcare center run by “grandmothers”. Certainly, background checks would be done, applications, letters of reference, all the necessary checks. I’ve operated a childcare program before; I know how to do all that. 
However, this ruling goes, I want to continue to have a full life and yes, a sense of purpose. When I learned I would be a grandmother, my heart was so full of hope. Hope first, that my child and I would come together and heal our wounds. That she would accept my help, that we would communicate effectively, and past wrongs would be forgiven. Visions of trips to the library, hikes, bike rides, reading, driving to sports and lessons, all the while laughing, embracing and kissing the hurts away with my grandkids came into view when I first heard the news of being of a grandmother. 

However, the judge chooses to rule, I like the idea of connecting the needs of children and an older generation. I’ll run with that idea and see what I can make happen. 

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.

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

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

Thanksgiving with Unexpected Family


It didn’t take long after moving into the hotel to discover the kindness of the owner, Robert. Each morning he makes coffee for the house then picks up fresh bagels for everyone. There are certain staples, he keeps stocked in the kitchen, such as butter and half and half. On Mondays, he takes a large cooking pot to Paul’s Pancake House. They fill it with spaghetti. I never even knew Paul’s, a breakfast favorite since 1963, made spaghetti. It’s delicious, reminds me of my mamas.
As December rent came due, Robert wrote us all a message on the community white board, “Merry Christmas, take $100 off this month’s rent.” It brought tears to me eyes. A few months later, his message read, “It’s my brother’s birthday month, take $50 off rent.”
I’ve discovered, if one needs to discuss anything with Robert it is best to catch him in the morning. He leaves around noon each day for his poker game. He is not a drinker but late afternoon he enjoys smoking a little weed, a man of habit. Over the past few months I’ve had an opportunity to learn about more of his habits and some of the reasons for them. More on that later.
When Charles asked if I’d roast the turkey for Thanksgiving, I got the word out and everyone planned what they would cook and contribute to the meal. Robert’s request was green bean casserole with cream of mushroom soup and canned fried onions on top. We had stuffing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, Chris brought pies. It was a feast and festive. If I say so myself, I did a damn good job with the turkey. It was luck. I think this is the recipe I used; easy no-fuss turkey. I remember stuffing it with lemon and onions. Letting it rest for 30 minutes before carving is key.
Robert loved it. He remarked, “this is like the ole days at the hotel, we used to gather regularly.” He looked at me smiling, “who knew you would be the mother of the house?!”
This Thanksgiving we are working on a repeat. The potluck list has started on the white board. And green bean casserole made the list again.
Thanks for reading. May your Thanksgiving be peaceful.


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. 

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.

Chapter One, draft

— I am 3/4 of the way, in writing my memoir. Summer hasn’t allowed for much writing time. But I’m carving out time for my writing again, with plans to spend a weekend with my writing teacher and fellow memoir writers the first of October.
Here goes, a sample. Keep in mind it’s a draft and unedited by an editor.

Chapter One

I kept a steady face while squeezing my clenched hands together under the café table as I struggled to hear the blow of my daughter’s words. “I don’t see any hope for you and me in this lifetime.”  I searched her eyes for some recognition of a mother daughter connection, of love, but I could only see a cold blue hardness. My blond haired, blue eyed baby now 31 years old stood taller than me and beautiful. I wanted to reach for her hand and ask for forgiveness, but I kept hitting the invisible wall she had built between the two of us. 

Just 30 minutes earlier I was driving to the coffee shop trying to keep my anxiety at bay. We had decided to meet to discuss me keeping my two-year old twin grandchildren. She needed care for a certain day, but she had some rules she needed to stress. Looking out at the mountains that surround Missoula was usually settling to me. I wanted to be hopeful. All I could think of were the mistakes I had made as a mother. Times that trust had been broken, the times my past traumas caused me to give into my anger and act in ways I would later be ashamed of.  

