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?

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

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

Unexpected pet comes with unexpected family

Not long after I moved into the hotel, a year and a half ago, the aloof black “house” kitty tip toed into my room, began hanging out and sleeping with me at night. The story is; she wandered in about 13 years ago during a party and never left. Doug took on feeding and caring for her but she belongs to the house and everyone in it. Most folks call her black kitty, some call her Brenda. I prefer Brenda.
She is another blessing of living here. As a pet sitter, I have often thought of getting a pet of my own, always deciding against it. It would have to be the perfect little dog that could accompany me for pet sitting. Having a pet would work with most of my clients, but for some it wouldn’t, such as the all cat households. Also, I do enjoy my freedom to travel some when I am not pet sitting.
Now that Brenda and I have bonded, I feel like a pet owner. Whenever, I am home she is in my room. I have treats and food for her. She’s not cuddly, sleeping in a chair or the very end of my bed. But every now and then she surprises me and gives me some love.
Just yesterday morning, as I laid around waiting to be picked up for meniscus surgery, she found her way to my tummy and stayed there. Same this morning, purring away, sending healing energy throughout my body.
My friend, Katie, drove me to surgery, giving me the inside scoop on what to expect. She had this surgery earlier in the year. She was my inspiration for going forward. After I had two cortisone shots with lots of pain as the shots wore off, it was clear surgery was the best choice. I trust Dr. Willstein, my orthopedic. He did my ACL surgery a few years back. He knows my knee.
My house mate, Jennifer, picked me up. Her smiling face was there, soon after I woke up. She found me chatting away with the nicest nurse. He moved out here a few years ago from Nashville. The comfort of his southern accent, story telling and kindness along with Jennifer next to me gave me the feeling all is right with the world. The pain meds didn’t hurt either. It’s been a weary few years, so a few hours of artificially induced happiness was appreciated.
So far not too much pain. Keeping knee iced and elevated with a kitty taking good care of me, recovery is going well. Housemates are checking in on me.
Robert comes up to my room to get his eye drops and a visit in. He and I drove to Lolo Hot Springs last Sunday. We both needed it. He likes to take his car, but I drove (really he shouldn’t be driving at all, that’s another subject.) Boy, is he a bossy backseat driver. Reminded me of my mother, the way she would tell me which way to turn, what the best route was. I learned it’s best to take directions with grace.
I want to share one more sweet hotel story. Night before last was Chinese New Year. Our housemate, Anne is Chinese. She is quiet and keeps to herself. The day of Chinese New Year, she wrote on the community board that she was cooking a feast to celebrate. All day she labored over dumplings, noodles and soup. What a delightful treat as she served up a beautiful spread, educated us about the dishes and shared a little more of herself. She left China when she was two and is adopted. She is just beginning to embrace her heritage. You could see the pride on her face from learning more about her self. The night ended with a send off of a red lantern to bring good fortune for the year of the tiger.
May the year bring you good fortune.
Thanks for reading.

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.

Now we have another year

Now we have a year until the hoopla begins again. The commercials that tell us what we need, what would be the perfect gift. The carols will begin as soon as the turkey has been gobbled up. Some will delight in it. Some will feel the stress of creating the perfect holiday. Some will miss their loved ones. I have experienced all of those. As a child I delighted in it. As a mother, I wanted to create that magic for my child and experienced the stress. Now, I miss my loved ones.

Certainly, Covid has more missing loved ones who have died or staying away from family in order to stay safe. Some are estranged from family for a variety of reasons. I feel for all of the above, but can related first hand to those estranged. I follow some of the helpful tips for taking care of oneself during the holidays when you are estranged. I find it’s best for me to try and act like it is just another day. Otherwise, I fantasize that someone in my family might reach out. I fantasize that this will be the year we try to listen to each other, to heal our wounds.

I did spend part of the day on Christmas with my unexpected family at the hotel. A resident got a roast from his employer. I roasted it in a crock pot, it came out pretty good. Then I headed up the mountain where I am cat sitting. My car didn’t make it up the steep hill. Fortunately, my clients left their car for me at a neighbors down the hill. I was able to swap cars in time to feed the cats and snuggle in.

As I settled in for the night, I couldn’t help but wonder if my daughter had a peaceful holiday, what my grandkids got as gifts, did they feel the magic?Truthfully, they were on my mind and in my heart when I woke up on Christmas morning, as I roasted the chuck roast and shared it with housemates and as I laid my head down for the night. I felt a sadness as my housemate thanked me for my efforts, sad my child and grandchildren are unable to receive the love and care I have to give.

I dreamt last night of my family gathering for the holidays, laughing and hugging. But I was not in the dream, only an onlooker.

Today, I count my blessings for the many supportive and loving friends in my life, for the parents who continue to trust me with the care of their children, the pet owners who leave the care of their pets and homes in my hands, for my house mates who make a point of thanking me for the cooking and cleaning I do at the hotel, for Robert, who owns the hotel and makes a point of thanking me for all I do. They are a large part of my strength.

I am thankful.

Thanks as always for reading.

It’s Good to be Home

Last night I was back in my cozy, sweet room at the hotel. For the past month I’ve been pet sitting up near the local ski area, falling asleep and waking to the quiet of the mountains. The first sound I heard each morning was the trickling creek below as I opened the door for the dog to go see his neighbor friend.
This morning I wanted to give Buzz, the dog, a morning pat on the head as we ran upstairs, me opening the door for him then turning on the kettle for coffee. He’d come back in by the time my coffee was made, then we’d head back downstairs for writing time. We didn’t leave each other’s side much.
Yes, I’ll miss my furry friend, but I’ll be headed to care for a couple of labradors soon enough.
This past summer, I moved into a bigger room at the hotel. It has a sink, three windows that face east, a beautiful view of Hellgate Canyon, and one window that faces south and down at the alley below. I love the windows, but I don’t love the noise at night.
Lying in bed last night, as the sounds of the train, glass being thrown into the dumpster and a drunken couple arguing in the alley filled my room, I started a google search: how much to replace windows? These windows are probably the originals, sometimes hard to open and shut, single pane with no insulation. It would be a financial endeavor for sure. Next search: how to sound proof windows. Of course there are sound absorbing curtains. One search suggested quilted moving blankets. I already have curtains up. But, I have a vision now that I might try. Starting with one window, the one over the alley, using velcro I’ll attach a quilt at the top and inner frame of the window, sew ties at the top. It can be let down at night, rolled up during the day, like a window shade. I’ll let you know it goes.
The hotel is quiet in the mornings. Robert and I are the only early risers. I tiptoed downstairs to get oatmeal going for the two of us.
Sleepy eyed, Robert shuffled from his room, “oh, what a surprise to see you, it’s good to have you home.” My sleepy eyes smiled back at him, “it’s good to be home.”

View of Hellgate Canyon

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.