Just a quick note to say Hello to you and goodbye to July.
My oldest daughter had a birthday recently, and we just celebrated together a few hours ago.
This is definitely my more reclusive child. The one who gets upset if photos of her are posted on social media without her permission. The one with a childlike voice and amazing brain bandwidth. The one most impacted by choices I made in my youth.
Needless to say, our relationship is complicated. Sweet. Intense. Fiery in spots.
She texted me on Monday and asked me to find out what was the exact time of her birth. While I scoured the house during the hours following, I found everything but her birth certificate.
Old letters to teachers. A journal to me. Report cards. Missing children’s poster. A birthday card from her youth.
I found the birth certificate. Sent her the answer.Then she reminded me that she wanted spaghetti. My forty-eight hour spaghetti.
Preparing it gave me a lot of time to think about her life. All of the hopes and the heartaches. The adventures and the aggravations. The expectations that have needed readjusting so many times over the years. I teared up as I chopped the onions.
I worried that the spaghetti wouldn’t turn out. Was there enough cayenne? Garlic? Too few whole tomatoes?
There is something beautiful and basic about creating a favorite meal. My daughter sent me the bitmoji via text below after she went home.
I emailed a friend in
recently to bid her Happy Mother’s Day. Normally sunny, her response caught me
off guard when she mentioned how sad this holiday made her. I’d grown
accustomed to being the maudlin one about moms and Mother’s Day.
But when I checked my
Facebook feed, there were numerous tributes to moms lost due to death or
alienation. A few brave moms of deceased children posted their grief. Others were
caring for their elderly mothers who now no longer remembered them.
The day evokes a lot of
emotion for so many of us.
I’d been thinking
about my own mother that week, and about some of the good things she instilled.
My mother fostered a love of reading, which sparked my interest in stories and
in writing. If I asked for a book, I nearly always got it. (I was lucky to have
older siblings who read to me and taught me to be an early reader, too.)
My mom promoted a love
of animals to us kids which is a huge part of my life to this day. She didn’t
easily sustain relationships with pets, or with people, for that matter, but it
was a nice start. And she was a believer in volunteer work, which I have subsequently
True, I’ve written
about my mom’s tendency to dislike the mother role enough to seemingly dispense
of her kids, leaving us later in life to scout one another out as if on at
Easter egg hunt.
Clearly, not every
woman is cut out to be a mom.
It doesn’t help that
we expect so much from them. I can think of no other role so important, or so
scrutinized. The impact of the mothering we receive during our early years
lingers throughout our entire lives, and far into the future if we have kids,
and if they do, too.
Mothers are idealized as protectors: a person who is caring and giving and who builds a person up rather than knocking them down. But very few of us can say our mothers check all of these boxes. In many ways, a mother is set up to fail.-Lynn Steger Strong in What My Mother and I Don’t Talk About.
I’ve been fortunate to have so many different
women in my life who’ve given me guidance and motherly love. I’ve appreciated
that there were limitations to it, and conscious not to overstay my emotional
welcome since these women had their own children and their own lives. From
grade schoolteachers and a college professor to a former roommate and friends’
moms, and later in life, my newfound aunts, I have benefitted from random gifts
of maternal love.
As for me, I’ve made lots of mistakes with my kids. They relied on their own supplemental moms at times to fill in my gaps. And after watching me struggle as a single mom, neither of my kids were moved to become parents themselves, though they’ve provided me with numerous grand-pets.
A few days ago, a crisis
call from one of my daughter’s friends, whose mother passed away, brought it
full circle. She needed someone to just listen, and I got to be the stand-in
mom figure, even for just a little while.
How wonderful it is to know that we can help fill in parenting or mentoring gaps for others. And equally fabulous to think about spending time with little kids one day who may not have a grandparent in close proximity. I like the idea of being a supplemental mom and grandmom.
Expanding the definition of family can be a beautiful thing. It can reduce pressure and feelings of isolation. I felt insecure when my own kids relied on other moms, but I came to understand the great benefits to all involved down the line.
Moms (and dads) are the original influencers, but we can all choose to have or to be supplements to help along the way. It can ease the pressure we put on our parents or ourselves.
A humble thank you to dear Fay for the incredibly generous and unexpected gift to my oldest daughter after reading my last post. My daughter is now the proud owner of a reliable and safe vehicle again.
Have you ever noticed that when you set out to take a positive action, you’re given a doubly positive reward?
A couple of weeks ago, when I saw my maternal cousin’s Facebook post about her fitness coaching business being offered online, I jumped at the chance. I’ve been meaning to do more strength training to get stronger. And though we’ve been Facebook friends for a long time, I’ve met my cousin Kerstin in person only twice. She lives in the south. I live in Alaska. Meeting online with her regularly sounded like a great way to muscle up and strengthen our connection.
Who knew that this one effort would lead me to a long-estranged
uncle I’d been hoping to meet?
Much of my family is splintered, especially on my mom’s side. Her other siblings died, and I’d looked for this brother of hers without success. And yet here my cousin recently gotten in touch with him. My uncle told my cousin that he and his wife were doing their own search for family and had actually found and read my book!
I was floored. Soon, I was emailing back and forth with my uncle’s wife, who gave me a swath of pictures from the early 1900’s, and page after page of wonderfully told stories that my grandmother left behind as a legacy. It gave a whole lot of context about all of the different issues my grandmother had been contending with as she raised her children, often by herself, which couldn’t have made life easy for her children.
There are few things as important to me as putting all the
pieces together of my jigsaw-puzzle family together, or at least, as many as
possible. Each connection makes me feel
more grounded, more alive.
I’d set out to build muscle, and was linked to more of my foundation.
What a hopeful beginning to this new year!
I hope yours is off to a good start as well.
Thank you for joining me.
If you’re interested in an online fitness coach, please meet my cousin here. She’s the cheerleader you need in the privacy of your own home.
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.