At the same time, I knew I was a wonderful grandmother and wanted desperately to stay in my grandkid’s life. I’m a kid person, ran my own childcare for seven years. Plus, my grandkids were particularly cute, smart and fun. The days I knew I would spend time with them, felt like Christmas morning. I could hold them, feed them, watch their innocence while witnessing their personalities form from infant hood. My grandson, born first, had a wisdom about him while my granddaughter who arrived just minutes later exuded sweetness. About twice a week, I had been asked to help out. Come spend time helping at nap time, tidying up, taking them for a stroll or just holding them or changing a diaper. It was what I lived for, but I was careful never to just stop by. Now and then, I did ask if I could come by, bring a meal, a snack and help, but I made sure to keep those requests at a minimum. My daughter had boundaries, I so wanted to respect them, rebuild trust between us. She asked me to come along to help shuffle the babies and all their gear for their first doctor’s appointment and a few others that followed. In the months after they were born, I might be asked to come along for the same purpose to grocery shop. One such occasion, at the store, I was holding my granddaughter. I walked over to the essential oils to sample some smells. 

“Mom, what are you doing?” my daughter yelled at me. “Don’t you know that some essential oils can cause seizures in babies?” Her rebut crushed me. I didn’t know. I was glad to know now. My intent had not been to harm my granddaughter. 

Wide eyed, I slunk away from the display, following behind my daughter the rest of the shopping trip, careful not to stray. 

When my grandchildren were a couple of months old, my daughter asked if I could stay the night. Her partner had to go out of town for work. I was so excited, a sleep over with my daughter and grandchildren. I’d cook dinner, do laundry, whatever was needed. My daughter and I had even planned to watch a movie together once the twins were down for the night. I spent the afternoon cooking as I counted the minutes until I could head to her house. At 6 PM I arrived at her door with her favorite meal, cheese grits, a salad and pork tenderloin along with groceries for a breakfast spread. Our evening was magical as we ate and played with the babies. Once they were asleep, we settled together on the couch to watch Boyhood, a movie we both had been wanting to see. Snuggling up to watch a movie or show together was always something we both enjoyed, and I took it as a sign that our relationship was healing. Finally, at 10PM it was time for bed. “Hey mom” she said, “I want the babies to sooth themselves back to sleep. Please don’t go in and pick them up unless they cry for at least 10 minutes. And don’t give them any medicine or natural remedies without asking me first.” She had a baby monitor in her room so she could keep an eye on them. I settled onto my makeshift bed on the couch, determined to follow her directives. But in the middle of the night, I was awakened to my granddaughter’s cries.  My granddaughter was not soothing herself back to sleep. Oh, I wanted my daughter to finally get a good night’s rest. She was doubly exhausted from the surgery of a C section, no sleep and constant care of the babies. I sat up on the couch feeling the pull of my crying granddaughter. How long had it been since she had been crying, was my daughter awake? Every maternal string in my body was being pulled. When I couldn’t take it any longer, I went to my granddaughter’s crib and picked her up. She was hurting from new teeth pushing their way in. Without thinking, I reached for the homeopathic teething gel and rubbed some on her gums. The door almost immediately swung open. “Didn’t I tell you do not give them anything without asking” my daughter scolded. Suddenly all the magic of the night was gone. She had and I had failed. I was sick to my stomach that I had not been more mindful of her wish. 

I pulled up to the coffee shop breathing through my anxiety.

Just a few days before I was at my daughter’s house helping with mealtime and bedtime. I asked what day they needed me. “Tuesdays” she replied. “But we have some rules we need to make sure you can follow.” That familiar pit in my stomach, almost close to nausea feeling caused me to look away. My face dropped when she said, “I had told you before not to take the kids for a walk further than a couple of blocks without checking with me first and you did anyway, back in February when you took them to the Shack to eat.” For a minute my mind was blank. Then I remembered, yes six months earlier, it was an unusually nice day for that time of year. I was taking care of my grandchildren, we ventured out for a walk to a restaurant as there wasn’t much food in the house. They enjoyed their double stroller ride and the attention of wait staff and others at the restaurant. Being a professional childcare provider, I was used to parents leaving their children in my care, taking them on walks, going to the park and more. They trusted me. I was always vigilant in assuring the children on my watch were safe. That vigilance was even stronger with my own grandchildren.  

Once again, I felt shame for my actions. Any good I was doing was being cancelled out.

I had taken grandma liberties knowing I would jump in front of a train for my grandkids. With that knowledge we had ventured out without even considering that my daughter was sensitive to my actions. While I trusted my protective knowledge, she did not. And she had reason not to. 

