I’d like to share some moments of beauty in my weekend.
I joined friends for a gorgeous kayaking trip for several hours in Prince William Sound this past weekend. Paddling through cool waters with nothing but the sound of glaciers calving was as calming as a massage.
Returning home, I spent time with my oldest daughter and her boyfriend for her birthday. (Thank you for the many of you who wished her well!). I’d love to report that she’s doing brilliantly and is finding her place in this chaotic beautiful world. But it isn’t so.
I think all parents have times where they struggle with how to let their grown kids be themselves and to celebrate them just as they are. To let go just enough. Enough so their adult child feels the love and support and pride from their parent. Enough to let the child be accountable for their choices without too much buffering from the parent. Enough to continue hoping without judgment and expectation.
My oldest daughter, like firstborns everywhere, has absorbed so much more of my missteps than her younger sister. When she hurts, I feel a stabbing pain, accompanied by defensiveness.
Self-care, like spending time with friends, kayaking, with a splash of detachment and a good bit of faith that things will turn out as they should, all help. That, and writing.
So that’s what’s up in my neck of the world this week.How about you?
If you have a favorite picture I’ve posted in this, please let me know. I’ll send it to Holland America’s photo contest.
With Mother’s Day approaching, I’ve been thinking about my daughters more than usual.
Then I saw the movie Tully yesterday. Without giving away the storyline, it made me think about what my younger self would say to me now about how the journey of motherhood has transformed my life.
When writing memoir, most classes on the topic will ask the opposite. They ask the student to consider what he/she would say to the younger self. What would you now like to tell the younger you about life, now that you know better? What encouragement or cautions would you dispense?
But now, as I flip through old photo albums, I’m left wondering: What would the 20 year-old me say to the older me as I wobbled through the different stages of my kids’ lives? What would she say to the 53 year-old empty-nester I am now? What would her insight be about motherhood if she knew how it would all turn out?
I remember (not always fondly) thinking that I’d never sleep all night again, or take an uninterrupted shower, or have time and money for self-indulgences like reading a book in bed for hours or getting a pedicure. I wondered then if I would ever find a profession or learn to write and become an author, an out-of-range wish I’d dreamed of.
I also remember the fun. Being a broke single mom and implementing a no-shoulds Friday. After a long week of following all the rules, the girls and I ate unhealthy food, stayed up late watching too much television, and they slumbered in my room. When they got too old for it, we had doughnut and chocolate milk Fridays before I dropped them off to school.
I’m pretty confident the pre-mom me would say to take it one day at a time. To let the dishes sit in the sink longer to simply enjoy the sight of my little girls as they played. As they fought. I’m sure the younger me would advise me not to take the girls’ teen rebellion so seriously and so personally, and to hold my tongue more often. She would want me to have faith that everything would turn out alright. Not picture-perfect, but as they should. And she would want me to use restraint when offering a steady stream of advice to my now 30-ish daughters.
This role will change your life, the young me would say. You will raise a person so much and so little like you. It will be the best and the worst thing that ever happened to you. This role will bring out your finest and scariest qualities, and provide so many opportunities to refine them.
Happy Mother’s Day to us all. To the mothers who pushed through labor and fell in love with the homeliest and yet most beautiful little human the world has ever seen. To the mothers who pushed through months and years of paperwork and investigations to adopt. To the mothers who married into the role, raising someone else’s children as her own. And to the men and women who enjoyed mothers or survived mothers, and who may be now mothering their mother, Happy Mother’s Day.
Don’t wait for someone else to make it special. Treat yourself.
And before I now dash off to my pedicure, did I mention my memoir is now an audiobook? Thank you Vibrance Press and Suzie Althens for the narration. Thank you to Alaska Writer’s Guild and Eleanor Andrews for the nudge. If you buy it, would you please review the audiobook online?
Finally, the Taylor Stevens Show will kindly look at my new novel at my request to explain writing in the third person this week. I may have to rewrite the book, but better to know now. It will be as fun as getting on the scale in front of a room full of people at a Weight Watchers meeting, but she’s such a great writer that I’m fortunate to have her ear.
Thank you for stopping by. I know you have many other things you do with your time, and I’m very grateful to be included.
We all have those anniversary dates that plague us. The death of a loved one. The accident that changed our lives. The day we got fired. Something.
