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

Van envy and other highlights

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

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

Like I Promised

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

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

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

Happy camping everyone. Thanks for reading.

Fall is My Favorite Season

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

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


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

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


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

Thanks for reading.

Noticing Joy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading. 

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

Conversations We Need to Have

A few weeks ago, I was helping out at a fund raising garage sale for a BIPOC organization. Kenya and I struck up a conversation. Somehow it came up that I grew up in Mississippi. She exclaimed that her grandmother was from there.
“We are probably cousins.” she giggled. I giggled right along with her. Kenya is black. I’d love to be her cousin.

I shared with her some of the unpleasant, that’s putting it lightly, actions of my family. Actions I grew up with and ones I learned about from researching my ancestry.

“Hey, these are conversations we need to have in order to heal, learn do things differently.” she said. I couldn’t agree more. She came over the next week to do some digging on ancestry, showing me where her family lived in Mississippi. We found some slave stories, one being from a great, great grandmother of hers. We could have used a few more hours. Her dad is creating a podcast, about when you woke. Kenya will be interviewing me. Don’t know when it will go live. You’ll be the first to know.

On this 4th of July, let us not forget the words of Fredrick Douglass in his famous speech:
“What, to the American slave, is your 4th of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him, your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciations of tyrants, brass fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade, and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy — a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages. There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices, more shocking and bloody, than are the people of these United States, at this very hour.”

Descendants of Fredrick Douglass read his speech


And Maurice Carlos Ruffin on Being a Patriotic Black Southerner
I love Maurice Carlos Ruffin. On twitter, he is such a light, giving positive words to fellow writers.

Stay safe. Thanks for reading.

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.

Choices

I change the subject hastily when she asked, “Where’s you daughter? How is your daughter?”

“Good”, I reply, “How’s your son? What have you been up to?”

I choose to focus on how good it is to see this lovely woman I haven’t seen in such a long time.

This is how it goes when you haven’t seen someone who knew you 20 years ago and it’s been that long since you’ve seen them. I don’t really know how my daughter is, it’s been five years since I’ve spoken with her. 

I’m surrounded by people who love me. A dear friend is hosting a gathering in her backyard to celebrate me on my day of birth and that’s what I choose to focus on. 

My brother calls to wish me a happy birthday while mentioning my sister was there visiting not too long ago. He and my two older sisters were all together. I haven’t seen or heard from either sister in a couple of years.

I choose to focus on the fact that he called to wish me a happy birthday. 

I run into another woman I haven’t seen in twenty years. She is proud to be a grandmother now and I am happy for you. She asks how many grandkids I have. She knows my daughter had children. “Two, they are twins” and quickly change the subject. I cared for this woman’s daughter when I had a childcare. We used to gather, with our husbands and our daughters. Where would I begin to tell her I don’t see my daughter anymore, that I miss her and my grandchildren everyday?

I choose to focus on the fact that I am recognized as a mother and a grandmother and this is someone I created good memories with. 

This morning, I choose to honor my sadness. I will give it what it asks of me, to allow the tears, to trust it will pass as all feelings do. 

Then I will choose to go visit a friend.