During my daughter’s teen years, I had been reeling from pain of the discovered infidelities and other secrets of my husband, her stepdad. I turned to alcohol to numb the pain.  I profoundly lost myself during her crucial teen years. A few marked times, my daughter witnessed me as an angry alcoholic.

 By the time I got home that night after helping get the twins to bed, I was so upset and distraught I was beside myself. I had walked on eggshells for the past two years, tried everything I could to prove to her that I was trustworthy, that I loved her and would do anything for her and my grandbabies. It was beyond painful that we continued to have such conflict in our relationship.  More often than not, when I left my daughter’s house I felt like a monster unless she needed me then I was her doormat. I wished she could see that I was not the person I was when I was married to her stepdad. I could feel she wished me out of her life. 

I knew I was done with this abusive pattern and needed a change. Heartbroken and defeated, I pulled out my laptop and pounded out an email which I re read several times before sending. It was half question, half plea. 

“I wasn’t sure where you are on whether or not to go to counseling together. My concern is that you really aren’t comfortable with me keeping the twins. I know our relationship has not been an easy one. Also, know that your life is quite full. Taking the time to go to counseling with your mother may not be a priority. It’s important to fill your life with loving relationships. If our relationship is not serving you, I am willing to step away if that is what you would like. 

Let me know your thoughts.

I’d love to get to a place where at least you feel safe and some ease with our relationship. Mama”

Her reply was just another reprimand and it stung. “Mom, I’ve had some time to think about counseling, and it’s not something I want to do. You and I have talked about the important rules that we have for anyone watching our kids, I’m not sure that going to counseling will do much. I felt good about the conversation you and I had and could tell that you took the rules seriously. Are you feeling like they are ones you can go by?”

It was after that we had arranged to meet. It was my idea. I hoped that we could talk things out and clear the air. 

As I parked my car at the coffee shop, I spotted my daughter waiting at the door. She smiled and waved. I felt a twinge of hope, maybe we could work things out. My thoughts jumped back to just before I knew she was pregnant, when she was working as a preschool teacher. She asked if I’d like to come volunteer and help in the classroom. I jumped at the chance and went off to get my background check. I spent every day of the next week immersing myself in the world of three-year children, singing songs, reading, serving meals, cleaning and getting all the little ones settled for naptime. During naptime my daughter and I would talk, whispering and laughing about all the cute things the children did. It had been 15 years since I had run my own childcare. I was in heaven. While we worked alongside each other she remarked, “I forgot how good you are at this.” It meant the world that she recognized this. During her elementary and middle school years, I ran an at home childcare, Frankie’s House. One of my many goals in having a childcare was to have my own child at home, while providing an as close to home feeling childcare for other children. My daughter had grown up witnessing me provide care, create fun and educational activities in a safe environment for the children who came to our house. Taking care of these children while being at home with my own child was one of the happiest times in my life. 

One afternoon, once off work from her pre-school job, my daughter texted asking me to come over. She said she wasn’t feeling well. As I headed over, I got a text saying, “where are you, hurry.” Now I was worried and sped up just a bit.  She was standing in the doorway when I got there looking quite well and smiling from ear to ear. She reached out and hugged me “You are going to be a grandma” she said. We held each other while I cried for the possibility of being a grandmother and the possibility that my daughter and I might heal our bruised relationship. 