For me, the month of March holds most of mine. My children were kidnapped on March 13th, 1994. We reunited on March 27, 1996 in Greece. But it’s March 5th every year that is the most sobering.
In March of 1990, when I was 25, I got up off the floor after being strangled by then-husband, gathered my daughters, and left. But mid-strangle, I knew that life would never be the same. If life continued, I would stop tolerating abusive behavior as though I’d earned it. From everyone. My mother. My husband. Whoever.
I didn’t know then what leaving an abusive partner would entail, or the unintended consequences that would occur.
Now, 28 years later, I’m creating happier anniversary dates this March.
Like yesterday, an essay I wrote got published in the fabulous Sunlight Press. My e-book has climbed to #4 in it’s category on Amazon. And I get to hear and share stories at Arctic Entries on Wednesday, a truly terrifying and wonderful opportunity I’m pushing myself to do.
But most of all, I have two amazing grown daughters who have created their own lives. Beautiful friends who have sustained me. And a wonderful family I’ve been able to find and enjoy for decades now.
I’ll never forget the importance of March. And, it turns out, I don’t really want to.
My New Year began with a cruise vacation on Holland America’s Eurodam, where I enjoyed sunshine, fireworks, good friends, and a break from social media and work.
I’d needed a vacation. And here’s what I loved most:
The days at sea.
I slept well. I went to the library to write. I found quiet spaces to read. There were workshops to attend, a book group. I especially loved a lecture on pirates, past and present. And the music- from the jazz band to the orchestra- was fantastic.
The days at shore.
In Key West, I went to Judy Blume’s bookstore. I’d emailed her to see if perhaps I could meet her and have her sign a copy of her latest book. I didn’t expect anything. While I lost my internet access on the ship, her assistant wrote with a date that we could meet. Rats! Missed her. But I liked the Ernest Hemingway Museum. I’d never seen six-toed cats before. I won’t miss them in the future, but it was a fun day.
Turks and Caicos was pristine. The Dominican Republic was nice, and I especially liked feeding and snorkeling with stingrays in the Bahamas. Did you know stingrays are affectionate? I was surprised to be spooned by them when I was holding their fish dinner. They wrapped around me for a little appreciative hug. Very nice (once I realized I wasn’t going to die).
The return to home. Coming back to the cold and dark season, I was refreshed. I’d missed my life here in Alaska. I knew I wanted to keep some of the vacation gains going. Like going to bed earlier, shutting my phone off for some time every day, writing more, etc. I’d given up nearly all coffee, a true love of mine I’ve maintained for 40 years which had been aggravating some health issues. And I want to take time off more regularly, just to recharge.
And guess who got herself a part-time job this summer in tourism?
Me! I’ll be working at Holland America/Princess Tours (HAP) on Saturdays, earning a little cash and meeting some great people, who will help me figure out where to go next with my HAP travel benefits. I know it seems I’m moving in the wrong direction, wanting to take more breaks and all, but if it’s enjoyable, I’ll work there fulltime for a few months every year after I retire. It’ll give me travel money and focused time to write. An inexpensive or no-cost writer’s retreat every year.
If you’re in the neighborhood on a cruise, please say hello. I’ll be stationed in Whittier.
Another fun fact—I joined MoviePass just before I left on vacation. For just $10 a month, I can see all the films I like. A movie membership that will save me easily $40 plus dollars a month. I highly recommend it if you like seeing movies at the theater. It’s terrific.At the theater, I saw Molly’s Game, All The Money in the World, Darkest Hour, and The Post.
I just finished reading In the Game by Peggy Garrity and In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume.
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… Charles Dickens in A Tale of Two Cities.
And thankfully, it is over.- Lizbeth Meredith, after each and every Christmas.
Happy nearly New Year! I hope your holiday was peaceful and lacking expectation.
I enjoyed time with both of my grown daughters and with their significant others. I cooked unsuccessfully, did more cleaning than I enjoyed, and heard from family and friends from near and far. And both the daughter time and the friends and family contact made it special.
So looking ahead to the New Year, I wish you the best of health and happiness. Positive relationships and some relaxation.
To that end, I’m leaving the cold behind and going on a trip with two dear friends from my childhood, and I’m so happy to have time offline and in warmer temperatures!
My youngest daughter called me from Barnes & Noble the other day. “What are 12-year-old boys reading these days?” she asked.
She’d adopted a needy family whose name she got from a Christmas tree at the mall.
It was a sweet reminder. We’ve come full circle.