We ordered coffee drinks, making small talk while we waited. She suggested we sit outside for privacy. As soon we were settled, she launched into it, “do you think you can follow our rules?” As always, I felt I had been punched in the gut. I had to bite the inside of my lip to keep from showing my hurt. I locked my eyes on her and steadied myself. “Yes”, I replied. I took a deep breath summoning all the courage I could muster and asked, “In return will you let me know when you are not feeling comfortable or you feel I am not following rules, as it comes up and not wait to talk to me about it?” She nodded, yes. Now that we were talking openly, I was determined to push forward. I could feel the sweat beads forming, I wasn’t sure if it was the 90-degree August heat or my nerves. I took another deep breath and went for it, asking one more time, “Are you interested in going to counseling together so that we can heal our trust issues?” I was feeling exhausted from the pain of our disconnect.  I was tired of feeling unappreciated and wanted a real change and that meant addressing another painful accusation. Ever since her teen years, my daughter had tried to diagnosis me. Certainly, when you see your mother as an angry alcoholic, you want to label it in order to understand it. At one point she entertained that I might be bipolar. Her latest diagnosis earlier in the year felt cruel and demeaning and I wanted her to know it wasn’t OK. She had asked me if I ever considered that I might have borderline personality disorder. I asked my therapist and close friends if they felt this was true. I got a clear no from all parties. My daughter and I had never discussed this again. I was never given the opportunity to let her know that was I not borderline.  I pushed further and said, “I’d also like to follow up with the question you presented to me earlier this year, whether or not I feel I might have borderline personality disorder. That was upsetting and needs to be talked about.”  I could see her demeanor change and her body stiffen.  “No, and I will not apologize for that” she said. Her words felt like a slap across the face. That’s when she delivered her knock out blow, “I do not see any hope for you and me in this lifetime.”  I sat for a bit, shocked, saddened and broken hearted. For twenty years, I had tried and failed to mend our broken relationship. 

Yet, I wanted to make sure my grandchildren would be taken care of, I wanted to stay in their life, but I didn’t want this painful pattern of allowing my daughter to keep punishing me for past mistakes to continue. After a couple of minutes of silence, I found my words, “do you have someone else who can keep the twins on the days you need?” I hoped that would snap her back to the present. I hoped that would soften her and get us back on track with our conversation. It was the whole reason we had come to talk. I’d do anything for my grandchildren and my daughter. I wanted this to work. Maybe if I gave her an out, if she didn’t really feel comfortable with me watching the twins, we might avoid more conflict and I could remain in their lives. Without hesitation, she answered, “I do.” With that she gathered her things and rode away on her bicycle. 

Hey, Lighten Up Francis

Copywork – copying down what others have written to develop writing skills, an age old method of learning.
I once heard an NPR interview with a writer (embarrassed to say I can’t remember his name) who practiced copywork everyday for a year. I’ve done it some and can feel my brain shifting in a good way.
I’ll share my copywork for today from Anne Lamott’s, Bird by Bird, Some Instructions on Writing and Life. This passage I think has something for everyone in it.

“So after I’ve completely exhausted myself thinking about the people I most resent in the world, and my more arresting financial problems, and, of course, the orthodontia, I remember to pick up the one-inch picture frame and to figure out a one-inch piece of my story to tell, one small scene, one memory, one exchange. I also remember a story that I know I’ve told elsewhere but that over and over helps me to get a grip: thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he had three months to write, which was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder, and said, “bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”

     I tell this story again because it usually makes a dent in the tremendous sense of being overwhelmed that my students experience. Sometimes it actually gives them hope, and hope, as Chesterton said, is the power of being cheerful in circumstances that we know to be desperate. Writing can be a pretty desperate endeavor, because it is about some of our deepest needs: our need to be visible, to be heard, our need to make sense of our lives, to wake up and grow and belong. It is no wonder if we sometimes tend to take ourselves perhaps a bit too seriously. So here is another story I tell often.

     In the Bill Murray movies Stripes, in which he joins the army, there is a scene that takes place the first night of boot camp, where Murray’s platoon is assembled in the barracks. They are supposed to be getting to know their sergeant, played by Warren Oates, and one another. So each man takes a few moments to say a few things about who his is and where he is from. Finally it is the turn of this incredibly intense, angry guy named Francis. “My name is Francis,” he says. “No one calls me Francis­­­—anyone here calls me Francis and I’ll kill them. And another thing. I don’t like to be touched. Anyone here ever tries to touch me, I’ll kill them,” at which point Warren Oates jumps in and says, “Hey—lightened up, Francis.”

     This is not a bad line to have taped to the wall of your office. 

     Say to yourself in the kindest possible way, look, honey, all we’re going to do for now is write a description of the river at sunrise, or the young child swimming in the pool at the club, or the first time the man sees the woman he will marry. That is all we are going to do for now. We are just going to take it bird by bird. But we are going to finish this one short assignment.” Anne Lamott

Thank you Anonymous for the gift! And thanks all for reading.