“Did you know our little family was adopted one Christmas when you were small?” I asked her.
It was the Christmas of 1990. A woman rang my doorbell and left a toboggan on the front porch, filled with gifts and preloaded stockings and all the food to make a Christmas feast. There were winter jackets for us all, wrapped toys for my daughters, socks and mittens and hats. Everything we could ever want or need. It was the best Christmas we’d ever had. It would be the only Christmas that I didn’t worry about how their holiday compared to those of their peers.
Comparing holiday spoils was something I was adept at. As a child, I dreaded returning to school after Christmas break. “What did get? Where did you go?” Basic stuff kids ask kids. Questions I was too embarrassed to answer.
When I became a mom, I tried to make sure my kids’ Christmases were great. I cooked the big meal or said yes to a lot of invitations to share it with friends. Along with the book or sweater I bought new for the girls were presents scavenged from Value Village, wrapped as pretend-new gift. I hoped their holidays would measure up to their friends’ scrutiny.
The thing is, there wasn’t any scrutiny from their friends. But the girls certainly felt my pain. They felt it through my moodiness and meltdowns. And they felt it through my martyrdom.
When they were teens, my oldest daughter broke it down for me.
“You do realize that you ruin all of our holidays by trying so hard, don’t you?”
I was gob smacked. While it was tough to hear, it was also freeing. Who says holidays need to be perfect?
Holidays have a way of amplifying old insecurities or hurts if we let them. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
In later years, my daughters and I settled on easier holiday routines. For gifts, we get one another things to experience. A pedicure, a massage, movie tickets, books. We like brunch with egg nog French toast casserole better than turkeys. And we like just enough time together that the sweetness lingers, but not so much that old bitterness’s resurface.
It doesn’t always work. And the trick for me is not expecting perfection on Christmas and other holidays when I enjoy an imperfect life all of the other days.
And the other trick is to appreciate the ability I now have to both give and receive.
I wonder sometimes about the nice family that adopted mine so many Christmases ago. I wish they knew how they touched our lives, and that we’re doing our best to pay it forward.
I hope you enjoy your holidays. And drop me a line if you know what 12 year-old boys are reading these days. It’s fun to hear from you.
Here are some of my recent reads from Alaskan writers.
Thank you for stopping by.
If you’ve wanted to come to one of my book events but couldn’t, here’s a link to a recent interview from Radio KMXT’s Dog Eared Reads.
Please forgive my lack of activity. I’m gently behind on some emails and calls and blogging this month.
I’ve slowed down markedly with the increasing cold and decreasing light. Sometimes, after I get home from work, I sit in a cold stupor and just think. I know I’ll defrost soon enough as the weather resolves.
During the latter part of October, I finished with book events in Sitka and Kodiak in their respective libraries. Both trips for me were magical, with the well-attended and respectful conversations about trauma and writing and anything else that came up. Both trips included beautiful wildlife. And both trips gave me time with treasured friends who live on the Alaskan islands. Huge thank you to the people of Sitka and Kodiak, including the libraries there.
I returned home feeling refreshed and encouraged. And in need of time to just write and to binge-watch TV with my cats and to catch up with friends.
So that’s what I’ve been doing a little more of. Writing. It’s NaNoWriMo ,National Novel Writing Month, and while I’m not planning to finish a novel in the month of November, I’m nearing 100 pages on the second book of my trilogy. And editing/producing Pieces of Me so it will one day be an audiobook. And I’ve happily written some essays for different magazines, and am seeing some of them find their way to publication.
I wondered if I’d be sad about the book tour excitement being over. It’s been such an emotional roller-coaster, and while so many things went wonderfully, I had a lot of near-misses and disappointments too. But honestly, I just feel pretty pleased and grateful to have shared it with you.
So I gave myself 90 days of no book events. A vacation from hearing me talk about me. I needed that.
And then a nice lawyer called and booked a talk in February for a group of attorneys who volunteer to represent victims of domestic violence for free. Their conference comes just as my 90 day event break ends, and this is a group I definitely want to talk to. Volunteer lawyers have helped me find my missing father, seek orders of protection and eventually a divorce when I needed to from my former husband, and volunteer lawyers helped recover my missing daughters. I am truly forever indebted. It will be an honor to meet with them.
I plan to have a low-key Christmas and sneak in some sunshine at the end of December. A trip just for the sake of fun with two old friends from my childhood.
Until then, I’ll keep plugging away. Please remember my author page on Facebook, and thank you for your comments.
When you live in Anchorage, Alaska, and the sixty days are (this year) cold and rainy, what can you do?
Anchorage is an artsy place. And while I like the balance of trying new things while tending old routines, there’s nothing as satisfying as enjoying a good book.
Stories are like an empathy pill. You get to learn about the experiences of others. Even when reading fiction, you learn so much about the writer, and sometimes, more about yourself.
Below is a perfect example.
“Her job as a mother—she believed this then, believed it now—was to make sure that her children would be loved by the maximum number of other people. This was the source of all her anxiety”–Elizabeth McCracken, Thunderstruck & Other Stories.
I read this. Stopped. Re-read it. Then called both my grown daughters and read it to them. And apologized for the many times I’ve forgotten that they’re not extensions of me.
In the past many days, I’ve read a lot of books.
Below are just a few. Memoirs. Novels. And yesterday, a neat piece from the Haftorah at a friend’s son’s Bar Mitzvah.
This was how I knew my recent two week trip to Kentucky and Indiana, a combined book event and family reunion, was a success. Moments after getting home after sixteen hours of travel including layovers I was home, diving in to chores I often dread.
What a trip it was. I wish you could have been there. First, there was time with my niece and her kids, and with my sister, her mom. Then Great Day Livewith the amazing Rachel Platt. What a terrific opportunity, and how lucky was I that my brother Danny encouraged me to reach out to her.
Then time with my brother, more nieces and nephews, a cherished ritual of driving to family reunion with my favorite aunts, family reunion, and more sister/ brother time. And a trip to Berea, a place I’ve felt a magnetic pull to, was the icing on the cake.
But the single thing I’ll never forget was my book event itself at Barnes & Noble. The arrival of family, one by one. Some I knew. Some I’d never met. And I finally got to meet my brother Bill.
It had been five decades since I’d seen Bill. I was a wee one when we were separated, and don’t remember he and I hanging out as kids. But he did.
And then on June 8th, thanks to the intervention of my sister Maddy, I got to meet him. The final introduction. No more missing pieces in my sibling puzzle. Sure, I blubbered as I read from my memoir about a time when I was looking for my little girls in Greece without the benefit of family. But they were good tears. Tears of appreciation for the family Alaska was to me, and tears of joy for the family I later fell in love with. My big, loveable, sometimes dysfunctional, always colorful family.
Never did I believe I’d meet all of my missing siblings. We’d been scattered across the country growing up. But it happened. And it was spectacular.
Returning to Alaska, I tackled my little life with gusto. I mopped. Slept a bit. Went to a memorial service of my daughter’s old kindergarten classmate. And slid in to my first tango lesson. More relaxed and centered than I’ve been in a long, long time.
Thank you for joining me today. Thank you always for the Facebook shares and online reviews also.
Next stop: Washington, then Sitka after a summer break.
Just before the holidays, I spent some time discarding and donating stuff I no longer wanted when I came across this tattered list. It is an outline of wishes and goals I hoped for in my 39th year.
It was just the distraction I needed to stop de-cluttering.
Thirteen years ago, when I crafted the list, my kids were nearing adulthood, so I aimed high. I hoped for things like a fake wood floor, a better car, a book deal, $500 more a month, travel opportunities, a soulful community, lower cholesterol, and a promising relationship. And then I scrawled all of the qualities I wanted my suitor to have.
I think I’d listened to some motivational guru Tony Robbins cassette tapes that inspired me to be focused and intentional about what I wanted.
There’s nothing wrong with being focused, so long as it’s tempered with flexibility.
So how did I fare, achieving my goals?
Well, that year (2003) I was fortunate to enjoy a soulful community and I completed the first draft of my memoir.
And over the next ten years, I did get a fake wood floor, a better used car, and more money. I began to travel, and completed more drafts of my memoir, finally publishing it a few months ago.
My cholesterol is still high, but my good numbers increased while the bad decreased.
And my promising relationship?
Songwriter Leonard Cohen once mentioned in an interview that perhaps his greatest goal was to recall what he’d hoped to achieve as a young man, compare it to what actually did happen in his life as he grew older, and then accept the gap between the two with grace.
Of all my resolutions for 2017, this is perhaps what I want most of all.
Accepting the gap. And keeping hope and faith alive for the future.